Captain's Blog: Cats Must Harness Siege Mentality In Face Of Needless Digs

Michael Regan

Everyone seems to be queuing up to stick the knife into Sunderland to the point where it is difficult to consider it all entirely honest. Well, I say it's time to pull the ladder up Jack and sod the rest.

If we are completely honest, I think we'd all probably admit that football's capacity for cruelty is a large part of the game's irresistible allure.

I can't believe that I am alone in finding myself occasionally reveling in teams, managers and fans being put through the ringer when watching a game as a neutral. Certainly, the flaunting of the Poznan celebration in the faces of Manchester United on a heartbreaking final day a couple of years ago suggests I am not alone, anyway.

That is just the game, I suppose, the reason football is so compelling. We know that at any moment anything can happen, whether it is deserved or not.

Of course, it isn't quite as appealing when it is your team on the end of the cruelty, and the opening four games of the season have not been kind to Sunderland. That's not me trying to dismiss all ills by crying injustice. I'm not that naive.

But crucial moments have, without question, gone against us. Accepting that we should be better doesn't mean dismissing things such as Jozy Altidore's bizarre disallowed goal against Arsenal, the foul that should have ruled out Southampton's equaliser, or twice hitting the woodwork at key times.

Though, if anything, it is the almost constant barrage of needless little digs at the club away from the pitch that niggle the most. Things like the FA charging Paolo Di Canio, which was fair, whilst failing to punish Martin Atkinson for the indefensible and costly error in the same game, which was not. That rankles.

It just felt like the FA pouring salt in the wound they opened up by Greg Dyke specifically citing Sunderland as a cause of England's troubles at international level, really. Even as bandwagons go, that one is getting crowded, especially since the Daily Mail's Martin Samuel opted to add his ample frame to it today.

'Why have Sunderland stopped looking in the north east for talent?', he asks. I'd include a hyperlink to it but I'd prefer not to dignify it by providing views.

Suffice to say, it was a fairly savage attack on Margaret Byrne's stoic defence of the club from the FA's criticisms. He seems to particularly take offence at the Black Cats Chief Executive's example of 18-year-old 'Russian' Mikael Mandron to highlight the opportunities presented to academy products on Wearside who excel.

There are two noteworthy things here. Firstly, we are repeatedly told that Samuel is a meticulous researcher. Secondly, and definitely most importantly, Mikael Mandron qualifies to play international football for three nations - one of which is England and none of which are Russia.

If anyone was wondering, the three members of the Sunderland first team squad all born within 30 miles of the Stadium of Light - Jack Colback, Lee Cattermole and Adam Johnson - were not mentioned. Neither was north east flop Danny Graham, who is still on the books but out on loan after the club 'looked for him' last season. And neither was Jordan Henderson, who represented England playing for his hometown club.

They don't suit the agenda, of course, which is dominated by the 'sit down, shut up, and understand your piffling little place, Sunderland' narrative that is dripping from every paragraph.

Then there was Match of the Day's dishonest editing of the Arsenal highlights, in which they shamelessly attempted to paint Di Canio as the mad Italian stereotype they are desperate to depict by showing him 'raging' at the decision to disallow the Altidore goal when it simply did not happen.

Or Sky Sports' Monday Night Football in which they reviewed the game and failed to make a single mention of the key incident around which the story revolved, apparently down to 'time constraints'.

They still found time to stick the boot in by blindly declaring us to be rubbish, of course. Always time for that in the media, it seems.

May be it is just us being overly sensitive. Perhaps we are just getting angry at this because it is ultimately preferable to dwelling on the results or more worrying aspects of the performances. Who knows. What I do know, however, is that it can be useful.

The value of a siege mentality in football can never really be underestimated. It isn't singularly enough but, despite reports, quality isn't really something the Sunderland squad lack. I still maintain that and it will take more than a few early winless games to persuade me otherwise.

What it does lack is a degree of abrasiveness; that rough, tough determination to really assert themselves and their quality on a game. We've seen it in spells, but rarely when it counts. It has almost been when chasing the game with the pressure off.

And I am not just talking about the team there but the supporters too. The atmosphere at games is somewhat deflated and the tone of conversation away from the ground fairly despondent.

But I must admit that the more people attack the club without foundation and laden with transparent agenda, the more I can feel the resolve building inside me to, first, see Sunderland make total mugs out of them all, before relentlessly shoving their words down their throats until even their mothers would think twice about kissing them for the smell of bulls*it protruding from their lungs.

Craig Gardner has spoke of his belief that much of the criticism is born of 'having something against' Paolo Di Canio. I don't know if that is true or not, but I'm delighted to see the possibility crossing the players' minds.

A siege mentality can be a powerful thing. It can unite people in a common cause and shared determination. For a new group of players with diverse backgrounds, that can be a very big asset if it is harnessed correctly.

Either way, whatever happens, I'll be damned if I'm going to be caught buying into the misery that everyone seems intent on bestowing upon us. In fact, I plan on making a point of doing the exact opposite.

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