In recent years clichés has become increasingly prominent in football. You can’t simply have a European night at Anfield, it must be special or famous. It’s not merely Stoke away on a Tuesday night, it’s a cold and wet Tuesday night in Stoke.
The problem with such narratives is that they quickly become established fact unless they are challenged on a wider scale. This is understandable - unless you closely analyse events at a club it is hard to garner any insight other than what is available to you via mainstream media.
Sunderland fans are currently suffering from such treatment. There is a widespread feeling that David Moyes is beyond criticism for our current predicament. The usual throwaway comments are made about there being “something intrinsically wrong at the club” - the truth of this statement is open to debate, but recently this line seems to frequently trotted out by ex-managers who are desperate to save face.
I could even forgive the slow start and sympathise with the chronic injury situation at Sunderland if I was seeing signs of encouragement on the pitch. If we were looking solid defensively and hard to beat, or playing good football without getting the rub of the green I would be fully behind Moyes, and would likely trust him to get it right. But, in recent weeks, we’ve looked sloppy at the back and lacking ideas going forward. For all the talk of long-term planning and strategy, I’m seeing little evidence of any sort of plan.
There has been much talk of a lack of investment at the club and sympathy for Moyes’ predicament but we still spent more than twenty million pounds this summer on players that haven't improved us at all.
Younes Kaboul was allowed to leave for a pittance and was ultimately replaced by Papy Djilobodji, who thus far hasn't impressed a jot and looks like an accident waiting to happen whenever he steps onto the pitch. Paddy McNair and Donald Love are not yet ready, and record signing Dider Ndong, whilst showing potential, looks raw.
These are things that cannot be ignored and should not be overlooked by the national media. In simple terms, we lack the strength in depth to compete in the Premier League.
It's frustrating as a Sunderland supporter to hear that our football club being referred to as plucky underdogs who should be grateful for what they have. In many of David Moyes’ post-match emails he refers to 'competing' in games, which should be a bare minimum and not be seen as some form of achievement.
This is another problem with the 'behind the scenes' excuse - it creates a narrative of Sunderland being unmanageable and absolves the man in charge of much of the blame. Just a few months ago, when players were running through brick walls for Sam Allardyce, was there talk of a problem behind the scenes? As recently as May, the connection between the club and the supporters was as strong as it has been since Roy Keane was in charge - pundits lauded Big Sam’s achievements and thought we were in for a long-term period of stability. So how, between May and October, has the narrative altered?
I sympathise with the challenges he’s faced since becoming Sunderland manager. However, I think it is slightly insulting from sections of the media to absolve him of any blame, especially as once again some seem convinced that the fans are to blame for questioning his decision-making so far. As has already been pointed out, for Moyes the journey may only just be beginning but for us it’s yet another period of underachievement and unless we see signs of progress soon, it is hard to see the logic in retaining a manager, risking our Premier League safety, just for the sake of 'stability.'