It’s been a difficult 2017 for Sunderland fans. Very difficult.
David Moyes resigned in May after the Black Cats were relegated from the Premier League with a meagre 24 points before replacement Simon Grayson was sacked on 31 October with the club in the Championship relegation zone.
Added to all that was the team’s increasingly desperate search for a home win, dating back to a 1-0 success over Watford on 17 December 2016.
If they failed to beat Fulham on Saturday their winless run at the Stadium of Light, which already stood at a Football League record 22 matches, would break the one-year barrier…
‘It was a crazy feeling’
During their fruitless hunt for a home win the Black Cats have tried any number of different formations, systems and players – not to mention four different men, including caretaker Robbie Stockdale, in the dugout.
With Saturday’s game against his former side heading for a draw boss Chris Coleman decided to give youth a chance, with 18-year-old forwards Joel Asoro and Josh Maja sent on for experienced strikers Lewis Grabban and James Vaughan in the 73rd minute.
It would prove to be a stroke of genius as just five minutes after coming on for his league debut Maja controlled an Adam Matthews pass and showed good composure to slot home and give Sunderland a first home win for 364 days.
Fate? The teenager joined Sunderland’s academy from Fulham in 2015.
“It was a crazy feeling to score my first league goal, especially against my old club,” he told BBC Newcastle.
“It’s a big lift for the club and especially for the fans because they have waited ages to see us win at home and hopefully we can kick on from here.”
He added: “I think Chris has got more belief in the players and he’s helped us loads on the training pitch to give us the confidence to show what we can do.”
109 goals for Messi and Ronaldo
If they say a week’s long time in football, then imagine how much happened in the time it took Sunderland to win again at home…
- 1980 minutes were played at the Stadium of Light
- Sunderland conceded 38 goals at home
- 36 of the 92 Premier League and EFL clubs have changed manager
- Former Black Cats boss Sam Allardyce was appointed by Crystal Palace, kept them up, resigned and then been appointed by Everton
- Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo scored 109 goals between them
- Australia captain Steve Smith amassed 1,282 Test runs
Football journalist and Sunderland fan Jonathan Wilson will be relieved his tweet didn’t put a late jinx on the Black Cats.
Sunderland still in ‘a bad moment’
Coleman has now guided the side to two wins from his five matches in charge to help them move out of the relegation zone.
Despite the euphoria surrounding Saturday’s victory, the former Wales boss is not getting carried away with their upturn in form.
“It’s good to get the three points and put that (the run) to bed but it’s only three points, it’s not 33 points. We’re still in a bad moment, we’re still where we are,” Coleman told BBC Newcastle.
“It is nice that we have got that result at home, it’s brilliant but we have still got huge challenges ahead.”
On his match-turning decision to bring on Maja and Asoro, he added: “I just felt it was a good time. They are unknown at the minute and Fulham won’t have known much about them.
“It was always in my thinking to make a change towards the end of the game, especially if we needed to grab a goal.
“The way it was poised I thought it was a good time for the young boys to come on and make an impact and they did that.”
Sunderland will look to claim their second home win of 2017 when they host bottom side Birmingham City next week.