Eleven, nine, eleven, twelve, eleven, nine, ten, seven, nine.
No, I’m not having an emotional breakdown - those are the numbers of wins we’ve recorded in each of our nine previous Premier League seasons dating back to 2007/08. We haven’t amassed more than 40 points over the course of a season since 2011/12.
This means two things. Firstly, not one season have we won even a third of our games. And secondly, looking at these stats for too long will make you want to bury a fork in to your skull.
I’m sick of seeing the same insipid performances week in and week out. I’m sick of watching a group of strangers fail to string two passes together, like in recent games against Stoke, Burnley, and West Brom. I’m sick of celebrating scrappy survival bids when we all know it will be the exact same the next season.
It wasn’t always this way. I remember fondly the two seasons we spent in the Championship back in 2004/05 and 2006/07, and our 7th placed Premier League finishes under Peter Reid.
I was proud of my club then – we had players fighting for the shirt, we played exciting football, and, most importantly, we had a winning mentality.
Putting the 2014 League Cup Final to one side for a moment – a beacon of light amidst an otherwise very dark 13/14 campaign – I can’t recall a Premier League season, since we came back up under Roy Keane, where I have felt proud of the team. Perhaps a case could be made for 2010/11 when we started the season with a front three of Bent, Welbeck, and Gyan, and finished tenth - but we also sold Bent in January, capitulated in the second half of the season, and had Steve Bruce as manager so I struggle to see too much happiness there.
When I mention the benefits of going down to rebuild our club I often hear the same – understandable – response: “but it’s a gamble and we’re not guaranteed to come straight back up”. I get that. For every West Brom, there’s a Leeds. For every Burnley, there’s a Blackburn.
I’m not assuming we will bounce straight back up – it may take us two or three years. And it’s definitely a gamble either if we stay in the Premier League with our levels of debt, or if we look to regroup and rebuild in the Championship.
Strangely, our financial situation could actually be improved by relegation. The club have found themselves in a position of over £170 million worth of debt. The majority of that money has been bankrolled by Short via an interest-free loan. However, some of that money is also owed to an unnamed private bank who are charging us an interest fee of £6 million every fiscal year.
This season, even the bottom-placed club (and it’s likely to be us), will be rewarded with approximately £100 million due to the gargantuan TV deals involved in the Premier League these days. If you couple this with the improved parachute payments offered by the Premier League to relegated clubs, it paints a much rosier financial future than has been previously discussed.
The parachute payments system has changed from £66 million over four years to £88 million over three years. Further, a guaranteed £40 million will be paid to Sunderland in the first year they spend below the top flight.
It is no secret that Ellis Short is trying to sell the club. A brochure was made in the summer to help him achieve this. If you consider the financial picture outlined above, we will be a much more attractive proposition to prospective buyers if we do go down. And it will therefore be easier for Short to sell us. The £170 million debt will have been cleared through a combination of TV revenue and parachute payments and this is even before we factor in player sales. And there will be many.
Without doubt, we will look to sell or release the majority of our current squad - some may even leave in this January transfer window. None of our loan players from this season would remain, and we will probably lose Kirchhoff and Anichebe on free transfers too.
Suddenly, the club will have the opportunity to prune our bloated wage bill and generate a significant amount of money from player sales. Sales of players who have consistently let us down. Having said that, there are some players that I’d be very sad to see leave like Pickford or Defoe, but I don’t feel any sort of connection with 90% of this squad. I’ve seen too many gutless performances in recent weeks, months, years to make me feel otherwise.
From the players that remain, we could have a good base on which to build a squad capable of competing for the Championship - providing we invest our transfer funds more wisely than we have done in recent years.
In my opinion, the blame for the failures this season does not lie solely with David Moyes - although he does not look up to the task at all. Nor does the blame sit just with Ellis Short (who, despite his good intentions, has directly contributed to the desperate position we find ourselves in). Nor is it just a player issue - although the majority of our squad seem to lack both ability and desire.
The fault lies with all of them, and many others too, and this has been the case for the past five years at least. Relying on a miracle from March to May every season is not sustainable and we’ve been circling the drain for many years. The foundations of the club have become rotten to the core.
We need to make the Stadium of Light a fortress again – but you cannot build a fortress on quicksand. Due to a series of poor managerial appointments and an endless conveyor belt of shocking transfer decisions, our club is no longer Premier League quality. The only two things that remain Premier League quality at Sunderland are the fans and the stadium.
Sometimes you need to burn it all down to start again. Rebuilding in the Championship will most likely clear the debt we have amassed due to a decade of financial mismanagement. It will also give us the platform to rebuild a squad that desperately needs revamping.
There are those who fear we will never be promoted again if we go down – that the squad we’ll have next year will not be good enough for the Championship. But I don’t share these fears at all.
I still remember the majority of our fans fearing exactly the same fate when we were relegated in 2005/06 with a record low number of points - and in the following year, we won the Championship and returned to the Premier League.
I want to be proud of Sunderland again. I want us to get that winning mentality back at the club after so many years of being spineless. If that means going down to start over again, like we did in 04/05 and 06/07, so be it.