Andrew Robson looks back on the win over Reading.
I moved to America three weeks ago. Aside from having to get up uncomfortably early to catch the games, I was getting restless at our losing record following my departure. Indeed, after some uncharacteristic errors at home to high-flying West Brom and two spirited but ultimately insufficient fightbacks after going behind against Norwich and Chelsea, I was beginning to sense my move was a bad omen for Sunderland’s fortunes this season.
Before booking my plane ticket to move straight back to the UK (priorities and all that) - I said to myself I’d give it one more game. It was a good decision; I could feel the sense of relief around the Stadium of Light on the 1st anniversary of Martin O’Neill’s appointment some 3,300 miles away.
Despite the results, there had been sprouts of encouragement in recent weeks - personified by Danny Rose whose athleticism, attitude and ability are surely the hallmarks of a future England left-back. Young Connor Wickham could also have counted himself unlucky to miss out against Reading after by far his most accomplished 135 minutes in a Sunderland shirt in the last two fixtures. But the whiff of class emanating from Fletcher’s 28th minute flick upheld O’Neill’s decision to recall his record signing.
The Reading performance was synonymous with O’Neill’s honeymoon period last season – 10 yards further up the pitch, a greater intensity and more precision in the final third. That said, it is hugely important not to overstate what was a vital three points – Reading gave one of the poorer performances seen at the Stadium of Light in quite some time and look short of Barclays Premier League quality in key areas. But we don’t care.
We desperately needed a win and we got one. Who knows – had these points come from our first home game of the season with the club still buzzing from the acquisitions of Fletcher and Johnson, we might not have found ourselves lingering a handful of wins away from where we’d all like to be in the table in mid-December.
Manchester United away seems ever so slightly less daunting with the shot in the arm that Tuesday’s performance and result should provide. We can only hope this marks a turning point in our fortunes as we approach a tricky-looking festive schedule.
Keep the faith.