Well… That seems to be it then.
Despite being all but confirmed one of our worst fears as football fans has risen and we await deaths kiss. Funnily though, it is with joy that we will embrace this feeling, akin to that of a loved one who finally sinks into bliss from their suffering earthly bonds.
We now await the response, games against fellow relegation strugglers Cardiff, West Brom and Swansea await after the unenviable trips to title-chasing Manchester City and Chelsea and the visit of Roberto Martinez’ high flying Everton. All of these games taking place around a trip to Old Trafford, the scene for one of the greatest nights in Sunderland A.F.C history, now a distant memory. Four wins are required but even that seems a task too far for any chance of survival.
The 9000 who travelled in their hordes with the greatest of hopes of a once in a lifetime trip to Wembley, incidentally the hope has now faded but WE remain, the 9000, the 32000 who went to Wembley, the 40000 average crowd at the Stadium Of Light (When I say average I mean awesome). It is the fans who again shall pick up the pieces, following numerous relegations in the past 20 years some fans have had enough and will now vacate the SOL, even the most ardent of fans could be forgiven for cancelling their season tickets following the dross that we have witnessed for not only this season but for 3 or 4 now.
But standing in front of all of the fans with broom and shovel in hand will be one Gustavo Poyet, the man charged with now turning this ship full of yellow bellied cowards around and into one that is prepared to fight for not only themselves and their pay check but for THIS CLUB, EACH OTHER AND THE FANS. He faces an uphill task, nine (9) ‘First team Players’ will become Bosman free agents and as such will be removed from the wage bill, of the nine only Jack Colback and Phil Bardsley shall leave Wearside with the fans regret following them. It is likely the current squad will be gutted and many of the ‘bad’ buys will find a club willing to pay their inflated wages, others will have to stay and learn how to battle in one of the more unforgiving second divisions in world football. Many of the players are relics of poor transfer windows from other unsuccessful regimens Sebastian Larsson, Craig Gardner and Connor Wickham just three who stand out, of the three it is likely Wickham is the only one who will remain, with a solitary year on his contract he needs to make his mark on Wearside quickly or risk forever being a £12 Million flop. The ‘loss’ of the nine will be compounded by the loss of loans players Ondrej Celutska, Marcos Alonso, Fabio Borini, Santiago Vergini and Ki Sung-Yeung, Vergini and Celutska have made minimal impacts on Wearside while Ki, Borini and Alonso have all proven their quality, enough so that their parent clubs will likely reap the rewards for this next season. The squad who will remain will likely be a shadow of the one which currently portrays itself as a team, but a certain amount of hope remains, when Newcastle were relegated they kept their best talents such as Carroll, Nolan and Barton who were pivotal in their promotion campaign, if we were able to keep the likes of Adam Johnson, Lee Cattermole and perhaps even Alonso, Ki or Borini then we would have an early platform.
There have been many false dawns at this club, under the stewardship of Niall Quinn we were able to shrug off the spectre of a record low points total and successfully negotiate a difficult Championship season thanks to some grit and determination injected into the squad by the ever angry Roy Keane, but before the fight there was a panic, one win in five at the beginning of the season and we seemed like relegation fodder. But the sun rose again and the club rose to the Premier League to struggle to make an impression for the next seven seasons. One top ten finish thanks to Somen Tchoyi’s hat trick stunning Newcastle as West Brom stole a point from 3-0 down, this came to us purely by luck too as we had been out fought for much of the season and had the treacherous Darren Bent to thank for goals which still weren't enough to get him a plane ticket to South Africa with Fabio Capello’s England and subsequently forced him into moving further south to allow Capello to travel within his comfort zone. Bent’s decision to leave was slap bang in the middle of one of our better seasons to date, Kenwyne Jones’ move to Stoke preceded this, Asamoah Gyan’s decision to follow the scent of Arab Oil Money helped derail us further and forced us into embarking on a season with only loanee Nicklas Bendtner, Wickham and the much maligned Ji Dong-Won as strikers.
The key for Poyet and his regime now is to ignite a spark that forges an identity, the fans are ready to walk away it seems, but the club still have us mesmerised by the promise of something to be proud of, no matter how improbable we will always believe that we are on the cusp of something special, just one step away. The playing style will improve, the passing game will come as the players learn each others game, the new additions will need to adapt and the squad who are left behind will be asked to develop further, the future of this club, both the immediate future and the more long term future, will depend on the clubs ability to develop young players both from the local area and those who are brought in from further afield. Duncan Watmore, El Hadji Ba, David Moberg-Karlsson and Charis Mavrias will be asked to step up to the plate as will academy products Louis Laing and John Egan, but beyond them the clubs resources seem sparse when considering immediate first team players, Lee Congerton and his team will be asked to find young players at a good price that can go straight into the academy system or the first team as well as some seasoned professionals who have experience in the championship
Overall this season has been draining, dull and depressing. The bliss of Borini’s goal at Wembley has now faded and although it will live long in the memory it sits in the history books, but for that one brief moment all of Wearside erupted, the romance between the club and the fans was ignited and those at the club will do everything they can to make sure the fans get moments like that again. More immediately I feel that the club has a brilliant opportunity to build a team and a club we as fans can be proud of for many generations to come.
Ha’way The Lads. Keep The Faith.