After a difficult first year on Wearside, to put it mildly, Darron Gibson hopes that some promising displays under Chris Coleman can prove to be the beginning of a revival for both himself and the club.
Gibson joined alongside Bryan Oviedo in January, shortly after manager David Moyes said that any players signed would not be able to make a significant difference to the relegation fight.
He struggled to nail down a regular place and was caught on camera questioning the desire of team-mates shortly before the season began, but the arrival of a new manager has seen him take on a key role in the side and Gibson hopes the commitment on show against Wolves shows a player and a group pulling together for the cause.
He said: “I have not read or heard anything to be fair but I think we all showed we are together. It felt good coming off the pitch going down to ten men, we set a standard at the weekend and we can’t let it drop.
“Off the ball was I probably better than on the ball at Wolves. I don’t think I was great on the ball. I worked hard for the team and probably sacrificed being on the ball. That’s what you have to do when you are down to ten men. Not only me, Gooch, George, Grabbs, we all sacrificed what we like to do to help the team.
“The week before killed us a little when we went down to ten men just before half-time. They got their first goal and it killed our confidence a bit. It wasn’t a good day after that. Obviously the fans got a bit frustrated and it wasn’t a good day. We learned from it and we knew what we had to do against Wolves.”
Coleman has looked to transform the way Sunderland play and as one of the technically better players in the squad, Gibson hopes to make an impact.
He said: “Under Simon Grayson there was a bit of pressure on us not to concede goals, it was a little bit negative. The new man has come in and everything is more positive, it’s about what we need to do this to beat them. He put a positive spin on everything which gives us more confidence. Everyone has to get on the ball, everyone is more comfortable on the ball.
“You could say we are more expansive, spread out, but it still feels more comfortable.
“The way he wants to play suits me,” he added.
“I think it suits most of the squad because we have some good players who can play with the ball. We showed that against Aston Villa. Coming from not being very confident on the ball and trying to get rid of it, to suddenly switch it round and play from the back I thought was very good. Credit to the manager, he has come in and been positive straightaway.
“If we can do that against Villa when confidence is low, imagine how good we could be if we were confident after a few wins. We would be very hard to beat.”
Sunderland’s midfield area has been criticised by pundits and supporters alike for being sluggish in many games but Gibson believes after a long year, he is in shape to make a difference.
He said: “I totally understand that people have their own opinion and they are entitled to that. I don’t mean this in a bad way, but they don’t see what goes on in here. They see what goes on on the pitch and if I don’t look fit to them then they don’t know what I have been through.
“Before I came here I was out injured for a year with my knee then I didn’t get back in under Martinez at Everton,” he added.
“When I came here the physios were worried I would get injured again, so they held me back a bit I am quite strong minded, this year they tried to hold me back in pre-season and I said ‘look I need to start playing football’.
“I had been in and out for long enough and I needed to play every week. To be fair they said ‘alright, we will listen to what you want as well’. It is starting to pay off at the minute.”
With Lee Cattermole suspended, Paddy McNair just returning and Didier Ndong short of match fitness, Coleman needs Gibson to continue impressing.