IT might not feel it but these are still early days for Michael Beale at Sunderland.

Such was his turbulent and troubled start, and with all that's occurred on and off the pitch, it's hard to believe his tenure is only 10 games old.

There was a brief spell when you couldn't help but wonder if he'd reach double figures in the dugout but those doubts disappeared and it's of immense credit to Beale that he managed to ride out those testing times.

Life on the Sunderland rollercoaster.

"The highs are really high when you see that second half," said Beale after Saturday's win over Plymouth.

"The lows were a bit lower today at times if I'm honest. What team are we going to be?"

That's applicable to Beale's time in charge on the whole - let's be honest, that's life as a football manager - but there have been far more highs than lows on the pitch for the Sunderland head coach in recent weeks. His team are unbeaten in three games now, and it's worth pointing out here that only four teams - the league's top three and in-form Coventry - have picked up more league points than the Black Cats since the head coach's appointment.

As for which team Sunderland are going to be, well if they can continue to play like they did in the second half against Argyle on Saturday, there'll be far more highs than lows before the season is out. And if that second half display can become the norm, the campaign will almost certainly stretch beyond 46 games, as it did last season.

For Beale, it was a day that was both exciting and incredibly emotional; a day where we saw the very best of Sunderland on and off the pitch.

The head coach was visibly touched when the Stadium of Light rose as one after four minutes in a heartfelt show of support for his four-year-old niece, Poppy, who is battling leukaemia, and he was fighting tears in an emotional press conference after the game as he thanked the fans.

It was more evidence of what Beale has always known, that the Stadium of Light is a special place.


"The applause they gave me and my family but also in the 79th minute they did it for another person's family and that's fantastic, that's the feeling we have in our club," he said.

"These young players are doing everything they can to make the fans happy. It's where we want it to be at the moment.

"The fans here, when they're behind our team, it's a young team and I don't think even the fans understand how much it lifts them.

"In that 10 or 15 minute period today when we're scoring goals and attacking and the crowd is up, what a place to play football.

"With a new relationship, everything takes time. There was a lot of emotion in the air, we had emotional games. We didn't do so well in those games. We have to take that, we have to take the pats on the back when they're deserved and take the feedback when it's not so positive.

"It's still early days, that's my 10th game, we have everything to prove: me, the players, us as a team and a club. We have everything to prove in the next three months, so it should be exciting."

Jack Clarke doesn't have much left to prove. His 14th goal of the season was perhaps his best so far, though it was rivalled by Jobe Bellingham's stunning solo strike just two minutes after the teenager had come off the bench on Saturday.

The duo's strikes followed Pierre Ekwah's equaliser in a thrilling second half turnaround, with the Black Cats powering past a Plymouth side that had led at the break after Ryan Hardie's classy and clinical first half finish on the counter.

If the first half was frustrating, the second period was undoubtedly as good as Sunderland have been under Beale, with Man of the Match Dan Neil pulling the strings in midfield.