Welcome to Howard Wilkinson and to all from Sunderland.
It was a great pity that we did not get the result at Chelsea that our first half performance deserved. We were superb in that period and to go to Chelsea and totally dominate is something that not many teams, even Manchester United and Arsenal, have managed.
It was similar to the Arsenal game here where, on another day, we could have won the game by a good margin. But Stamford Bridge saw a good solid team performance from us and we have to take encouragement from that.
I've got to say that, performance-wise, Chelsea joins Everton, Villa and Newcastle in taking us close to getting seven or eight out of 10. Obviously the Newcastle game was a big frustration with that perfectly good Gus goal disallowed - something that hurt us at a very delicate and important point in the game - and then the disaster of losing in the last minute. But even then I was pleased with the way we played and the balance of our game was good.
At Villa we had proved that we can go on the road and get a clean sheet, play well and deserve to win. And that came on the back of us scoring four goals at home against Everton, a side who others just can't score against. Alright, we knew that we had to tighten up and we did at Villa but that was a significant result against Everton because we opened them up and showed much of what we are about.
Moving on from there, I've got total belief that this squad can get us into Europe this year. And the squad believes it too. We would love to have a cup to distract us but we haven't so we've got total focus on every league match.
Chairman Daniel Levy and I worked very hard during the transfer window. We are delighted that Kazu Toda joined the squad but the fact that we were unable to make any additional signings left Daniel and I more frustrated than any supporter.
But I'm looking at it in a very positive way because I believe that if we keep key players fit and achieve that European slot then that would put us in a much stronger position in the summer to actually go and get what I feel is needed and maybe have better options than we've just had in this window. So ironically it may work in our favour and I would ask the fans to ponder that point and not believe everything they read in the papers. I am proud of the fact that the club does not use the media the way other clubs do.
On the injury front, we were all disappointed to lose Anthony Gardner at Chelsea. It's a great shame that Anthony at the moment can't seem to get through two or three games without getting injured. The problem might be due to his age and his physical size but we're going to be without him for a number of weeks and so wish him a speedy recovery.
The more positive news is that Jamie Redknapp has resumed his running and kicking a football so we hope that he'll quickly get a reserve game under his belt.
Meanwhile Christian Ziege is back doing a bit of work on the treadmill and has been over to Munich to see a specialist as well as having his rehab here.
Now back to the matter in hand - Sunderland this afternoon. We've been telling our players all week that they have to demonstrate a ruthless approach today. We've been performing well and although we've only had a loss and a draw to show for it in our last two games we know that if we can maintain that consistent standard then we will prevail.
But we also know that although Sunderland are bottom of the table we have to work hard and earn the right to put them to the sword. We didn't play well at the Stadium of Light so we want to put that straight and we'll be going out all guns blazing to do just that.
In closing, congratulations to Chris Hughton on his appointment as assistant manager with the Republic of Ireland. It will be good experience for him at international level, another feather in his cap and we wish him well. He deserves it for the hard work he puts in.
Once again, play your part and get behind the lads from the onset today.