Chris Coleman has made headlines for his brutal acknowledgement that Sunderland’s home support is entitled to vent its frustration after a disastrous 12 months at the Stadium of Light.
The Black Cats boss faced the media in the aftermath of the weekend’s twenty-first consecutive fixture without a home win to welcome the fact that anyone at all still turns up to watch football on Wearside considering the dross served up this past year.
And Coleman’s comments will be welcomed by a fan base which has grown accustomed to assorted failed managers being egged on by a lazy media perception that somehow the crowd at the Stadium of Light have directly contributed to this dire mess.
Asked about the flaring of occasional jeers and mutterings as Sunderland’s Saturday afternoon went from bad to worse following Callum McManaman’s daft red card, the Welshman displayed a refreshingly honest appraisal of just how dismal forking out and turning up to watch the Black Cats has been:
You’ve got to feel sorry for them and even if they boo for the entire 90 minutes, at least they’re still here, showing up for the team.
Those here today, they’re the ones who we’ve got to try and look after, and it’s down to us to change the mood. We’ve got to make sure that next time we send them home with a smile on their face.
And it’s that acknowledgement that at least Sunderland retain a hardcore of circa 25,000 fans prepared to turn out which marks a welcome rhetoric from the Stadium of Light dugout.
Too many out there beyond the north east - and indeed within the region - have been happy to take potshots at the Sunderland fan base for too long.
The legend of a ferocious baying mob who patrol the banks of the Wear awaiting a misplaced pass or period of opposition possession to snarl at those in a red-and-white shirt has become so oft repeated as to become accepted fact. And that’s not to mention the folk tale that the people of Sunderland are unable to sit still for long enough to watch 90 minutes of football without heading for the exits from half time onwards.
At times you have to wonder where these individuals who peddle the myths about Sunderland fans grew up watching - or indeed playing - their football. If they truly believe that a few muted jeers and audible groans are somehow unique to a support now accustomed to being served up a pile of sh!t, then it certainly wasn’t at any of the large football grounds that populate the north of England.
For too long we’ve heard that the Stadium of Light crowd somehow just isn’t conducive to players performing. But quite simply, that’s football - it’s how football fans react the world over and if a squad paid handsomely in Championship terms can’t hack a little expectation and instant reaction, then they want to get themselves out to a Northern League game and experience the hostility that comes with playing the game at the hard end.
And at long last, a Sunderland manager has fronted up after a game, not looking to excuse themselves by suggesting the crowd made their life a little uncomfortable, and accepted that the fans who remain are the ones who need to be acknowledged and indeed performed for.
The stay-aways and the fed up may come back in time should things improve on the pitch, but right now Sunderland must cherish the few who remain and start fronting up to them - as Mr Coleman has today acknowledged.