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OPINION: Keeping The Faith With Poyet Can Reap Rewards

Gus Poyet's open letter proved he hasn't given up on Sunderland fans - and we shouldn't give up on him either.

Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

If you are going to be a Sunderland fan, sooner or later three little words are going to find their way into your life: keep the faith.

I can't tell you the history of it, but I know they are there and pretty much always have been as long as I can remember. I recall seeing them used to sign off many a letter in the Football Echo or in A Love Supreme. We write it on flags. We tell it to our children.

Of course, it's probably just a reflection of a lifetime of unfulfilled footballing promise. Fans secure in their joy have no need for faith. Perhaps those words have become more of a comfort reflex than anything else.

Nevertheless, they are still part of our club and identity as supporters. It's something to be proud of too. Faith isn't something that comes easily. It's borne of defiance and the resolve to accept that passion is its own reward. It's the strength to choose to believe in a better dawn, when every rationale in your head advises against it. It is a regard in which Sunderland fans are surpassed by no one.

Last week, Gus Poyet took the unusual step of penning an open letter to supporters asking them to stay with him. It was his idea, every single word was his own and untouched, and the club actually took a little persuading to release it.

The issue of Poyet's future is one I've been doing my best to avoid in all honesty. It's certainly not that I don't have an opinion on the matter. I'm still right behind him. I always have been.

After Bradford it was just really one of those discussions that got a little out of hand, like a bar fight in a Wild West movie, and I didn't really fancy getting a bottle smashed over my head and a chair broken on my back for the sake of a couple of misinterpreted sentences.

Because, though I'm very much in the pro-Poyet camp, I can certainly appreciate the perspective of those in the opposite trench.

I pay my season card money and I haven't enjoyed what I've seen. It's disjointed and it's ponderous to the point that you see a pensioner on their morning walk to the paper shop and you find yourself wishing Sunderland showed the same urgency.

I also share Poyet's own opinion that it 'looks like we've stopped making progress', and he has really irritated me with overly-negative selections and needless comments referring to Sunderland's better modern history. Quite apart from anything else, Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips should never be referenced as millstones around this club's neck.

However, just because the football is disjointed and ponderous it doesn't mean it's that way by design. Just because Poyet's frustration gets the better of him with a microphone in from of him after a game, it doesn't mean he should forever be held to a forensic dissection of his words.

More to the point, though, just because I can't necessarily see progress doesn't mean it isn't there and can't be achieved. That's what faith is about, isn't it? Believing without seeing?

It's not limitless and it's not unconditional. If this develops into a Paul Lambert Aston Villa style situation, where after three years it's still the same horrible mix of dull laborious football producing joyless results and constant worries over relegation, then it's something I'm sure I'll revisit.

I'm not there yet, though. I'm not really close, to be perfectly honest. I can manage my misery and push through my worry. I've been doing it pretty much all my Sunderland-supporting life. Looking back on it, chopping and changing managers has never rid me of them for any great length of time.

Persisting, however, gave us a few brilliant years under Peter Reid. If the blueprint had been torn up, the squad dissolved and the direction changed under a new manager after Elm Park in 1997, we would have probably been robbed of some very happy times.

I know that just because it happened then it doesn't mean it will again, but changing managers at this point doesn't offer any guarantees either, particularly when you look at the list of currently out-of-work managers who would be within the club's grasp at this stage of the season.

So yeah, consider me in the 'Poyet In' camp. Not because I claim to see something others don't - I won't insult anyone's intelligence trying to claim the genuine reasons for discontent we all know about don't exist - but because I choose to believe that what we are seeing is the prelude to something better. All buildings look ugly when all you're seeing are the foundations being laid.

In other words, I'm choosing to keep the faith.

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