IF LAST season was thrilling, exciting and amongst the best I can remember as a Sunderland fan, it was almost one of the most intolerable and exasperating too.

Having started so dreadfully under Di Canio, things really could only get better, but to get as good as they did would have been unimaginable after that 3-0 defeat at the Hawthorns that put paid to the Italian’s short lived reign at the club.

Ironically enough, that same venue plays host to another new season under another new regime; not only is Gus Poyet still here – thankfully – he’s also been joined by Lee Congerton, the man who has been charged with making the transfer deals the club sorely needs, happen.

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Just as both manager and fans alike were beginning to get tetchy, Congerton pulled a Rodwell out of the bag to settle us all down.

I’m not sure we’re at the stage of unadulterated optimism quite yet – well, I’m certainly not – but I do get the sense things are starting to come together.

If nothing else, Rodwell is a signal of intent. Whether or not the reported fee is accurate is of secondary importance to the media narrative that has played out since his arrival.

The story goes that we’ve beaten off competition from a number of Premier League clubs to seal the signing of a young, talented, hungry English midfield player.

You never know, it might just make a few other players we’ve got an interest in sit up and take notice.

The fact he’s also potentially brilliant on the pitch could also come in handy; Poyet did his best to solve the Rubick’s cube that is our midfield, but it’s the Rodwell signing really does give me a sense of comfort that we are at least trying to head in the right direction.

In fact, even more astonishingly, we have a recruitment team that have recognised we need full backs and gone out and signed them. To most clubs, that might not seem like a big deal, but after years of having pretty much only Phil Bardsley as a full back to call our own, it really is major news on Wearside.

A few pieces of the jigsaw are evidently still missing, but there is still ample time to fill them.

The season may well be under way before we slot the final piece into place or we might even have to wait until January, but we certainly look in a better position to compete now than we did at the end of last season.

It’s just a shame that after finally ridding ourselves of Bruce’s deadwood, we now have a raft full of De Fanti’s clogging up the wage bill.

More patience will be required as the Stadium of Light revolving door isn’t quite finished spinning yet.

For once at least, our fortitude looks like being rewarded and for us that doesn’t mean silverware or glory, just a season where we can coast along without the constant nagging fear of relegation.

With Poyet as manager, we might even progress beyond that, but that level of optimism is surely for another day.