This could be an incredibly difficult and controversial article to write, but it's regards something I'm not seeing discussed much on the message boards and social media. It's about the way the club is being sold. How it's being sold by us. The fans. Not intentionally, not maliciously but through our concerns. Now I've often been mistaken as an eternal optimist by a few who misinterpret my sentiments so I want to make my stand point clear. I am concerned, I'm very concerned, we all know there's a multitude of deep rooted problems at the club. I'm just cagey about the way I disclose my feelings.
Panic has never had a platform like it has right now. I have a love hate relationship with the media. There's the hardworking respectable journalists who's praises are rarely sung, the sort of reporters I respect and have inspired me to start writing about my club. The type who work for the fanzines for free or the fans and ex players who've moved into media and carry genuine respect for the club and us fans. Then there's the unethical journalists, whose only care is newspaper sales and website hits. The sensationalists. This is the area of the press who think all their Christmases have come at once. They feed off the scraps from the incredibly naive social networking domain and convert it into cold hard cash.
Yesterday morning the back page of the Mirror made for devastating reading. About the worst advert a football club could receive when you consider we're entering the final two weeks of the transfer window with so much work still to do. But I can't help think we've brought it on ourselves.
The Scenario. A poor pre-season combined with a couple of failed medicals followed by a period of eerie silence in regards to transfers as we head into the opening weekend of the Premier League season other than the loan signing of M'Vila. People feel uneasy, valid. With the job only half done on the transfer front, Leicester City make an example of us, the players still look leggy from a less ideal pre-season structure, the defense lack organisation and certain players don't seem interested. A minor wave of panic sweeps across the club fueled the next day by the sending off of M'Vila, a player where many have heard of his reputation even if they don't know of his footballing ability. We've signed a liability! Despite the fact Yann has only received 2 red cards and 25 yellow cards in 201 competitive appearances. The reasoning didn't matter, it's already adding fuel to the fire. A week and no signings later we're turned over at home to newly promoted Norwich City and it completely kicks off. Thread up on thread and Tweet upon Tweet of full blown panic.
We're in a mess and everything is being magnified. It's a meltdown. Michael Gray, a rightly concerned Sunderland legend, fan and journalist, the kind you can truly respect, see's this panic, it supports his concerns. He then gives an interview to Talksport where he naively made the mistake of speaking from the heart as a fan instead of an impartial professional. Now I can't stress enough that I agree with virtually every single word he said. It mirrors what many of us feel. My issue is the timing. The Sensationalists not only have thousands of concerned fans in panic, they now have a big name fan taking to the media in panic too. Everything they need to blow the story wide open. Sure enough yesterday morning The Mirror had us wake up to this;
If I was a footballer looking to further my career at a new club, these sort of headlines would not encourage me to make a move to that club. It's a disaster which I believe may have just made a very difficult job even harder for Lee Congerton. How does he sell this club now with this hanging over our head?
Lee Congerton needs something to work with, like the lost headline which encapsulates everything we need to be sell the club to a new signing. The one pundit everybody claims hates us did us a big favour this weekend. Though now it counts for nothing. Paul Merson dismantled our performance like any honest pundit would. But he balanced it. As he went on to sing Duncan Watmore's praises from the roof tops, but not only that he sang our praises from the roof tops when he encapsulated the fans reaction as Duncan lit up the Stadium of light. A fan reaction which led to his father, Ian Watmore (former FA Chef executive) to take to twitter confirm that Duncan has no interest in leaving Sunderland thanks to the way the Black Cat faithful opened their hearts to his son. This is how you sell a football club to new signings. Sadly, in the midst of all the panic which has led to sensationalist articles destroying any remaining credibility the club did have, that great selling point is now worthless. Upstaged by fan/club turmoil.
If only this world was ideal, if only the FA would apply some common sense and help it's clubs by closing the summer window before a ball is kicked. As it stands it only gives aid to the agents and media. But the reality is it's not ideal and the window doesn't close before a ball is kicked. The way social media works, never have fans had more of a direct influence on the image of their football club. We're even mixing in the same domain as the clubs, agents and even the players themselves. All I see is chaos on and off the pitch. I fear that The Mirror article yesterday morning was triggered off the back of a domino knock on effect from the social media and message board fan base reacting to the state of our club. I also fear we may have lost the chance of attracting the quality we need to avoid relegation even if we actually had this mythical '£50m war chest' in place. Image and timing are everything. Panic has never been a good thing but now it's got a platform. and despite our concerns being 100% valid I feel we've all been naive by not giving the club the chance to finish it's business before giving the Rags the scraps they need to sensationalise our plight. Until the FA see's sense and closes that window early, we should try our best to keep a cool calm head until that window slams shut. Then absolutely let rip.