Revolutions are rarely painless and, sure enough, the opening fixture of what Sunderland term "a whole new era" reacquainted their supporters with the horribly familiar feeling of defeat.
"The first game can give you a picture," Paolo Di Canio said beforehand with some prescience. "But we don't have to forget that in a period of change you can take steps back as well as forward."
Permitting Fulham a rare away win courtesy of a concentration lapse on the part of the debutant centre-half Valentin Roberge at a corner certainly counts as a step back but it does not necessarily mean the Sunderland manager's revolution is doomed. Rather his revamped side look a promising work in progress. "We can take many positives from the game," Di Canio said. "In terms of us playing football I'm more than happy. We dominated and I didn't see any other chance for Fulham to score. I'm not worried but if we think this was only accidental we have a problem."
Had Sunderland scored first they would almost certainly have won but, with Fulham frequently pulling 10 men behind the ball, Di Canio's players could not quite elude the formidable Brede Hangeland and company. It is easy to appreciate why Di Canio would be prepared to sell the gifted but erratic Stéphane Sessègnon to suitors in Qatar if such a transfer funded the recruitment of a central midfield playmaker and a prolific striker.
The Wearsiders looked exceptionally fit and sharp but, judging by the way they built from the back, passed slickly and interchanged cleverly the physical boot camp Di Canio has put them through this summer seems to have created a platform for a much more tactical and technically pleasing game. Encouragingly it also seems to have brought Adam Johnson back to life. Ideally, Sunderland's manager wants to deploy essentially a 4-2-4 formation when attacking and Johnson and Emanuele Giaccherini operated as genuine wingers as Sunderland strove to stretch Fulham's midfield quintet.
An Italy international acquired from Juventus, Giaccherini is the marquee signing of a whirlwind summer that has resulted in 10 new senior players arriving at the Stadium of Light. Five of them started and while Giaccherini tended to be involved in Sunderland's best moves, it was Ondrej Celustka – a Czech right-back recruited on loan from Turkey's Trabzonspor – who featured in the best moment of the first half when Marten Stekelenburg did very well to tip his ferociously swerving half-volley to safety.
If Di Canio was frustrated by his side's struggles to get behind the opposition's back line, Jol became increased vexed by his team's failure to get Adel Taarabt on to the ball. No matter. The similarly tightly shepherded but subtly, impressively, industrious Dimitar Berbatov made what little possession he had count in the 52nd minute. It was Berbatov who won Fulham the corner from which they eluded the otherwise barely involved Keiren Westwood. That dead ball was delivered superbly by Damien Duff and, with Roberge awol, was headed emphatically beyond the goalkeeper by Pajtim Kasami, who celebrated by sprinting 50 yards to the touchline and hugging Jol.
As chances came and went at the other end, realisation must have been dawning on Di Canio that Giaccherini, Cabral and the powerful Jozy Altidore had left their shooting boots in the dressing room.
Altidore eventually made his mark but unfortunately it was, accidentally, on Stekelenburg's shoulder, prompting his replacement by David Stockdale.
That third visiting substitution meant there would be no cameo from the bench for the widely jeered Darren Bent, once of Sunderland but newly signed on loan from Aston Villa by Fulham.
Jol – pleased with the win but disappointed with his side's performance – said Stekelenburg could be sidelined for some weeks. It could be a similar timespan before Sunderland start seeing the full benefit of their exciting revolution.