Captain's Blog: Time For Sunderland To Stop Buying And Start Building

Stu Forster

Sunderland are once again on the look-out for a new manager (or head coach). The frustration on Wearside is palpable, but the opportunity exists to wrestle back control of the club. It must not be missed.

To say Swansea City have made football look annoyingly easy would be a real understatement. Watching them effortlessly cut a swath through the English leagues, past better-funded and supported rivals, and into Europe was incredible enough to digest, but seeing them authoritatively swat Valencia aside at the Mestalla was a whole new level.

Their story is a well-known one but referencing it never gets old. It was a club on their knees in the bottom tier of the English professional game, who wrestled control of their fate by forging the identity they wanted rather than settling for the one they had.

There will probably be those who get a little sick of the story these days. May be a little envy sneaks in or just sheer boredom born of familiarity. But, for me, the story should never stop being told because, in the money-driven sanitised world of modern football, it encapsulates the very best about the game - the part that can't be bought.

Swansea are not the only team to have done it, and we shouldn't fail to mention Hull City since it was them who the Welshmen beat on the final day of the 2002/2003 season to retain their league status.

But where the Swans are almost unique is that they didn't actually start with an ambition - they started with a vision. They chose the identity they wanted and then committed to earning it.

It is a simple premise, really. Rather than lurching from one manager to the next, transitioning from one style of football to another and suffering the inevitable squad overhaul that accompanies it, recruit within your preferred philosophy.

From Kenny Jackett to Roberto Martinez. From Martinez to Paulo Sousa. From Sousa to Brendan Rodgers. From Rodgers to Michael Laudrup. None were probably the highest pedigree candidate at the time, but they fit the blueprint.

Each were able to pick up the work that was left by the last and build upon it. It wasn't a case of going in on the first day, telling the players to forget what they know, and start retraining them leaving the club at the mercy of the feared 'transitional period' with which we are all too familiar.

They simply found a squad of players accustomed to playing the game how they wanted it. There was minimal upheaval and change. It was smooth and their continued improvement pays testament to it.

At Sunderland, transition has become our norm and managers our prison wardens. You look at the methods and preferences of Steve Bruce, Martin O'Neill, and Paolo Di Canio and there is little common ground.

Each demanded their own set of players (Bruce several times over), each had different tactical ideals, different training ideals, and very diverse public personae. Each provided a challenge to the players to adapt to their tenure.

But now with the recruitment structure that exists at the club, Sunderland have the opportunity to break the shackles placed upon them by managers and forge their own identity. They can follow Swansea's lead.

Over the last two or three days, I have lost count of the amount of times I have been asked who want to succeed Di Canio at the club. My answer has always been the same: I am not all that bothered.

Coaches, managers, whatever... they come and go. I have lost any semblance of belief that there is some kind of magical managerial messiah on Sunderland's horizon, waiting to propel the club to glory. I am too old for that kind of nonsense now.

All I ask is that the club settle on a footballing identity. A patient, passing, possession-based game with wide forwards and attacking full backs would be my own personal choice there, but I am fussy at this point. I don't have the luxury.

Whatever that football philosophy is, recruit a man who shares it and knows how to deliver it. Then when he is appointed, start keeping your eye out for a successor in the same mould.

I'm not saying it will be easy. It definitely won't be a quick fix. But at least it will wrestle control of the club's future away from managers and place it in the hands of the people who are in a position to plan for the long haul.

And it will also give the fans some kind of tangible vision to buy into. As a club and a fanbase, I firmly believe we really need that. There is just too much uncertainty and has been for too long.

But the Swansea template is there if we wish to embrace it, constantly sitting comfortably above us in the table. We have tried buying our way into the upper-echelons of the English game. All it has produced is a big hole in Ellis Short's pockets and a world of frustration for us all.

It is time we tried building something instead.

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