Living in the football desert as I do, I've many friends who support the Sky teams – Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool - teams that have achieved far more in football than Sunderland have ever done in my lifetime. And yet it continually surprises me just how miserable they are most of the time. Why is that? Team only got fifth last year? Goalie a bit sus? Spent £30m on a useless striker? If Sunderland had the problems of any of those teams I’d be happier than Russell Grant in a tutu shop, at least for the first season, so why is that?
Expectations. And football fans it is acknowledged, have unreasonable expectations. Mr Bruce no less, said in 2011 that he was puzzled by the ‘great’ expectations of the Sunderland fans –
"There’s a huge, big expectation here – an expectation that you would expect from a Champions League side," he claimed in the wake of sporadic shouts of "Bruce out" when Sunderland shipped two early goals against West Brom on Saturday"".
However, I’m sure he’d find a difference if he tested the water up here now – because expectations change, possibly become more realistic over time. I remember back in the 105 point season, listening to one of the games on the radio and we went in 2-0 down at half-time. It never crossed my mind that we wouldn’t come back and get something from the game – which we duly did. Same with Keane's first season, once we had momentum, I expected to get something from every game – and we usually did – happy days.
Due to the batterings over the past four or five seasons expectations are definitely lower now but are pretty consistent – stability and mid table security, that’s all. It’s not sexy but it beats having the life sucked out of you watching four wins from the first thirty games and then another adrenaline filled white-knuckle ride at the end of every season. I expect us to be on an equal footing with the majority of Premier League sides and I expect Sunderland to compete in every game with a realistic chance of getting some points – from every game.
I expect to see the Club managed properly and cared for by the present administration, who let’s face it are only caretakers, and as a result of this I expect to see improvements on and off the pitch on an ongoing basis. Is this realistic? I think so. Naive? Probably.
Definitely - compared to our present situation. Transfer window ticking down like a New Years clock, squad either hospitalized or plucked from the youth team, unrest in the dressing room and no sign of any new players coming through the door. Does this meet our expectations – of course not. We’re used to players coming in droves shortly after the new manager realises the squad he’s inherited is either too old, too unfit or just not good enough.
But this is not the Moyes way. He’s going to follow the Everton model, buy wisely and cheaply when he can see a player that will fit into the team and build for the future - and it certainly worked there. The current Everton team is pretty much the same one he left three years ago – how many of our current squad were in our team three years ago? We’re living proof that the revolving door policy doesn’t work and we need to change.
So, I’m behind him 100% - and in it for the long term. There will be difficulties, especially this season the way things are going, but we have to hold our nerve, and by the time the window closes I’m sure things will look a whole lot better. The future is looking bright – not Champions League bright yet, that’s for sure, but I’m noticeably happier that my mates who support the Sky teams. It’s just a case of managing your expectations.