With Sunderland now set to sit on the sidelines and watch on over the course of the next three games, now would be a good time to assess the season so far.
Who has been their best player, and crucially, who is coming alive under new manager Lee Johnson?
This Mackems side isn’t exactly jam-packed with goals. Last season Chris Maguire was their top scorer with just ten strikes to his name so it’s hardly surprising they failed to achieve promotion.
The less said about Danny Graham the better too. He signed for a second spell last summer but like Grigg, hasn’t scored in the league this term.
You can complain about their finishing all you like but Phil Parkinson’s pretty negative brand of football was hardly set up to create chances.
Fortunately, they do have Charlie Wyke. Described as someone with “fantastic strength” by Stephen Elliot, he has scored ten goals in 20 outings this term, finally proving himself at the Stadium of Light. In 2019/20, he only bagged six so there has been a huge improvement.
Of course, the brunt of those goals came under Parkinson when he was still in charge but it’s already easy to suggest that Wyke has been the biggest winner from Johnson’s appointment in the north-east.
Why? Because the Black Cats are creating more profitable chances and getting Wyke in positions to score more regularly.
Only last season Kevin Phillips noted that unless you get runners playing beside him, he’d struggle: “He’s a handful in that league and you ask any defender, when you come up against a 6’1”, 6’2” striker that’s a handful, it’s difficult and if you’ve got players running off him, like [Chris] Maguire, it’s hard to play against.”
Indeed, that was evident when he was playing for Bradford at this level, scoring 16 in 43 during the 2017/18 campaign.
The difference, though, is the quality of the chances created, evident in the fact Wyke scored both of the opportunities he was given against Lincoln City.
He now has quicker and more dynamic players in Jack Diamond and Aiden McGeady next to him so you can expect his good run to continue once their break is over.
Wyke has only played once under Johnson but the more stylish and attacking style of play will only benefit him.
He is the real winner.