The honeymoon period is over. And, while it’s far too soon to suggest this will all end in messy divorce, questions are starting to be asked about whether Sunderland and Lee Johnson really are a match made in heaven.
It all started so well, too.
Seven weeks ago Sunderland blitzed Lincoln City 4-0 on their own turf, ripping the League One leaders apart in a performance full of verve, speed and the kind of cutting edge unseen on Wearside for many a year.
Sunderland fans know how to spot a false dawn by now, however. And, in the ten games since that Sincil Bank demolition job, Johnson has tasted success just three times.
A demoralising 2-1 defeat at Shrewsbury Town last night not only left Sunderland hanging like a spare part outside the play-offs, it also led a growing number of supporters, willing to give Johnson the benefit of the doubt, to question his selection policy.
The former Bristol City boss obviously rates 19-year-old Dan Neil highly.
In January, Johnson decided against letting the South Shields-born teenager leave on loan, admitting he “really likes” a technically gifted, goalscoring midfielder who has shone for the club’s youth teams (Chronicle).
And, given no-one in Sunderland’s squad except the talismanic Charlie Wyke has scored more than five goals in 2020/21, there’s a nagging feeling among Sunderland fans that Neil could have a similar impact to Jack Diamond in a midfield lacking drive or cutting edge.
With 2020/21 threatening to turn into a mirror image of 2019/20, it doesn’t hurt to try something different.
Here’s what some Sunderland fans had to say on Twitter about the youngster: