Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Let's Hope Frustrating Season Eases in 2010; after a Good Start the Cats Are Slipping Away from Top

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Let's Hope Frustrating Season Eases in 2010; after a Good Start the Cats Are Slipping Away from Top

Article excerpt

Byline: JAMES HUNTER

ASKED at Blackburn to sum up Sunderland's season so far, Steve Bruce nailed it in a single word: "Frustrating".

Sitting 10th in the table at the beginning of the second half of the campaign, Bruce's singleword sum-up showed just how far Sunderland have come since he took over in the summer.

This, don't forget, is Sunderland - a club that has struggled against the drop in all but one of their six seasons in the top flight over the last decade.

And two of those seasons, in 2002-03 and 2005-06, have ended in record-breaking relegations.

Bruce's summer arrival as the permanent successor to Roy Keane was supposed to herald a new era on Wearside. It was time to take the fabled 'next step' and graduate from relegation strugglers to an established Premier League side.

Bruce shipped out the deadwood and, backed by the deep pockets of new owner Ellis Short, brought in Darren Bent (pounds 10m), Lee Cattermole (pounds 6m), Lorik Cana (pounds 5m), Michael Turner (pounds 4.5m) and Fraizer Campbell (pounds 3.5m), among others.

A realistic target of a top-10 finish was duly set and, at just past the halfway stage, Bent's 13 goals have played a major part in ensuring Sunderland are on course to achieve that aim.

So why the sense of frustration? Well, because Bruce and the fans have - in patches at least - seen the true potential of their side.

A draw against Manchester United at Old Trafford and wins against Liverpool and Arsenal on Wearside has, understandably, raised fans' expectations.

The flipside is that points have been thrown away at such places as Burnley, Stoke and Wigan. Had Sunderland taken seven points from their visits to Turf Moor, the Britannia Stadium and the DW Stadium but lost against the three big boys, they would be in exactly the same position with exactly the same points total but the expectation levels would have remained in check.

But excitement, despair and hope - sometimes raised and all too often dashed - are part of a football fan's lot and no Sunderland supporter would have swapped the exhilaration of taking those seven points off the elite for workaday wins against more modest opposition. …

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