A few scattered boos greeted the final whistle at the Stadium of Light on Saturday. It was an improvement on the loud booing that came after Sunderland fell behind 2-0 after just five minutes, but it still left Steve Bruce musing once more about "the frenzy" of North-east football.
According to Bruce, even Manchester United old boys Wes Brown and John O'Shea – two of his 10 summer signings – have been taken aback by the level of expectation at a club with only three top-10 finishes in the past half-century. Yet Sunderland's response in battling back for a 2-2 draw gave Bruce hope that these new boys can carry that burden of expectation – not least Nicklas Bendtner, whose role in the recovery hints at a bright future.
Bendtner hit Sunderland's opening goal, his first in the league since December, and crossed for Mohamed Elmohamady's equaliser.
"He's a larger-than-life character and I think the North-east will like him," Bruce said of the Dane. "He has all the classic parts of a really good player, because he goes out there and shows off. That's the way he plays his football – 'look at me, I'm the best player'."
Bendtner flourished under Bruce at Birmingham in 2006-07 and the Sunderland manager believes, as with Danny Welbeck last term, a regular starting role will benefit a player who was "set back" by a serious car crash in September 2009.
"At Arsenal I did play, then I had a terrible car crash and it was difficult for me to get back in the team," Bendtner said. "I had a few games here and there but the main thing was that when I played there, I was not happy.
"I look forward to going into training every day, no matter what. I have not felt like that for a very, very long time."
While Bendtner impressed, alongside his Ivorian strike partner Stéphane Sessègnon, West Bromwich's Shane Long caught the eye too, tucking away his third goal of his first Premier League campaign 60 seconds after James Morrison's headed opener. Roy Hodgson described the £6.5m Irishman as "the bargain of the year".
"His all-round play was very, very good, and the target play was good," Hodgson said. "He was a threat both in front and behind defenders and rarely gave the ball away."
Scorers: Sunderland Bendtner 24, Elmohamady 26. WBA Morrison 4, Long 5.
Substitutes: Sunderland Colback 6 (Cattermole, 71), Dong-Won Ji (Elmohamady, 82), Meyler (Gardner, 90). WBA Scharner 6 (Mulumbu, 74), Thomas (Dorrans, 88). Booked: Sunderland Larsson, Cattermole. WBA None.
Man of the match Bendtner. Match rating 7/10.
Possession: Sunderland 53% WBA 47%.
Attempts on target: Sunderland 7 WBA 3.
Referee L Mason (Lancashire). Att 34,815.Reuse content