Since Martin Bain arrived at our club last summer there has been a concerted effort at trying to bring the club back to its roots. In early interviews, Bain was adamant that the club need to take a step back and reconnect with the fans, who are a major part of the fabric of our club.
Fundamentally, the biggest message I’d like to get across to those who work here and to our fans is that we want to get back to basics.
Sunderland is a club that has to be synonymous with its North East identity, the fans want that from their club.
Without being disparaging to anything that’s gone before, it’s probably lost its identity, it’s maybe tried to be something that it’s not so now it’s a case of let’s do the basics correctly, build and then take a more longer term approach.
Since then, the club have trialed several events in order to reconnect with the supports - the most notable perhaps being ‘Charlie Hurley Day’ and a trip to the Nissan car manufacturing plant which, in fairness, certainly motivated the players onto winning ways.
This latest bold attempt at evoking local pride is a double-edged sword, however. On the one hand, you have the potential to rally the troops and generate a surge of determined hope; whereas on the other, you run the risk of sounding condescending - it’s a tricky task to perfect.
If anything, this recent lobbying of support clearly demonstrates an understanding from the club as to how detached and apathetic many fans feel right now - that at the very least is an encouraging sign.
Recent results haven’t been great, no one can doubt that, but in all honesty results haven’t been great for a long time. This war of attrition endured by all fans of the club has very little prospect of coming to a halt, but the worry seems to be that fans are beginning to question the battle - that they are tired of the constant trudge to safety and are becoming alienated.
David Moyes calls for togetherness - and loves to see fans showing their colours! #KeepTheFaith ➡ http://bit.ly/2l0DupIPosted by Sunderland AFC on Thursday, February 2, 2017
Just read the comments section of the above video, and you’ll see what I mean. There are certainly those who feel emboldened and inspired by Moyes’ message, but there are also many who seem to have taken a more cynical view to the recording. Much of it is typical of the type of humour developed during such a torrid few years, but there is certainly an undercurrent of pent-up anger among the apathy.
Anger that the club have failed to address critical issues, anger that cheap home shirts are an answer to poor displays of football; anger that despite our continued support through thick and thin, the team have struggled to flourish under Moyes and many others. It’s an anger that has grown this season, and has led to many fans simply losing interest.
How long can you scream and shout about something while nothing is done before you get sick of the hassle?
Nice and blustery up by Penshaw Monument #safc pic.twitter.com/HO7amQRXTo— Rob Scanlon (@RobScanlon_TV) February 2, 2017
But despite some of the negativity surrounding the club’s approach, you cannot blame them for identifying a worrying issue and looking to mend it. Yes we need to see passion on the pitch rather than on our screens, but at least the club are seeking a viable solution to our current woes: us.
Just look back to the Chelsea game a last season - crucial result in our march to survival - and think just how frenetic and intense that game was. Guus Hiddink was impressed by our energy and its ability to transform the team.
The noise, it felt like a 12th man for Sunderland.
My Chelsea players are used to playing in very big atmospheres but this one was not hostile, just very loud and supportive of the home team. But my players are experienced and they should have coped with it better than they did.
Of course, you could see Sunderland felt the energy from the crowd and fed off it. Plus, we allowed them to stay in the game when we should have killed it off in the first half when we were on top.
The fans made them a little bit more energetic in the second half when the game should have been over."
It is this passion and fanatic zeal that the club are trying to re-encapsulate with their media campaign. How amazing was the atmosphere at the SoL that day, how much did it help to inspire the players onto victory? Not only did we win that game, but we carried on into the next game against Everton in a similar fashion.
Give me a montage of Sunderland coming back against all odds any day of the week, and I will watch it over and over again feeling the goosebumps rise on my skin, and my eyes stinging with emotion. Because we aren’t the type of club that sails off meekly into the night, we’re a club that against all odds somehow battles back from the brink of oblivion season after season, year after year.
I understand the club’s attempts at motivating us may come across as slightly condescending to some, but ultimately it highlights the fact that the club understand how important we will be in the fight against relegation and beyond. We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again, time after time when our chips are down we’re there, ready to give our all to the club that hurts us so much.
Strength can be found in unity - provided the players reciprocate our passion; we’re keeping the faith, but we need a sign that they are, too.