I’m no different from anyone else who visits this site in that I don’t know whether or not we will go up at the end of the season. I tend to be optimistic, while some of our readers (at least one, anyway) are not, and I think the majority side with me.

Here are four comments (or extracts from comments) made in response to posts on our site, and a few numbers from me to chew over in respect of them. Have a think about them, then form your own opinion – and why not then share it with us, like the good folk below?

Brian

“We are sleepwalking our way to play offs at best under this manager” (and there’s a bit more more on the same lines).

Jack Ross, wide awake

I think Brian’s statement requires a bit of critical scrutiny. We have been very much in contention for one of the top two spots since the start of the season and we have made what look to be necessary responses to our circumstances  in the transfer window. A decent striker has come in, which helps, given that our star has left and our great Wyke hope is misfiring, and along with two youthful loans we should be more creative up front. And who is complaining about Grant Leadbitter’s return, not to mention a new defender who seems to know his job? To me our January activity refutes the notion of sleepwalking.

Tom C

“It is difficult to balance the nagging worry that we all have (that we might fall short this season) with the acceptance that the club has made astonishing progress in the last six months. Sometimes we have short memories!”

How I empathise with Tom, who has hit the nail firmly on the head. There were those in the summer who feared bankruptcy and/or a continued descent. It hasn’t happened, and even “playoffs at best”, which would have been satisfactory then, looks a tad pessimistic when you’re 9 points above 7th with a game in hand and a much better goal difference. And yet we are Sunderland, and we know not to get to carried away.

Geoff M (a month ago, after Charlton)

“A draw seemed fair in the end but we still need to finish sides off and we had the chances to do it.”

Neil

“Only lost 2 games…average 2 pts per game…and yet if we take 4 points from our 2 games in hand we will be in the auto promotion spot. We will at least be in the play offs…..so sorry but you can’t write us off so emphatically”

Not converting chances is important, and a failure to finish sides off seems to be an Achilles heel. Geoff is not the only one to be concerned.  However, Neil’s comment “Only lost 2 games is worth considering in this context. Hold on to our 11 draws for the next few sentences because they are not necessarily something that should be considered in isolation.

Yes, we have drawn more games than Luton, Portmouth and Barnsley, the three teams above us. We’ve even drawn more than Charlton (almost twice as many as them), Posh and Donny, the three teams below us.

In fact, we’ve drawn more games than every other club in League One with the exception of Oxford United, who also have 11 points from 11 draws. That doesn’t sound too good, and Geoff is right to raise the issue.

But drawing is not the only way of failing to win, and failure to win deserves a moment of  your time because when it comes to that we’re not as bad as you might think from all those draws.

Luton have failed to win 12 games while Barnsley, Portsmouth and Sunderland have failed to win 13. There’s not a lot of difference between the top four clubs when it comes to failure to win. But when it comes to gaining points from failure to win those 11 points put us streets ahead. Luton and Barnsley have gained 8, Portsmouth have gained 7.

Could it be that our league position – i.e. the difference in total points between us and other clubs – is just as much a product of our not having played as many games as it is of drawing 11? Neil thinks so, and I tend to agree.

Neil continues ” average 2 pts per game

The stat average goals per game varies week by week. Is Neil right?  And if he is, is an average of 2 good or bad? Such a question begs comparisons, so:

How do we compare to

Luton? Not well, they are averaging 2.1 and that’s promotion form.

Portsmouth? We’re better. They have dropped to 1.93 points per game.

Barnsley? You might think they’re doing better than us, but no. Their recent impressive form has got them up to 1.97, so not quite there yet. A win at Gillingham would get them to exactly 2.0

Charlton? At 1.74 they are way off the pace.

You’ve guessed it now, haven’t you? Neil is right. The team that can’t convert draws into wins but doesn’t let draws become losses is averaging 2.0 points per game, and only one club is doing better.

My worry is not that Sunderland are doing badly, because they aren’t, but that Luton and Barnsley are on fire. Their recent exceptional performances belie the whole-season stats I’ve quoted and leave them in prime position. You can see this in the BBC League One table, where the last five games are shown:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/league-one/table

Sunderland are well behind the top two, but ahead of everyone else, and while we will at least match both clubs head-to-head this season we will need to step up a bit if we are to match them come game 46. Unless, of course, they lose just a bit of form.

So while I can’t see where Brian is coming from I understand Tom’s position only too well (for we are Sunderland…) and who doesn’t have just a little touch of apprehension, or maybe a big touch of apprehension (for we are Sunderland….) about other clubs not losing just a bit of form (for we are Sunderland….) as the season reaches crunch point

And yet, like Neil, I’m tending toward optimism.

Even though we are Sunderland, and we know not to get carried away

League One table ©BBC

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Salut! Sunderland is written, illustrated and edited by - and principally for - supporters of Sunderland AFC. The site aims to be sufficiently literate and entertaining to appeal to people who do not follow SAFC but enjoy good football writing.

6 Responses to “For we are Sunderland, and we know not to get carried away” Subscribe

  1. Bill Taylor February 4, 2019 at 3:56 pm #

    This is a good, thoughtful piece. I like the “failure to win” comparison.
    Luton and Barnsley may be on fire but fires tend to burn out. Sunderland is more of a slow burn, smouldering and, I think/believe/hope, longer-lasting. I remain optimistic.
    Where’s Brian coming from? The lowest ranks of the Toon Army, I would say. His statement deserves not so much critical scrutiny as dismissal. If he wants to see sleepwalking, let him try to keep his eyes open at Sid James Park.

  2. KenG February 4, 2019 at 6:02 pm #

    An interesting well-balanced article ( not a bit like Brian). The Rate the Ref would have been worth looking at this week. 5s or 6s? Like the curate’s egg I thought, ‘good in parts’

  3. Neil February 4, 2019 at 7:10 pm #

    Mea culpa… i do tend towards being positive as the alternative simply does not help. I am by no means a Pollyanna. I saw Safc in the 3rd Division last time. Oddly the football is much better now. Not saying i want to stay here any longer than necessary. I would like to suggest people take a more long term view. I’d prefer to go up this season…by any means…but next year will do. Heresy…..i know…the short term haters are the empty vessels…let’s all rebuild this unique club…we can never regain our 1950s magnificence…but the Premiership in 2-4 years is realistic….and acceptable to all sensible souls

  4. Martin February 5, 2019 at 12:28 am #

    I’m going for a record number of thumbs down – I reached 9 the other day – seeking double figures here! I agree with Brian!! Although I don’t blame the manager. I think he’ll prove himself and will win promotion, but not until next season. Sorry guys – look at the performances. Nobody can deny that we’ve been riding our luck for some time now, and our keeper has saved us in many games. Players that were on fire early season, like Maguire and Gooch, seem to have somewhat lost their mojo. We have only dominated ONE game at home – v Scunthorpe. Every other game has been a scrap. Unless something clicks we are destined for the play-offs (at best). Luton and Barnsley, unlike us, are dominating teams and have the quality to do so. We are not.

    We are Sunderland can have numerous connotations. We have one off the biggest stadiums, best facilities, huge, loyal fanbase. But we are in League 1. No matter what you say about “recent history”, we still have players who have competed in the Premier League, we have more pulling power than any other league 1 club. Am I so out of order to expect better performances? It seems to me that the players are only ever up for performing their best when we play the better teams. This to me isn’t good enough. We are Sunderland – a massive fish in a puddle!

  5. Neil February 5, 2019 at 8:34 am #

    The keeper us doing what he is paid for. I suspect ifwe had him last year we may gave avoided relegation. Pure fantasy i know.

    We do need to improve. We will. Too many games with only 1 goal scored

    Neither Luton nor Barnsley dominated us…though Barnsley may have too much for us at their place

    We have a tricky period coming with 3 games in 6 days

    We’ll have a better idea then

  6. Peter Sixsmith February 5, 2019 at 1:34 pm #

    One thing that we should bear in mind is that every team that comes to Sunderland wants to avoid defeat, It’s a feather in their cap. If your team play at a soulless new, out of town stadium or a dilapidated older one, The Stadium of Light will lift your spirits and make you do just that bit better. Going to Fratton Park, Kenilworth Road or Oakwell is not the same as a ground that has staged England international games in recent memory. It’s a chance to put one over a big club, down on their luck and to make a name for yourself. I know Hartlepool fans who still harp on about Brian Honour scoring the winner at Roker in 1988.
    It’s a contributory factor to our inability to win games that we should be winning. Maybe we could have a couple of away games where nobody goes….

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