Sunderland AFC, 2021/22

03/02/22 – Sunderland’s New Manager?

And so it finally came to pass that a comprehensive defeat from one of last seasons tier 4 football teams, Bolton Wanderers, was enough too see the end of Lee Johnson’s term in charge of SAFC.

Who do we go for now?

Plenty of candidates have been mentioned but the reality is that there isnt many managers who can cope with the pressure that Sunderland AFC brings with it, including the tons of baggage and the very heavy sack of football history.

A history that you can of course split very nicely between pre 1958 and post 1958.

It was Einstein who was supposed to have said that “the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again  and expecting a different result”. That perhaps sums up SAFC’s recent managerial appointments.

You would hope that Sunderland AFC would learn their lesson that a procession of Grayson’s, Parkinson’s, Ross’s and Johnson’s – all sacked – and all without achieving their objective – means that the likes of McCann and Neil are ruled out of the equation. McCann of course took Hull City up, did nothing in the championship with them and was promptly sacked. If he cant hack it or do anything at Hull, why on earth would you expect him to do any better at pressure laden SAFC?

It is inviting trouble and pretty soon.

I was asked the other day who my choice would be and i put it this way. Sunderland AFC has 3 clear choices for manager:

Choice 1 – as we are owned by the Dreyfus family, with huge connections in their native France and of course having once owned Marseille, you would have thought that they would know of an experienced or up and coming manager from the country over the Channel.

Choice 2 – we are starting too see England’s former Golden Generation of footballers come into the managerial frame; Lampard, Gerrard and of course rooney spring to mind immediately. Is there a similar candidate out there who would fit the bill at SAFC? Could in time Defoe take on a similar position to his former England colleagues?

Choice 3 – We have seen in the past how experienced managers such as Allardyce did at Sunderland and also strong willed characters such as Peter Reid and Roy Keane. all got us promotion, got us to a high league position or led us to safety from relegation in the top flight. These are men who are not afraid of SAFC’s reputation and indeed they embrace it, adding to the club with their exploding personalities.

Of course part of the choice depends upon what their aims and objectives are in the short and the long term. Keane for an instant boost to the club, to go with the arrival of Defoe? Here short term with a simple aim of getting us promotion this season and thats their swan song?

Whatever SAFC do clearly I hope they make the right choice. But I fear that if its another along the likes of “Johnson and Grayson” eg McCann or Neil, then we will be back here pretty soon, without any objectives having been achieved and back at square 1. Basically they wont be able to take the pressure and simply dont  have a CV of any note.

Do we want to go down those failed lines yet again?

Ultimately Sunderland – “great managers make great teams” – do you really think another “Parkinson” is the answer – because he may be less costly?

Choice 1, 2 or 3 Sunderland AFC…which is it to be?

Don’t fluff your lines yet again.

30/01/22 – Sunderland AFC – The Failed Football Club?

Following the team’s 0 v 6 capitulation at Bolton I felt compelled to put pen to paper and give some thoughts on recent events at Sunderland AFC. It goes without saying that recent events have not been kind to the club, but I’d argue that it is all self inflicted with no one else to blame other than ourselves.

For those who are reading this and dont know Sunderland AFC you may not know that the clubs past exploits still live with us today, and even now when the list of English top flight champions is given on say Sky Sports – there Sunderland are, with 6 English top flight championships that the billionaire clubs like Manchester City and Chelsea have taken 85 years to catch up to us.

However of course past exploits count for nothing and neither, as we are now seeing. does a fanbase that would do any club in the footballing world proud.

But what of the club itself? Now a pale imitation of what it once was. Well the scenario is damning.

Having not been relegated, and playing all of our footballing life in the top flight, until 1958, the only club able to make such a claim at the time, the illegal payments scandal decimated the club and so we were relegated for the first time.

In my time supporting SAFC, I saw my first game in 1971, we have been relegated a staggering 9 times since 1977 – 5 of course under the chairmanship of Bob Murray (five!).

In what surely should be a worrying statistic for anyone associated with the club it is worth repeating that since the play offs were introduced in the mid 1980’s; Sunderland AFC has NEVER been promoted out of them from our own endeavours. Not once.

We all remember 1990 when we lost in the play off final, only to be reprieved through irregularities relating to Swindon Town, who of course had inflicted a 1 v 0 defeat on us at Wembley in what was an insipid display on the day.

And what of Wembley? A curse of a venue for SAFC?

Since 1973 and until last season when we won the EFL Trophy we had lost on 8 consecutive visits to the stadium, old and new versions – including the Football League’s Centenary tournament, where we even lost that, on penalties – knocked out, first game.

Perhaps the Wembley visits that summed SAFC up most, in post 1958 times, were the defeats in 1985, where we succumbed to a defeat, by scoring for Norwich and then, typically missing a penalty, and the play off final defeat by Charlton.

Even in this turgid third division we now find ourselves incapable of escaping from; we watched in horror as with the seconds ticking down and SAFC 1 v 0 up, courtesy of an OG after 40 seconds, we enabled Charlton Athletic to score twice in the last 3 minutes in our play off final defeat, to plunge us into yet more despair. A frankly ridiculous capitulation that just epitomised the club in the last 50 years.

The problem with the above is that it is a mere drop in the ocean, alongside the hammerings and embarrassments that of course culminated in the football club imploding in the dying embers of Ellis Short’s reign and plummeting through 2 divisions  -with great ease.

We are where we are, not of anyone else’s doing but through our own endeavours.

Its hard not to conclude that Sunderland AFC are a failed football club who has suffered from staggeringly bad leadership for decades.

We now find that the latest version of the club is unable to get itself out of the third tier of english football, making a ham fisted attempt in what is now our 4rth season down here. This despite average home attendances of 30,000 plus, the highest not only, by miles, in the third tier, but also the division above and 7 teams in the Premier League.

This despite playing in one of England’s best football stadiums, holding just shy of 50,000, although no matter how beautiful it is, it has been the scene of some of Sunderland’s worst defeats and performances on Wearside for many a year.

And what of the managers?

Lee Johnson is in a long line of managers who have failed the football club and to be frank his CV contained no promotions gained, so I’m not sure what we expected. His attempt at promotion resulted in last season’s meek play off semi final surrender to Lincoln City  – at our own ground – and a failure to even make the play off final.

The only managers who have achieved anything of particular note recently are Peter Reid, Roy Keane and of course Sam Allardyce, with a common denominator that they were strong characters, commanded respect through past footballing or managerial endeavours and weren’t afraid of Sunderland AFC, which is clearly a hard gig.

They led the club to success of sorts, through best top flight placing, promotions or relegation escape when hope seemed lost.

Its not so much that “we cant keep on sacking managers”, its, “what do you expect when we keep on appointing no one of any note”?

The saying “great managers make great teams”, appears to have totally passed Sunderland by. The manager’s position now is almost an after thought, a nice to have rather than a need to have the best money can buy.

Ultimately though the buck stops with the Board at SAFC, clearly the chairman, and its not a secret to reveal that the fans have a pretty rocky relationship with the current board, although not with Dreyfus.

However the current board are the latest in a long line of Boards at SAFC that have totally failed to match the fans expectation. How can they not expect criticism?

There is no question in my mind that this latest Bolton debacle is the worst result in our history – third tier? against a team 15th? Who had just been promoted from England’s bottom division? Come on man. It doesnt take a genius to work this one out. Even then its just marginally worse than the Rotherham hiding, the Portsmouth hiding, the Sheffield Wednesday Hillsborough debacle and a 1 v 3 reverse at home to Lincoln City.

Staggering results, all in the space of a few weeks, in the third tier of English football. Just unbelievable.

Every single time we have been gifted an opportunity to go top and forge ahead – we have blown it spectacularly.  What the hell do our players, manager and the club want – gift wrapping on it?

And what of the players? They are clearly culpable as well and the lack of stomach for the fight hasnt just been evident in some appalling performances this season but throughout my life supporting SAFC.

When the going got tough – the players folded – with few standing up to be counted.

And remember its not just application on the field that has haunted Sunderland sides of the recent past, but also off the field where some of the players antics have defied explanation and just seems to point to a club unable to marshall a section of its players correctly or install into some of them even basic standards of behaviour.

Bolton’s 6 v 0 hammering, goes alongside Watford’s 8 v 0 hammering of us in the early 80’s, Southampton’s mauling by the same scoreline and umpteen hidings that, along with some of the aforementioned debacles just heaps more embarrassment on the good name of the club.

Should Lee johnson be sacked? – of course he should. A pitiful term at SAFC that will result in another wasted season.

I doubt I’m talking out of turn when I say that our third tier opponents mustn’t be able to believe their luck. Our expected 1 season stay, turns into 4 with no end in sight. No wonder we are the butt of their jokes. The mighty Sunderland, unable to get out of the third tier – what a laugh – no wonder they call us the bottling club, and lets face it they are right. Thats exactly what we are.

However, I have noted  fans from other clubs, such as those from Liverpool ask “exactly whats going on at Sunderland?” clearly baffled by our continual struggles. An astute question and a one i’m afraid for which we have few answers.

In the end all historic roads for SAFC have lead to where we are now and its not hard to predict that the club will blow promotion this season (7 wins in our last 22 games? – 30 goals shipped away from home?) and we will be back in the third tier next season.

How will we blow promotion this time? Who knows – however when it happens, and all roads are leading to that eventuality – it will be absolutely brutal.

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