Sunderland looked like a sinking rudderless ship earlier in the season.
The sacking of Jack Ross initially looked like it had backfired too – Phil Parkinson came in and won only two of his opening 14 matches.
However, there was one appointment that went severely under the radar last year and in some senses, it was equally as important as Parkinson’s.
The former Bolton boss has now led the team to just one defeat in their last 11 matches and that is not only down to the manager, but it’s also owed to Nick Allamby.
Officially named as Sunderland’s Physical Performance Coach, Allamby has become a key cog in the machine at the Stadium of Light, working on the player’s fitness and helping them to get to the required standard.
He has been a game-changing factor in Sunderland’s revival, helping take the side from a team in danger of missing out on the playoffs, to now sitting just five points off second.
Speaking about his role when he arrived, Allamby noted: “We look at what the players do over the week as an overall load – so that’s from games to training and everything else. So it’s managing that so that they can be in the best possible shape they can be over what is a long season with a lot of games to play.”
With matches played regularly over a weekend and in midweek, ensuring the players are in top-notch condition is an arduous task. However, as seen with results, it has played its part magnificently. Before defeat against Portsmouth, they were unbeaten in nine outings.
But what’s so prominent is the way Sunderland finish games. Since December 29th, the Black Cats have scored six goals in the second 45 minutes of play. On top of that, four of those strikes have come in the 78th minute and beyond.
Towards the back end of 2018/19, the Mackems conceded in the dying embers of games on an all too regular basis. In their final nine encounters of last season, Sunderland let in six goals in the final 20 minutes – three of which came in injury time.
It’s clear that Sunderland’s fitness wasn’t at the required level, regularly downing tools late in the match. Allamby’s appointment, therefore, has helped Parkinson’s men turn the corner.