Over the last few years, Sunderland has been a rotten football club to support. They have suffered relegation twice and promotion feels like a distant dream.
Under the ownership of Stewart Donald, things went pear-shaped. They were spending vast sums of money that the club couldn’t afford and they’d become one of the laughing stocks of the EFL.
However, in 2021, there is a very different feel to the Mackems. They have won their first silverware for 48 years and after defeating Accrington 2-0 on Wednesday evening, they are now third in the table.
Lee Johnson has engineered an incredible run with the Black Cats winning seven of their last eight matches in the league.
It feels like now or never in terms of promotion and they’re building up ahead of steam at just the right time. Their win at Accrington was scrappy but they managed to get the job done as goals from Charlie Wyke and Ross Stewart sealed the points.
After their EFL Trophy final last weekend, Johnson made changes, one of which saw Jack Diamond come into the XI.
He has been one of the real winners of the new manager’s time at the Stadium of Light so far. When he came into the team properly in December, he offered something that Sunderland didn’t have; the ability to stretch opponents and get in behind.
Indeed, we saw that when he was introduced late on at Wembley on Sunday. He got the Black Cats up the pitch with his raw pace and frantic energy.
Unfortunately, he was rather disappointing against Accrington in midweek, being hauled off at half time after a very dismal opening 45 minutes.
The bitty nature of the game didn’t suit Diamond at all, and as a result, he struggled significantly to get into proceedings.
He departed the field having had just 18 touches of the ball, a number that would ultimately fall below goalkeeper Lee Burge’s tally for the evening. From those touches, he conceded possession on nine occasions, leading to a forgetful night for the youngster.
Strikingly, Diamond made just three passes in the entire time he was on the pitch. That is a shocking tally, one that was easily the worst of any Sunderland player to start the game.
It was telling, therefore, than his substitute scored the opening goal of the game. Diamond was replaced by Stewart at the break and the Scot popped up with a crucial debut goal.
The former has made great strides since breaking into the Mackems’ first-team but with their new signing now back from injury and immediately in the goals, he’ll need to keep a close eye over his shoulder.
Diamond will undoubtedly have better nights than this; he’ll just have to eradicate this one quickly from his mind.