If the new season is supposed to spring optimism around a football club, then somebody better tell Sunderland. The last-gasp side have started their season in familiar fashion and have now haemorrhaged six goals in their opening two games – notably against ‘lesser’ sides Leicester and Norwich.
Dick Advocaat, the latest man to save Sunderland in the top flight, was meant to be the saviour and his one-year-deal was being lauded as the turning point on Wearside this summer, however it hasn’t started well. On a sunny afternoon at the Stadium of Light, the home fans were leaving the terraces by half-time in just their first home game of the season.
The fans watched their team play without cohesion, passion and guidance, as they have for the majority of the last few seasons. A damning stat: Sunderland have won just eight home games in the last two seasons. Perhaps what is even more damning is Advocaat’s own admission that he had seen similar Sunderland downfalls in pre-season but had simply “hoped” it would change come August.
The Black Cats are in a mess, and whether you want to blame Ellis Short or the team itself, something has got to change. It seems that Advocaat himself is portioning blame towards Short,
“I still think that we desperately need another couple of players. We’re starting from a lower level and everyone, including the owner, has got to understand that.”
For the past few seasons Sunderland have fallen into a trap: they hire a new head coach whom brings initial success, sharply followed by a perilous run, that coach leaves and the new is tasked with the impossible and a poor squad to do it with. Continue.
Everyone at Sunderland is desperate for any kind of long-term solution, but they just don’t seem sure how to go about it. Moreover, by convincing Advocaat to stay on for a further year, Sunderland have only secured the short-term once again and the club just doesn’t seem able to find a solution.
Furthermore, when you look at the recruitment policy it hardly offers any more light. Take the holding midfield role for example, Sunderland have been trying to recruit a defensive midfielder since 2012 with little success. N’Diaye, Bridcutt, Cabral, Rodwell and now M’Vila have amassed nearly £20 million in transfer fees, yet Lee Cattermole is still recklessly marauding in the midfield. Moreover, the fact that Danny Graham was subbed on against Norwich says it all about the attacking recruitment.
Despite now being the bookies’ favourite for relegation, Sunderland are still far from doomed. Its important to remember that only two games have passed, but something does need to change quickly.
Perhaps the hardest thing for the fans to take is that their is no desire on the pitch for them to support. If your team is well-beaten but have given their all then it is palatable, but Sunderland fans are simply being given nothing to hold on to.
A microcosm of the problem: John O’Shea, a vastly-experienced player whom is near to 100 appearances for the Black Cats, formed a survival-winning partnership with Coates towards the end of the season and yet has found himself on the bench come the new season. Replaced by Younes Kaboul, a player who has failed to deliver at pretty much of all of his conquests, Sunderland are failing to form any kind of identity and will continue to do so whilst the club conducts themselves in this manner.
It would seem for the majority that their is a major problem with the hierarchy at the club and many will tell you that the buck stops with Ellis Short. Since departing the club, Roy Keane, Paolo Di Canio and Gus Poyet have all spoken out against the American Owner and it seems to be a problem which just isn’t going away.
Its the same old story for Sunderland, and this time it might not have a happy ending.