Times have been tough on the banks of the river Wear in recent months. A manager has left to realise his England dream for what seemed like a blink of an eye, and the man chosen to fulfil the enormous shoes left by Sir Alex Ferguson at Man United has come in. But since David Moyes arrived at Sunderland, things have been looking rather miserable at the club.
Many fans – myself included – were gutted to lose Sam Allardyce, but generally most agreed that David Moyes was the man to take us forward. We were excited.
Almost before even sitting down in his office seat the Scot was warning Sunderland fans that they were in for another relegation battle and the cautious optimism almost instantly began to deflate. Moyes wasn’t being a buzzkill, however – he was simply being realistic.
What ensued were a couple of months of just diabolical football. OK, Sunderland hadn’t looked TOO bad during some of their several league defeats, but there seemed little on the horizon to offer the fans any hope. Any hope whatsoever.
The players looked lost, and Moyes’ grimace just seemed to indicate that this is a club about to end their decade-long tenure in England’s top flight. That spell in the Premier League is the eighth longest from the clubs currently plying their trade there, by the way, so it is not a case of just shrugging and ignoring it.
Then, out of nowhere, Sunderland managed a win. That win was away from home as well, against Bournemouth at the start of November. Suddenly there was light at the end of the tunnel. The Black Cats had played well, and they had finally managed to slay that winless run and get a tiny bit of joy back.
After the international break, they would host Hull at the Stadium of Light. It was a weird match – incredibly open right from the start considering it was such a massive game for both clubs, with each sitting in the drop zone. Hull had started the brighter of the two, and were looking threatening. Then – and then – Victor Anichebe stepped up and showed the entire Premier League just why David Moyes rated him so highly during their time together at Everton.
Having been on the scoresheet in the Bournemouth win Anichebe would have been feeling confident going in to the game – and it really showed. He made himself readily available as a foil to Jermain Defoe or stepping in further out wide, and caused Hull’s defence constant problems. He dictated the play, and was involved – along with the equally excellent Jason Denayer – in Jermain Defoe’s milestone 150th Premier League goal. That goal made Defoe only the eighth player in history to hit that many in the Premier League.
Not content with literally being Sunderland’s focal point and playing a part in team-mate’s goals, Anichebe stepped up to bash in his first brace since playing for Everton against Newcastle back in December 2006 – just a month shy of 10 years.
Turning the Tide
Let’s not be too coy – Sunderland fans don’t usually see a display like this until February or March at the earliest. That is of course not to say that it will be something that will happen every week – but this was a refreshing change. It finally turned the tide on the worry and tension among Sunderland fans, and finally gave a little optimism that things might just be OK. Sunderland may still end up going down of course – two wins does not a successful season make – but this really was a display to behold, despite Hull having the lions’ share of possession.
So ha’way, Moyesy – gizza smile. It’s going to be a tough game at Liverpool next time out, so let’s enjoy this spell of happiness and give the players, the club and the city something to be proud of. Let’s hit the ground running in the games we could be seen to actually have a chance. Let’s get that fighting spirit back for good, and let’s show the country that Sunderland are, in fact, a pretty good team when they want to be.
Let’s enjoy it.