In recent weeks, an increasing percentage of our fanbase has started to turn against David Moyes. For many, our last home game - an abject 0-0 draw against a Burnley side struggling to score away from home - was the final straw as we inch closer to the very real possibility of relegation from the Premier League.
My own stance has altered significantly too. In spite of poor performances and uninspiring management I have remained against sacking David Moyes, but with each passing game I find myself edging towards the ‘Moyes Out’ camp. However, despite my faltering belief in Moyes’ ability there is just one thing stopping me from totally nailing my colours to the mast: in theory this should work.
I like the idea of David Moyes - his arrival last summer had me feeling optimistic that things could work with him in charge. I liked the concept of stability and a four year contract that would enable him to oversee a period of steady progress on the pitch. On paper, the Glaswegian was the right man to forge the frameworks and squad necessary to find the stability we have so desperately sought.
Sure, he had failed at Manchester United and Real Sociedad, but I’m willing to accept a plea of mitigation for these failings. In football, I’ve long since subscribed to the Peter Principle which believes that people continue to get promoted until they reach their level of incompetence. I felt that Moyes was a victim of this at Manchester United and for whatever reasons wasn’t able to live up to the demands of playing stylish, attacking football in order to win games - a prerequisite that had become synonymous with Sir Alex Ferguson. At Sociedad I thought he was doomed to fail from the outset; with no experience in Spain and a reputation for playing a more direct style of play it wasn’t a surprise to see him sacked relatively quickly.
But at Sunderland I thought he would find himself at home with a fan base that expects little other than 100% effort and something resembling a game plan. I was convinced that Moyes would be like Sam Alardyce in his approach and would bring us defensive stability and organisation. As he strode on to the pitch at Rotherham in July last year, greeted by cheers and applause from the travelling Sunderland fans there was a sense that this was a new era which could bring us the stability we have craved for so long. In some of his early press conferences he announced the loan signing of Adnan Januzaj and told Lamine Kone in no uncertain terms that he was going nowhere. It felt like we had a boss and a disciplinarian, and to me it felt like a continuation of what made Allardyce’s brief reign with this club relatively successful.
Unfortunately things haven’t gone to plan whatsoever, and I will be the first to hold my hands up to admit that. We have won just five league games all season - three of which came within a month of each other - and have already lost 18 times. Grim reading indeed.
I wouldn’t even be terribly concerned about the medium-term future of David Moyes if there was a clear style of play on the pitch. Even if it was as simple as grinding out clean sheets and scraping positive results on a semi-regular basis - just enough to give us some hope for the future, and allow us to believe the season’s woes have been down to injuries and bad luck. Even if it was just his narrative off the pitch - if he actually tried to fight the club’s corner occasionally rather than telling everyone who will listen that we are doomed to fail and that he is powerless to do anything about it. Or perhaps, if he was simply able to inject a modicum of positivity with his new signings rather than dismissing their potential to improve the team before they’ve even kicked a ball in red and white. I just need something.
However, with relegation looking a mere formality at this moment in time, it would be foolish not to think of the consequences of playing in England’s second tier.
Last summer we gleefully mocked the Mags for their comical back page plea to Rafa Benitez begging him to stay at the club. We laughed even harder at the talk of a #rafalution and while I still can’t take their hero-like worshipping of him too seriously they at least went down with momentum. Suddenly, relegation didn’t seem such a bad thing and they spent the summer in heightened states of anticipation. Of course the fact that they had £30 million to spend in the Championship did help, but they started the season full of optimism and with a tangible sense of excitement surrounding the future of their club.
Of course I’m not for one minute suggesting that we should ever replicate any element of their unique brand of arrogance, but imagine what relegation under Moyes would look like? The man is already an internet meme sensation for all the wrong reasons after his spell at United. Can you imagine the Twitter explosion if we lost at home to Fleetwood Town? It seems a trivial point but it only reinforces the already ingrained perception in fan’s minds across the country that we are a laughing stock.
Right now, we desperately need inspiration from somewhere. If Moyes does remain in charge he needs to ignite the fanbase before August rolls around. If not, we will just have to hope that the concept of him being a manager who unearths hidden gems on a budget comes to fruition, because as it stands the reality of his reign is far from what we had hoped and imagined.