So, as Marcus Bentley would say “Day one in the Big Brother House….”, or maybe that should be “Week One at the Stadium of Light”.
Well, Day One, 17:00 we were all prepared for the new season. A summer workout in the American heat, with somewhat mixed results against the Yankee semi-pros, had been hailed a success. The additions of Robinson, Lawrence, Whitehead, Caldwell, Lynch & Elliott had brought fresh impetus to the squad and, with Jocky, Babb, Trigger & Thirlwell (amongst others) having found pastures new, the average age of the squad had been reduced almost as dramatically as the wage bill. The opening event was a mouth-watering away visit to Highfield Road and our first encounter with a certain Mr Reid. Such an exciting prospect was it, that Sky decided to open their season’s entertainment with it. Bound to end in tears, then!
And so, Day One ended the way Day One ended in the last series – sorry, season! A 2-0 reverse away to a Midlands side fancied to push for a play-off place come May. Unlike last season, though, when Forest had taken the game from the off, we had been much brighter in our approach work, solid in defence, just toothless without the big Scot. Clark had come in and done a sound job alongside Breen. Other than that, there were few surprises in the team. A solid away performance that had contained the home side, we then decided the game should only last 80 minutes. McCartney took it upon himself to call time and tried to catch the ball and head for the dressing room. Unfortunately, the ref was still playing to the old 90-minute rule and gave the penalty. Mick responding by bringing off Clark, adding Whitehead and pushing on to regain the point. Needless-to-say, the classic killer punch came from the on-loan Man Utd striker Eddie Johnson and the scoreline gave Coventry a somewhat flattering look.
The good thing about August is games come thick and fast. Day Four saw our first home game of the season, against a good footballing side in Crewe. Again, the game had an extra side to it, with Dean Ashton leading the Crewe line. Many fans have been calling for his signing for months, following his record-breaking season last year, when he became the first player in Crewe’s history to score 20 goals in one season at this level. Included in our line-up was the impressive Liam Lawrence, replacing McCartney who had obviously been injured following his handball incident, Caldwell came in for Clark, when we all thought Breen wouldn’t make it, and Elliott made way for Kyle’s return. Robinson had earlier in the day mentioned the need to score inside twenty minutes, and it was his early opener that brought the first positive balance to our Goals Scored column. Ashton showed why so many Sunderland fans hope he’ll soon be a regular at the Stadium of Light when, despite missing a chance himself, he set up Rivers to equalise. It came against the run of play, and Stewart’s inability to finish began to cause concern. Enter Jeff Whitley, who did his best to show Marcus that he’s not too bad after all! Stewart finally managed to get the right directions to goal and converted Kyle’s cross, before making way for Elliott, despite the scoreboard operator’s best efforts to sign Ashton in mid-game. Elliott’s contribution was impressive, scoring his first ever senior goal, and what a strike!
So we ended our first week at the Stadium of Light without a negative goal difference and 3 points on the board. Elliott, Lawrence and Caldwell have all made their presence felt in the first week, and Whitehead has at least made a brief debut appearance. Clark & Myhre have also made impressive contributions, whilst Kevin Kyle has again displayed his diehard attitude to being a Sunderland player by not letting a hip injury keep him off the park. McCarthy continues to search for adequate cover for the Big Man, but it’s with hope, rather than despair, that we finished the opening week of the season. Next up, in Week Two, we entertain QPR. Let’s hope we carry on at home where we left off on Tuesday!