It’s often said that you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone. With this in mind I would like to take you back to 24th March 2012, the day Sunderland defeated Queen’s Park Rangers 3-1 at the Stadium of Light.
I greeted the result with a mere shrug of the shoulders - after all, I had become accustomed to beating teams at home under Martin O’Neill. We had a cup quarter final to look forward to against Everton, we were playing quick, effective counter-attacking football and our most recent victory had put us up to 8th in the Premier League. We had lost just one home game since Steve Bruce’s departure and we finally looked to have found a manager who was universally liked and was getting the best out of the players at his disposal. Surely the next few years would see Sunderland finally consolidate ourselves as a top half Premier League team. As I said earlier at the time I didn’t appreciate just how good things looked. If I had my time again I would have taken the time to savour the moment.
Of course, I’m being unnecessarily nostalgic about a few months of good form, but it’s just nice to remember a time when the club didn’t feel like a complete car crash. There was hope, there was optimism and a belief that we could break the cycle of being either a yo-yo club or top flight strugglers.
Fast forward almost five years and you find a football club which is demoralised, directionless and heading towards relegation. I have no doubt that Martin Bain has good intentions and can stabilise the club long term and although he is far from blameless, David Moyes has inherited an unfortunate set of circumstances. But while it is the start of journey for them, for us it’s an accumulation of years of frustration and despair.
Sure, we’ve had it worse than this in the past and the past few years have provided some memories that will last a lifetime. Six derby wins in a row and a league cup final to mention a couple, but these rare high points aren’t enough to make up for the war of attrition we endure the rest of the time.
After our latest defeat, David Moyes suggested that Sunderland fans understand our recent predicament because we’ve been in this position before. In my opinion it is precisely this reason that people are so despondent at recent results.
Since the start of the 2012-13 season have won just 23 home league games out of a possible 85. In the same time period we have won just 16 times on the road - in short, for over four seasons we have been getting beat on an almost weekly basis. Throw in an 8-0 defeat at Southampton, and regular capitulations both home and away and it’s easy to understand our frustrations.
Even rare victories provide little respite as they are usually games we absolutely have to win to keep ourselves in touch with the teams around. I would give anything for us to beat a lower-mid table team at home, before sitting back and enjoying Super Sunday and the fixtures between our next games without a care in the world. It is impossible to simply enjoy winning a game of football for more than a few days at most.
All of this is bad enough but now we are also desperate for reinforcements to bolster our threadbare squad - so far, all we have is the arrival of the inspirational leader that is Joleon Lescott.
Again this is not a short term issue, our financial position is a result of awful recruitment, paying over the odds for players and getting no return on them.
To be honest it is now at the point where I’m not interested in who is more to blame - as a fan it just hurts me to see the club in such a position when we’ve had so many chances to establish ourselves.
Amongst the Roker Report writers and beyond it is often joked that I am a happy clapper. I always try and see the positive in almost anything SAFC related. Each time a new manager comes in I convince myself they are the ones to get us to kick on and I desperately want the club to succeed. But as you can see from this blog, even I am starting to lose faith with the state of the club.
This is a group of players I’m finding it hard to warm to - at the back end of last season there was a real buzz around the club and a sense of togetherness. Now apathy appears to be creeping in - as soon as we go a goal down the players seem to cave in to the pressure. Apart from a lack of quality, the acceptance of our fate and a lack of leadership and characters doesn’t help.
For too long now we have been clinging onto the ropes for dear life desperately trying to stay on our feet. But the summer fiasco with Sam Allardyce and our financial situation could prove to be a knockout blow and unless we start to improve on the pitch, things could turn nasty very quickly.