Sunderland are riding the crest of a wave at the moment, albeit the lowest wave they’ve ever ridden.
Whilst this is only their second season outside the top two divisions, they’re enjoying the ride. Promotion looks likely, although they may endure a play-off tie or two before they get back to the Championship.
They’re also at Wembley for the EFL Trophy final, a game which promises an 80,000 crowd between two former Premier League sides. They’ve bought wisely, sold ruthlessly and are a completely different beast to the bloated, under-achieving team that came down.
Their January business was eye-catching, with players like Jimmy Dunne, Will Grigg and Lewis Morgan adding significant value to the squad. Jerome Sinclair, a Premier League youngster, returned to his parent club and they upgraded with Kazaiah Sterling. Or so it seemed.
20-year-old Sterling is a product of the Spurs academy, capped up to under 18 level with England. This loan would have been his chance to get senior football and show exactly what he can do. Having seen Josh Maja thrive up top for the Black Cats, Sterling will have wanted some of the action.
Instead, he has 31 minutes to his name against the division’s bottom side and hasn’t been near the first team since the beginning of February. The move is turning into something of a nightmare as he looks like being the forgotten man at the Stadium of Light.
He missed out completely recently, not even taking a place on the bench against Plymouth, nor in the semi-final victory against Bristol Rovers.
Sterling must be tearing his hair out. He’s seen young players do well at Sunderland, Lewis Morgan grabbed the second goal against the Gas and cemented his place in Sunderland fans affections, but half an hour of a solitary game is not enough for Sterling to do the same.
He must be wondering if maybe he made the wrong decision. Hindsight is a great thing, but did he choose the wrong club? Would he have been better served going somewhere like Charlton, where he could be a big fish in a smaller pond, closer to home and getting minutes?
This is likely to be the thought dogging him as he tries to sleep at night ahead of another weekend sat in the stands.