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A push for Europe is too little, too late
IF THIS season was a sandwich, it would probably be something like anchovies and lemon curd, between two slices of freshly-baked farmhouse loaf.
Brilliance, either side of a rancid mess.
If Sunderland had continued their good start into the winter, then they'd probably be in with a shout of Europe by Easter. It's only a case of ten points or so.
When Steve Bruce looks at the dropped points over the season - Portsmouth home and away, Everton at home, Fulham at home, and more - he'll kick himself. Hard.
The beauty of the Premier League this season is the spread of points from top to bottom is much tighter than it was last season. Any mid-table team can put a run together and be in with a chance of a European spot.
For Sunderland, I think that push has come a bit too late. If this revival had taken place in January, then it would be a different story.
For me, I still think it boils down to the postponement of the Bolton game. The win against the Trotters proved to be a catalyst for the revival, but we were made to wait two months to play it. Had that revival started in January, we'd be talking about Europe, no doubt.
But the fact that the players have got themselves out of the rut says great things about their spirit. And it says plenty about Steve Bruce's man management skills.
Three weeks or so ago, the club went on a charm offensive with the fans, promising success in return for season ticket sales.
I still maintain that paying lip service to the fans doesn't always cut the mustard. They want to see results, not empty promises. Now those results are coming, I believe the decision for many to renew those season tickets will be an easy one.
WEDNESDAY night's performance was arguably better than the Birmingham win.
A point against a team challenging for a Champion's League place next season should be considered a very useful point indeed.
Of course, Craig Gordon made his now-customary wonder saves, while Fraizer Campbell continued his hot streak in front of goal with a lovely dink over Brad Friedel.
From there, I believed we could have gone on to get the points, but Villa are well organised, hit teams on the break, and it was only a matter of time before one of Ashley Young's delicious deliveries was converted into a goal.
A note about Young - on last night's performance, he could be key for England at the World Cup. The fact his position is not certain baffles me.
Equally baffling is the omission of Darren Bent. But injury to Emile Heskey last night could well open the door for the Sunderland man.
It should do anyway. That doesn't mean it will.