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Avoiding the real issues? This week’s press critique of the Sunderland support has been alarming

There’s been a chorus of suggestion in the local press this week that the Sunderland support within the Stadium of Light is a problem. Of all the issues on Wearside right now, is that the best they can come up with?

Sunderland v Southampton - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

With the problems mounting at Sunderland, and the club in a state of perma-crisis, you could be forgiven for expecting that the press men and women who cover North East football will be utilising their means of print and online media to really get to the key issues of what is going wrong at the Stadium of Light right now.

And so you should. The media represent the people of the region and a strong, free press has been one of the cornerstones of British life for as long as folks have penned their opinions to present to an audience.

England v West Indies - 3rd Investec Test: Day Three Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images

So it is with a growing sense of unease that some have noted a theme gathering pace this week which hints that the local press pack continue to tip-toe around Simon Grayson, Martin Bain and Ellis Short while somehow instead turning their attention to the few fans left who pay their money and turn up at the Stadium of Light every other week.

And it’s not even just an isolated voice. It’s literally all of them. Each are careful to include the disclaimer that they’re not really criticising the Sunderland faithful and each is sure to add that they recognise football fans have the right to voice displeasure.

But this chorus is alarming and their true intended point - though not explicitly made - is really rather clear:

James Hunter, Sunderland AFC writer for the Evening Chronicle:

Sunderland fans are entitled to feel fed-up with their failing team, but this is the time the Black Cats need their supporters more than ever...

A mistake or a misplaced pass or two, and the grumbles will start.

And at present the negative atmosphere that pervades the Stadium of Light is working against Sunderland.

Scott Wilson, Chief Sports Writer for the Northern Echo:

It cannot be easy to be a Sunderland player at the moment, with confidence on the floor and the crowd seemingly waiting for something to go wrong so they can voice their frustration.

Phil Smith, Sunderland AFC reporter for the Sunderland Echo

This was another day [Saturday’s draw with QPR], however, that laid bare the scale of their problems at a Stadium of Light that is becoming increasingly painful to frequent on matchdays.

The mood invariably is at best flat, at worst vicious.

There have been players, teams and managers booed over the years, but ironic cheers for successful passes marked a new level of discontent....

The expectation is for failure, sloppy mistakes and one-paced attacking.

Craig Hope, North East football correspondent for the Daily Mail (Speaking on BBC Radio Newcastle’s Total Sport 17th October).

I go to the Stadium of Light, and it feels soulless, that’s the best word I can use to describe it.

I sit there and even me and my colleagues have stopped enjoying it. There’s just a bad feel throughout the whole stadium.

And perhaps therein perhaps lies the truth of it. Somewhere in that mysterious corner of the Stadium of Light, there resides a miserable group of journalists - seemingly desperately unhappy with their lot and bemoaning their very involvement with Sunderland AFC.

It’s almost as if they’re terrified of the baying mob of screeching Mackems who are banging on the windows of the sedate press box to demand blood.

2016 Wellington Sevens
Is this how the press pack view the Sunderland crowd?
Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

I don’t know where you sit at the Stadium of Light but all I see around me are folks still desperate to get behind the team. And the fact is, there’s now so few of us, the place is deadly quiet. A baying mob terrifying Jack Rodwell out of being a midfielder and causing Lamine Kone to hand in a sick note there most certainly is not.

But it’s the direction of the rhetoric and the chorus from multiple media sources which is alarming. Have we really reached the point where the only thing the local press can find to agree on and collectively discuss about Sunderland is the support within the Stadium of Light and beyond?

After all, it’s only 12 miles along the road where the local newspaper regularly rattles its sabres and takes Newcastle United and its owner to task. Are we really that different to our Geordie brethren?

Or are the issues at Sunderland AFC right now less significant to those the Magpies have endured in recent years? And how come the Evening Chronicle are openly willing to take on Lee Charnley but seem to be petrified of Martin Bain?

Or is it something else? Are the Wearside-oriented press pack just too cosy and entrenched into Sunderland AFC to position themselves as able to question the hierarchy which really does need questioning at this time?

Where is the challenge to Bain and to Grayson, the two men tasked with the day to day running of the Black Cats? The former was given the softest ride imaginable when he spoke to the press last month and the latter barely makes sense in his twice-weekly utterings without anyone really choosing to challenge him or clarify his meaning.

Aside from the ‘nasty Sunderland fans’ line which has been aired this week, all we seem to have been served up from the local press are repetitive rallying cries from increasingly desperate players and a vivid daily dissection of Grayson’s 4-4-2.

It’s not that long since David Moyes was terrifying those who put questions to him and the miserable Scot was enjoying seeming press support long after the north east public had taken their fill of him.

Is it all just a bit too cosy in that press box and the media correspondents who publish in the mainstream media are as beaten down as the rest of us? If so, is it not time for a little shake up?

Look at the state of the poor wee souls:

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