In football, just as in life, it's never difficult to see where you want to be. Knowing how to get there is considerably tougher, but I'd even suggest that isn't the really tough part. The really tough bit is usually knowing and accepting where you currently are.
This week, we have heard from the recently appointed Sporting Director, Lee Congerton, for the first time, and he left something of an impression. As Sunderland fans, we have grown accustomed to hearing from newly appointed people and hearing newly constructed visions for our future. It's old hat; nothing new. We have actually become quite desensitized to it.
What allowed Congerton to make an impression, though, was that he didn't really talk about the future at all. He made no promises to break and set no goals to miss. It was very clever. What use are those things to us fans at this point anyway? We have a collection already. All he did was simply demonstrate he knows where we currently are.
If you haven't seen the interview, you can by visiting the BBC Football website. We won't transcribe it or anything, but here are the more salient points:
- His role is to assist Gus Poyet, not overrule him.
- No players will be signed without Poyet's approval.
- His remit is not solely focused on transfers, but on the academy, sports science and analysis too.
- We need to recruit more players this summer than anyone wants.
- The club is not currently in a position to integrate large numbers or foreign players into the side and won't be until we re-establish a foothold in the Premier League - that means unglamourous proven additions like Gomez and Jones to repair the foundation.
- Despite the lack of numbers, the priority is to improve the quality of the starting 11 rather than dilute it by padding out the squad with quantity.
- Given the amount of work required, it's likely we'll still be active right the way up until the transfer deadline.
- The whole club needs to take "one step back" and concentrate on getting the basics right again.
There has been a lot of suspicion over the necessity for a Director of Football or Sporting Director or whatever you want to call it, but much of that often appears to be based upon false assumptions. If the incumbent of the role and the head coach are on the same page and have a willingness to work together, it's the best system out there. It's certainly proven itself on the continent.
I personally think that Roberto De Fanti, though responsible for some mistakes, got a pretty rough ride from the support here and in the end became little more than a scapegoat. You couldn't necessarily call him a success but he didn't fail either given the final reckoning of 14th position and a cup final.
It's fair to say that he never connected with supporters, though. He was always seen as some unrelatable boogeyman lurking in the shadows. Congerton has struck a very different chord here by making, what I believe, may just be the most powerful statement you can to a Sunderland fan.
Personally, if you're appointed to such an influential role at Sunderland I don't want to know how good you are going to make us. I don't want to know what your great vision for the future is. I don't want to be asked to believe in the dawn again. That's just hollow talk and bluster. I just want to know you realise how rubbish we are now, then we'll see if you're up to fixing it.
So welcome to Sunderland, Lee. I'm glad you realise how rubbish we are because it's the first step in the process of actually fixing it. Now go and do it.