League One

Sunderland: What a difference a week makes

Sunderland: What a difference a week makes

Just a little over a week ago, more than 40,000 Sunderland fans were trudging out of Wembley Stadium having seen their side lose on penalties in the EFL Checkatrade Trophy Final.

It was devastating for the players and fans, but definitely not demoralising.

Since that heartbreak, they have won at Accrington and Rochdale, and seen a six-point deficit to the automatic promotion places wiped out, which has them sitting on equal points with second-placed Barnsley, still with two games in hand.

What a difference a week makes.

Following the Wembley loss, the manager and players issued a rallying call, stressing the importance of picking themselves up and seeing out the season the right way, and winning automatic promotion back to the Championship at the first attempt.

It could easily have gone the other way — everyone feeling sorry for themselves and watching their season implode in a Middlesbrough-esque collapse.

But it says a lot for the mentality of this current Sunderland side, and the togetherness between them and their manager Jack Ross, that they have bounced back with renewed impetus.

Speaking to the press ahead of tomorrow night’s home game with Burton Albion, Ross sang the praises of his players, saying they are in a “good place” right now.

Referring to the team’s post-Wembley reaction, he said: “It is more significant for my players.

“To ask them to put so much into those two games [Accrington and Rochdale] and produce a performance level to then draw level with second place is exciting for them.

“It just heightens the importance of tomorrow evening.

“When you reach a position where the rewards of winning games are obvious in terms of where it takes you in the table then it becomes even more real.

“The players are in a good place and on the back of the two away games we have had since the cup final, that has only increased as well.”

The priority has always been automatic promotion, and the Wembley final always had the potential to be a distraction that threatened to derail their season.

As hard as it was for the masses of Black Cats fans that converged on the Capital last week, the defeat has appeared, ironically, to be a blessing in disguise, with the players clearly galvanised and playing with more intent than they were previously.

The only thing that can now prevent Sunderland from going up automatically is complacency, something that Ross is surely not going to allow to happen.

A couple of weeks ago people thought it would be the play-offs for Sunderland, but now, they may be thinking of going up as champions.

What are your thoughts of the two Sunderland performances since the Wembley defeat, Sunderland fans? Has it been a blessing in disguise for your team? Let us know your thoughts…

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