Captain's Blog: Italian Revolution Can Derail Tired Old Sunderland Rollercoaster

Jan Kruger

Sunderland's drastic shift in policy and Italian revolution has left many fans wondering whether fear or excitement should be the dominant emotion. I say embrace both.

Ask Sunderland fans to describe what it is like to follow their football club and I dare say the word ‘rollercoaster' would crop up with noticeable regularity.

It is certainly a term I have used before in an attempt to articulate my quarter of a century supporting Sunderland. I suppose it is still an accurate enough description given the severe drop that we experienced last season that followed the high of some genuine summer optimism.

But I have to admit that I no longer really feel the same sense of awe and excitement as I used to at Sunderland's persistent propensity for putting us fans through just about every emotion possible and back again at breakneck speeds.

I suppose if you ride any rollercoaster long enough it will eventually become routine, and routine is precisely what it feels like these days.

That could be just an age thing, of course. I can remember witnessing the similar kind of cynicism at the club's prospects from my dad when I was younger and caught in the full throws of the Sunderland AFC ride, swearing I'd never become so desensitized.

There was almost a reluctance to believe in anything better. The steadfast caution of someone who has had a succession of conmen and tricksters pound his pride over the years and curtail his willingness to be caught investing in the promises of others.

I wouldn't say I was at that stage yet, but I can understand how it happens.

When you support Sunderland for long enough, you soon learn to expect the worst. In fact, you almost start to take it personally given the precision timing of the various kicks to the groin you have been suckered into receiving over the years.

In the end you start to wonder how it can be really considered a rollercoaster at all baring in mind it never actually takes you over any peaks. The furthest you ever get with this club is to the very tip of the precipice, before the cable appears to snap and you are sent hurtling back down the slope twice as fast as you climbed it.

After coming to a (usually screeching and undignified) halt, what follows next is so routine at this point you'd be forgiven for mistaking it for a treasured club tradition. The broken cable is lamented and cleared away, and a new one - built to the same specifications - is expensively assembled amidst a strange collective delusion of optimism. When that one snaps as well at roughly the same point on the climb we curse our bad luck and set about doing it all over again.

If Albert Einstein was still alive, I am reasonably confident he would take one look at Sunderland AFC's history and promptly cite it as his new definition of insanity.

Perhaps those days are over, though. It seems that Ellis Short has cottoned on to what everyone else should have years ago. It isn't the materials that are faulty - it is the design.

The dour down-to-earth British managers have gone. The traditional British club structure that placed the direction of the club solely in the hands of those managers has bitten the dust, too. The over-reliance on local scouts that saw the club often volunteer itself to be held hostage by the domestic transfer market is also very much a thing of the past.

There has been an obvious shift in transfer policy as a result, with three Bosman transfers from abroad already agreed and a host of other fairly obscure names carrying modest price tags also pursued.

Clearly it sn't just some random role of the dice, either. The club confirmed on Monday that the ‘new' Director of Football Roberto De Fanti assisted in the appointment of Paolo Di Canio as head coach back in March - that is to say recommended him for the position - and the agent of Argentine defender Lucas Orban claims De Fanti was contacting him representing Sunderland around the same time.

There is no way of knowing whether the new design will outperform the old one, of course, but merely accepting the previous plan was rotten and getting the club nowhere has to be considered a big step forward.

There will be those who see Sunderland fans getting excited over signing players we'd never actually heard of a week previously and snooting down their nose at the ludicrousness of it all. I think they have missed the point, though.

The players themselves aren't the exciting part. It's the return of the unknown that is feeding the imagination. It can derail the tired old Sunderland rollercoaster and relay the tracks. It may well turn out to be a rubbish ride, but at least the genuine possibility of it being a good one - no matter how remote - has actually opened up again for the first time in a while.

It's a brand new Sunderland, really, with our first foreign manager (or head coach if you want to get technical), a Director of Football for the first time, and a resolve and commitment to plug into previously untapped markets across the globe.

Is it scary? Absolutely. But I'd rather the club came out fighting at the risk of falling on its sword than meekly surrendering with the blade still sheathed, and the latter was something we could all see looming on the horizon two or three months ago.

Viva la rivoluzione, I say - or something like that.

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