Cats Must Learn Lessons Of Past For Congerton To Deliver Future

Lee Congerton's appointment at Sunderland can work, but it's more than just the performance in the transfer market that needs to change.

If there is one thing Sunderland fans have had to get used to in recent times, then it's welcoming new people to the club. It's quite remarkable to consider that a year ago today, Martin O'Neill was the manager.

Since then, Paolo Di Canio, Gus Poyet and, if you're a pedant, Kevin Ball have all had spells in his old office. That means four different coaching teams too, of course. This time last year there was no official Director of Football in place either where as now, if you are relaxed about titles, we are on to our second since.

Roberto De Fanti's spell is ultimately quite hard to judge at the moment. The time for that will likely be the end of the season when we know the final fate of the season that he prepared. If survival is secured, perhaps popular opinion will soften on him slightly. Survival and a cup final for a team who finished 17th the previous year and was openly focused on bringing spending down may not read too badly once the immediate stresses of the league campaign are removed from the equation.

But in many ways I think that De Fanti was almost destined to be the fall-guy from the start. Did he make mistakes? Unquestionably. Some big ones, too. But there is, and always was, a real air of mystique surrounding the Italian. He cut an isolated figure, cast almost as a voiceless and faceless hostile invader of the club.

Just who was this man and what was his plan? What exactly was his role? How responsible was he for which deals? Last weekend, De Fanti was a guest analyst on BT Sport's Serie A coverage where he spoke briefly about his time at the club. What was striking about it was the fact that it was the first time Sunderland fans, or anyone else outside the club really, had actually heard him talking about Sunderland, and it came two months after he had left.

For me, this is a crucial lesson from history that simply can't be ignored. With Lee Congerton now appointed to a similar role, the same questions are being asked again. This time, answers need to be provided and they need to come from him. There needs to be a relationship there with the supporters, via the people who will ask the questions the fans need answering - the press.

I know it's easy to just take a step back, lament the ease of words, and insist that he will be judged purely on what he delivers. Ultimately, that is true. But surely before judgement we must first be able to establish context? Crying "we want results!" is all well and good, but it's not really fair.

We need to know how they plan on making it better, when we can expect tangible change, what any short-term hardships may be, what 'better' actually means. What precisely is his remit, both in the short-term and the long-term? Basically, the exact same questions that are asked to new managers when they come into the club. If money is going to be an issue for a couple of years and the goals altered accordingly, then let us know so we can adjust our expectations similarly.

If the De Fanti era at Sunderland proved one thing, it was that the recruitment team will be held responsible by fans for transfers, regardless of the specifics. The days have gone when scouts can hide behind a manager. That's reasonable. Congerton should be held accountable for who he brings to the club, good or bad, but that means he needs to be granted a public voice.

I personally believe Sunderland have their plans bang on the money with regard the more continental structure for recruitment at the club. It's the way you build for the future rather than just riding the wave of a decent manager.

But, despite that, there are only two ways I can currently see it actually working and having the desired effect. The first is instant and unmitigated success. Let's just admit that's highly unlikely to happen, shall we? The second is to allow the Director of Football or Sporting Director the opportunity to connect with the supporters and buy the time necessary to actually effect change.

Without that, we are just destined to forever repeat the same cycle of suspicion, scapegoating, witch-hunt and starting over. It's unavoidable.

Hand on heart, I have no idea if Congerton is the right man for the job. I've never met him and have not been entirely convinced of his track record. But I just hope, as a supporter, that he is presented to the press with decent regularity and allowed to get people on his side on a personal level.

If we just leave him solely at the mercy of his ability to deliver instant results, then we are in danger of just creating another faceless shadow-lurking easy target at the club to blame for everything whilst solving nothing.

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