Middlesbrough v Sunderland, Monday 5th September 2022, 8pm

It’s been a frustrating start to the season with points dropped to late goals in games where our performances have generally been good. The transfer activity was mainly done early on, and the window closed without us recruiting a replacement for Tav or any of the expensive strikers that we had been linked with.

Nevertheless, I was confident that we’d have sufficient quality to beat Sunderland in a game where most pre-match discussion seems to revolve around whether or not it’s a ‘derby’. I don’t really see why the label matters. There’s certainly a north-east rivalry with bragging rights between neighbours and workmates and that’s enough to give it an extra edge over a game against the likes of Reading or Cardiff.

Harry and I were there reasonably early and stopped to look at the statue of George Camsell. I was impressed with it. I also like the idea of celebrating our history with statutes as when you’ve only ever had one trophy in the cabinet the players who’ve performed for us fill that gap to an extent.

I’m not sure about the placement though, I think it makes the area near to the gates look cluttered. I’d prefer to see the statues placed around the stadium perimeter, perhaps supplemented by a few more. Rioch and Todd in their shorts in a dugout would be good, as would one of Jackie collecting tracksuit tops whilst smoking a cigar. Maybe a horizontal Massimo heading that goal that took us to Eindhoven.

The other main talking point was the return of Tony Mowbray as the new Sunderland manager. He gets a lot of leeway from me and he’d probably have to start molesting cats before I’d consider he’d tarnished his legacy. He stayed fairly low key, but got a chorus of ‘He’s One Of Our Own’ from the South Stand. It wasn’t on a par with the reception that he received when he returned with Ipswich as a player, but that was a high bar. Despite his current job I’d keep him on the statue list.

It went well on the pitch. Dael Fry came back in and showed why he should be the first name on the team sheet and Isaiah Jones looked to be getting back to his best. Liam Roberts commanded his box well and made the case to keep his place when Zak Steffan regains fitness. The single goal meant that we could never relax until the final whistle, but for a change we held on to take all three points.

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