SUNDERLAND returned to winning ways as Josh Maja and Lynden Gooch scored two goals apiece in an emphatic 4-1 victory over Rochdale.

The Black Cats have moved to within four points of the top of the League One table – what were the main talking points to emerge from their win at the Stadium of Light?


Prior to kick-off, Charlie Methven used his programme notes to outline the extent of the financial difficulties he and Stewart Donald have been wrestling with this summer. It made for interesting reading.

Methven confirmed the new regime was forced to sign a document with the EFL agreeing to “reduce costs drastically or face transfer embargos and heavy fines”. Sunderland’s costs have been slashed from £64m last year to £30m per annum, and the plan is for that figure to fall to around £22m by next summer.

However, the club’s income for the next 12 months has been significantly affected by previous debt. The £25m in parachute payments paid this summer was ring-fenced to pay down bank debt, meaning Sunderland will only receive an additional £10m in parachute payments between now and June 2019.

That means the new regime expect to sustain losses of more than £10m this season, largely because of restructuring costs, operational losses and historic court cases. As Methven concedes, “that money will have to be funded by Stewart and Juan (Sartori).”


Having played with a flat back four for the vast majority of his time on Wearside, Jack Ross tinkered with his tactics at the weekend. Tom Flanagan came in for his first league start, and played as one of three centre-halves alongside Jack Baldwin and Glenn Loovens.

That meant Gooch playing as a right wing-back, with Denver Hume on the opposite flank, and while there were a few shaky moments in the first half, Sunderland generally looked more defensively resolute than in a number of their previous outings.

Flanagan brought an added physicality to the backline, and both Gooch and Hume enjoyed plenty of attacking joy galloping down their respective flanks.


Ross has already proved he is not afraid to make big decisions, and the Sunderland boss made another decisive call when he selected 22-year-old Hume ahead of Costa Rica international Bryan Oviedo.

Oviedo had struggled in the previous weekend’s defeat to Burton, but the former Everton full-back is still a vastly-experienced defender who would have been ideally suited to the wing-back role.

Nevertheless, Ross went for academy product Hume, and his faith in the youngster was more than justified. Hume produced an energetic and polished display, setting up Maja’s second goal with a neat ball inside and carrying out his defensive duties with a minimum of fuss.


Last season, the goalkeeping position was Sunderland’s Achilles heel. Jason Steele, Robbin Ruiter and Lee Camp all committed a series of errors to compound the Black Cats’ defensive woes.

Jon McLaughlin arrived in the summer in an attempt to remedy the situation, and the 31-year-old has already proved an extremely astute acquisition.

He didn’t have a lot to do at the weekend, but he made a fine save towards the end of the first half as he parried a fierce free-kick from Samuel Hart and was even better at the start of the second period as he produced an excellent double stop to deny Calvin Andrew and Henderson. Finally, Sunderland’s goalkeeping responsibilities appear to be in safe hands.


Sunderland’s players boast plenty of technical ability, but Rochdale boss Keith Hill feels it is their mental strength that sets them apart from the majority of their rivals in the third tier.

“It’s the mental consistency that’s the big difference between the teams,” said Hill. “It’s the mental ability of someone like (Lee) Cattermole. You can see why he played in the Premier League – he can control a game mentally, and that comes from his experience.”