“Relegation isn’t even a word,” said Martin Bain this week. Well, it had better be added to the SAFC vocabulary very soon, Martin, because with more than a quarter of the season gone already it’s time to get serious about the position in which we find ourselves.
We’ve somehow managed to score more league goals than Norwich and Middlesbrough, yet we find ourselves firmly cemented in the bottom three of the Championship table. Sunderland possess the joint worst defence in the league. We are yet to keep a clean sheet. We have mustered one win in thirteen matches. Burton Albion find themselves above us in the table despite scoring a meagre six goals. Even they have managed to win on two occasions this season.
I needn’t carry on with regurgitating one harrowing fact after another. This week, after blowing another lead on Saturday and chucking away two more precious points, I am at the end of my tether. We are all at the end of our tether.
Simon Grayson has been a big talking point this week, as he has been most weeks to be honest, but even more so over the past few days, particularly on Saturday evening after we let slip another lead, this time at Griffin Park.
There have been growing calls for his head, and there has been more than one negative comment or Twitter poll over the weekend reflecting the mood of our fan-base towards the Yorkshireman. At this stage though, I’m still not so sure what relieving Grayson of his duties would achieve.
The players seem to speak highly of him; he ticks a lot of boxes for what we at least thought we needed, yet is he genuinely what we need right now? I’ve asked myself that question countless times since Saturday, and I still find myself sympathizing with the man. He knows the division and did a more than decent job at Preston. Yet it hasn’t worked in his time here at Sunderland, for whatever reason, as has been the case with most of the managers we have hired in recent years.
Some supporters think Grayson is out of his depth, that the job is too big for him; that he’s tactically inept or he continues to leave out players whose names should be on the team sheet. What happens if we hand him his P45? The budget for January will still be peanuts at best. Who do we go out and get? Who would realistically come here and improve our fortunes? Who’d see this as a job to sink their teeth into when most sane managers would run a mile? Answers on a postcard please, as I’m trying to be wholly diplomatic here. Seriously, I’d be interested to hear.
Martin Bain’s comments earlier this week suggest that showing Grayson the door is certainly not something that is on the agenda, and for some that will come as something of a disappointment. If that is the case, surely there must be plans already in place for the January window, and whatever paltry budget the manager will have at his disposal? Bain said that he is after all “a transparent guy,” but the clear-cut, definitive answers we need and deserve have never been forthcoming - right from the very first day he joined our club.
Short and the powers that be informed us all in the summer that they would share with us their plans for the season; however, absolutely nothing has materializes on that front. We are all still waiting.
One burning question I have is what direction is the club actually taking for the remainder of the season? What are the plans and aspirations for the remaining thirty-three matches? What sort of budget, if any at all, will Simon Grayson have to fund new purchases in January?
Martin, I don’t want to know that you visited The Stadium of Light as a Rangers employee and sampled an incredible atmosphere here in Sunderland; the ground “bouncing.” We are all fully aware of what a phenomenal place our home is and what it can be; it is us the supporters that create that very atmosphere you waxed lyrical about.
What we need is action, and we need it fast. What we don’t need are stories and empty words. So come on Martin, if you are indeed the transparent guy that you’d have us believe that you are, answer our questions. Assuage our cravings for clarity and reassurance. Don’t just swat us away like you did in the summer hoping we’d forget what you, Ellis and the club had promised.
I, like the rest of us, would like some substance to your public comments. After the silence in the close season, however, I won’t be holding my breath.
We now have two crucial games at The Stadium of Light to finally bury this awful seventeen game run without a victory at home. Whether this is wishful thinking on my part or not, I do believe that if we can beat Bristol City on Saturday, and finally get the proverbial monkey off our back, we will quickly follow that up with another one against Bolton the following Tuesday.
Call me mad - even I can’t think where that blind optimism comes from. My faith is all I have left. Believe me when I say I know how bizarre and unlikely all that sounds, but I can’t bring myself to think any other way.
This could be a season-defining few days for SAFC. Bristol City are flying high in the table, one point outside the playoffs at the time of writing, yet without doubt it is a game that we surely need to win - with the same to be said for the Bolton Wanderers clash. Six points from the next two matches are absolutely imperative if we are to resurrect our faltering season and prevent it from turning into cataclysmic horror show from which we cannot escape.
I’m sorry, but if we aren’t seriously targeting, and believing, that we can get six points, then we all might as well pack up and go home. I dread to think what the consequences will be if we fail to secure maximum points in these next two matches. By 10pm next Tuesday evening, maybe we will all have a clearer, more transparent picture of where our season is really heading. I’m praying for a positive outcome.