Last night I spent almost an hour wandering around a freezing Manchester Victoria station waiting on a delayed train as I headed home having watched Sunderland capitulate yet again in an embarrassing fashion, this time away at Burnley in the FA Cup.
The station was deserted, everywhere was shut and my train was late because it had hit a horse en route. Crawling in to bed at past 2am with images of horse suicide/homicide on the brain, there was one thought that I couldn’t escape - Sunderland have become cannon fodder for teams like Burnley.
This is the season where we need to start bracing for impact. We have flirted with relegation in pretty much every campaign since we were promoted back to the Premier League in 2007 and this time we’re going the whole hog and having a filthy infinity-night stand with the Championship we so evidently have been yearning for.
We have been surpassed by almost every team that has been promoted in the past few seasons. Simply look at the league table - Bournemouth, Southampton, West Ham United, Watford, Leicester, Burnley. All of these teams have had less recent time in the Premier League and are comfortably better than us. Then there are sides like West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City who have managed to reinvent themselves, maintaining and building year after year.
These clubs have plans. It might not always work, but there’s at least some form of thought process which goes on behind. All that we have at the Stadium of Light is a total mess.
We have a manager that constantly looks like a man who has set fire to his own house but then refuses to take any responsibility. We have an owner we rarely see. We have a bunch of players that lack leadership, basic ability and any form of determination.
It may seem like an overreaction to being knocked out of an FA Cup replay by a Burnley reserve team but the ease of which it happened is like a recurring nightmare. We aren’t a challenge for even the mid-ranking Premier League teams. In the past few weeks we have been swatted aside by the likes of Stoke, Swansea City and Burnley (twice) with little to no reaction.
Does anyone honestly feel deep down that anything is going to change? Can you imagine us rocking up to The Hawthorns on Saturday and grinding out a victory?
No, neither can I.
As it stands, this Sunderland team is not capable of securing survival. They don’t possess the ability or the determination to even put up a fight against teams we should be competing with. When this rotten side does succumb to the drop it will be left to the fans to pick up the pieces once again.
We’ll be the ones stood at Bristol City on a Tuesday night and Scunthorpe United on a Sunday lunchtime watching the next set of jokers that put on a red and white shirt turn in tepid performances week after week. However, this time we’ll be in the glorious glow of the Championship.
Hats off to the 1500 souls that braved a drizzly night in east Lancashire - you deserve better than this.