Thursday, December 23, 2010

Black Cats On The Up

Tottenham Hotspur v Sunderland, Premier League 9/11/2010 Asamoah Gyan of Sunderland celebrates scoring the equaliser 1-1  Photo Marc Atkins Fotosports International Photo via Newscom
This season's instrumental new signing, Asamoah Gyan
Sunderland extended their fine recent record with a 1-0 victory over Bolton in the early-kick off to the Barclays Premier League fixtures at the weekend. As it turns out, there was just one more top tier match played on Saturday - West Ham’s 1-1 draw with Blackburn - as the big freeze decimated the fixture schedule.

The Black Cats took full advantage of that to move up to sixth in the table after Danny Welbeck’s 32nd-minute goal was enough to see off the Trotters.

Following their 5-1 thumping to fierce rivals Newcastle in October - Sunderland have claimed four wins and three draws from their last eight fixtures. Few would have predicted that they would bounce back from that high-profile defeat and credit must go to manager Steve Bruce. The Northumberland-born man pulled no punches following their humiliation at St James’ Park by saying it was their worst performance under him and he challenged them to show it was simply an off-day.

A 3-2 loss to Wolves apart, Bruce’s players have responded in emphatic style to an extent that they are being touted as genuine contenders for a place in Europe next season. Their unbeaten home form has been paramount to their success, however, they will have to improve their record on their travels as one win in nine away from the Stadium of Light is a poor return. To their credit, that away victory was a 3-0 hammering over Premier League holders Chelsea, which must rank as the highlight of their recent run.

Sunderland’s renaissance is all the more remarkable given that they have had to deal with injuries to first-choice defenders Michael Turner and Titus Bramble and star striker Darren Bent in recent weeks, meaning Bruce has had to rely on youth players to fill the void. Indeed the average age of the team that won against Bolton was just 23.

Fulham v Sunderland, Premier League 11/12/2010 Danny Welbeck of Sunderland  Photo Marc Atkins Fotosports International 07783 913 777 Photo via Newscom
Danny Welbeck, just 20 years-old
The fringe players have certainly excelled themselves though - none more so than Welbeck, who has netted five goals in his last six games. The striker, who is on-loan from Manchester United, had his best day in a Sunderland shirt on Saturday as he stooped to head home from close range after Jussi Jaaskelainen had parried Bent’s shot. Welbeck also struck the outside of a post as Bruce’s men held on for the victory. The youngster is certainly proving to be a hit with the Sunderland faithful, as those following the latest football shirts news will tell you.

With all due respect to Owen Coyle’s men, Sunderland will come up against much sterner opponents on Boxing Day when they travel to league leaders Manchester United. The rest of the Christmas period sees them face Blackpool, Blackburn and Aston Villa in the space of nine days before their next Premier League outing, a chance for redemption against Newcastle on January 16. If they can continue their recent form from the Christmas period into the clash against the Magpies, victory over them would be the ultimate cherry on Sunderland’s cake.

Meanwhile, you can click here if you are interested in buying some of the latest Premier League football kits for Christmas. Perhaps a Sunderland one with Welbeck on the back, or is that being a bit too optimistic with regards to his future?

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