|Kone blasts home from close in to push Sunderland 2-0 up|
The beautiful part of the Great Escape Version 4.0 was that it was done in style. Just a few tweaks, and Sunderland are suddenly a decent side again. A feisty, savvy and contextually aware manager in Big Sam. Four or five well judged signings and, everyone buying into the plan together. Manager, players and fans. The way the fans and players bought collectively into this was really uplifting and enjoyable.
Defoe gets all the attention with his incredibly clutch goals, but Kone, Khazri, Kirschoff and indeed Borini were all crucial to the Great Escape, and all look right at home in Sunderland.
Khazri is literally exactly the type of player Sunderland have been crying out for, for seemingly years and years. A playmaker, who can also score goals himself. An added bonus, he likes a tackle! Perfect for the North East.
Two other players in particular deserve a big shout out, first Vito Mannone, who has his reward with a call up to the Italian Euro Championship squad. Mannone was nothing short of superb these last 2 months, and it’s great to see the big man get his dues after patiently working hard in training and waiting for his chance. A big shout out also to DeAndre Yedlin, who has gone from looking lost in January, to being a huge, impact player by May. Once again the future looks bright for that young man.
You could see this escape coming in the last few weeks, as the crowd got more and more behind the players, who responded in kind with better and better outings.
The Great Escape version 4.0 was epitomized, to me, by a simple moment in the Chelsea game. With Sunderland up 3-2 and trying to play out the last 10 minutes, Borini chased down a Chelsea defender in possession, waving his arms to get the crowd loud again. They responded with a massive roar and Sunderland, led by the literally heroic Lee Cattemole, tore into Chelsea for the final ten like their lives depended on it.
Without totally losing my mind I want to suggest that Sunderland stayed up because a group of very well paid young man forgot their egos and wages for a moment and tapped into the incredible energy created by the massive, throbbing, roaring crowds at The Stadium Of Light, and played like their lives depended on it.
That, in this day of mercenary players and million dollar contracts, is pretty fucking cool.