Forget Quick Fixes, But Congerton Can Be The Man To Rebuild Cats

Sunderland's new straight-talking sporting director has more than a Black Cat in hell's chance of rebuilding the crumbling club - but it won't be a quick or smooth process.

From the day that Roker Report was born, there has been a common theme every summer. It doesn't matter who has been the manager or how the last season finished, every year we look to the future and implore the need for stability and identity and an end to the kind of, admittedly unintentional, short-termism that plagues Sunderland.

I know it's not club policy or anything. I know that appointments are being made with the long term in mind. Martin O'Neill was supposed to be the one. Paolo Di Canio was supposed to be the one. Gus Poyet is supposed to be the one. Roberto De Fanti was supposed to be a lasting presence at the club.

This summer it is naturally no different. In fact, no, that's not right. It is different because, in my mind, the need for stability and continuity has never actually been more clear. What used to be something to aspire towards has now become a desperate necessity.

I must admit that I had my worries about that once again this summer. I still do to some unavoidable extent. Sunderland change direction that many times it's tough to ever really know where you are, never mind which direction to take.

Last week, I was fortunate to meet Sunderland's new sporting director Lee Congerton and hear his plans for the club moving forward.

It's not for me to reveal everything that was said here. I'm sure he'll set out his own plan in his own words at the right time after the current season is over. What I will say now - what I think is important to say now - is that this is a man under no illusions, making no big promises and is not interested in chasing quick fixes. His straight-talking demeanour quickly cut to the very core of the issues the club currently face.

I don't have any right to tell fans to be patient. Sunderland fans have been patient for 60 years. Over the least three years especially, the fans have generally stuck with the club long after even the most renowned saint would have muttered 'stuff this' pulled himself angrily to his feet, and gone found a wall to punch in sheer frustration.

But, for me, it's clear that the actual need for fan patience has never been greater. It's true that we can play the blame game and rant and complain and, you know what, we'd all have every right. Let's be perfectly frank here - supporting Sunderland, especially if you regularly attend matches at the Stadium of Light, has become a total chore.

There is going to be a messy inquest at the end of the season, regardless of what division we will be destined to play in come August, and yeah, we are all going to have our say in that. I'll be bitching with the best of them because do you know what is even worse than seeing the clip of Sunderland every week is? Having to then write about 10,000 words reminding myself of the clip of Sunderland all week before the next inevitable total horror show.

But when that is out of the system, the time will have come for a reality check. That painless instant rebuild isn't going to happen. There are no magic wands to wave. If we want a bigger, better, stronger and more lasting Sunderland at the top level, we are going to have to accept that it will take a fair amount of time and adjust our expectations.

No one is saying that it's fair. No one is saying that it won't be galling. No one is saying that it's not a ridiculous position to be in considering the levels of investment made by Ellis Short. But it's the reality, whether we like it or not. This summer, no matter what happens before then, is (to borrow a phrase) Sunderland's ground zero.

It can no longer be patched up. There aren't even any cracks left to paper over. It's just a steaming pile of rubble on the floor. It needs to be cleared and rebuilt.

But there is no reason why, in time, it can't be rebuilt bigger and stronger than before. That's the ultimate beauty of football - it carries on. Whether or not Congerton can deliver that, I don't know and, given the size of the job at hand, I'm loath to make predictions. Make no mistake about it, though, he's certainly quickly got a very good handle on the work that needs to be done, and that's one hell of a start.

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