In the wake of Simon Grayson’s sacking and with the club stuck fast in the Championship bottom three, every aspect of Sunderland AFC has been poured over, picked apart and crucified in the press this week.
The big question now is, has a terrible sequence of five rotten years now bottomed out or have we a way to fall yet? And with each function, decision and key individual having been exposed by the press, have the Black Cats the resolve to fix the facets identified in the very public fall-out from this latest disaster?
Here’s a selection of the best of the national media’s analysis of what’s wrong at Sunderland.
Former Sunderland player Michael Gray reckons any new manager must be awarded funds in the mid-season transfer window to stop the rot and mitigate the risk of dropping into League One:
No Sunderland fan thought the club would romp the league this season — but were optimistic of a mid-table finish and the start of a rebuilding process.
One win in 15 games means all that is out the window. This season is now about one thing — staying up.
Whoever comes in next as manager must be backed financially in January to sign better players.
And with the current direction of travel only heading one way, Gray reckons the Black Cats owner must come to his senses now or pay the price:
Bringing a little bit of success back will make the club a better asset to sell for chairman Ellis Short.
Surely it is better to spend £15m now, because who will want to buy Sunderland if we go into League One?
A pertinent question perhaps - Sunderland fan and long-time purveyor of Black Cats commentary in the Guardian, Louise Taylor, pondered whether the club is in such a bad place it’s now simply impossible to manage it:
Grayson was the eighth permanent manager at the Stadium of Light in the past six years. Of that group only Sam Allardyce left with his head held high – for his short time in charge of England – and could be said to have inspired confidence among supporters.
And this week has seen a regular airing of the suggestion that the culture amongst the playing staff at Sunderland is so utterly set against on-field success:
For years there have been rumours – consistently, and often vehemently, denied by the club – of excessive player power allied to a dressing-room drinking culture.
Former Chronicle journalist Craig Hope paints a bleak picture in the Daily Mail with a nod to our own earlier assessment of the Academy of Light:
A club which, as one former boss put it to us, has too many 'bad players on big contracts'. A club which is failing in its duty of care to young players who have progressed through its academy. Some of those who are no longer wanted have been offered settlements to leave. If they refuse, they are no longer selected for the Under 23s. Others are having to forgo a small part of their wages to make sure loan deals go through.
A glimmer of optimism perhaps that things could yet get a little better before Christmas descends upon us and the very real fears of a double relegation could ease by the time Santa comes calling:
The next six visitors to the Stadium of Light - Millwall, Reading, Fulham, Birmingham City, Barnsley and Hull - are all in the bottom half of the table.
For Sunderland supporters, that run of friendly-looking fixtures is what amounts to hope at the moment.
Sam Wallace in the Telegraph - decline of Sunderland is a sad outcome and its effects are felt beyond the struggling first team
In a wide-ranging critique of the sorry way in which the club is run, Wallace begins with the pink seats and works his way up to the boardroom:
With the stadium looking tired, there was a putative plan to replace the faded red seats and, indeed, the club began to do so, most notably around the club’s crest in the east stand.
In the end, the work was only half-finished before it was judged to be too expensive. As an analogy, it fits uncomfortably well with the team and the club themselves.
Grayson’s brutal sacking:
Grayson is understood to have been given the bad news in the tunnel by chief executive Martin Bain immediately after the match and went into the dressing room to announce to his bemused players: “I’ve just been sacked.”
The academy and under-performing development sides:
The problems flow into the club’s academy, where Bain has brought in Jimmy Sinclair from Rangers as the new academy director. The upheaval in recent years has meant there are not the detailed development programmes common across top academies, where players are loaned out and monitored.
The decline of the club has been a sad outcome, for which Short will take ultimate responsibility, and its effects are felt beyond the struggling first team, through to the development teams and the academy. Once that vital infrastructure is lost, it can be a long way back, and without it there are not even the basic tools for a revival.