Dan - We can bounce straight back up!
You can call me a happy clapper if you wish, but I'm confident that we can bounce straight back up from the Championship next season. I understand that many fans are feeling bitter and resentful towards the team at the moment, but the assertion that is being bandied about on social media that we will tumble down the leagues is ludicrous.
Let's address the two biggest obstacles first: Ellis Short and David Moyes. My optimism for next season, to some extent, rests on both of them leaving the club in the very near future. As this is based more on hope than expectation, I think it is only fair to consider our prospects for next season using the worst-case scenario (which is both of them remaining at the club).
Even if both Moyes and Short stay at the club, I believe we should be able to secure immediate promotion back to the Premier League in the 2017/18 season, despite battling against adversity with these two buffoons in charge. I have three key reasons for my optimism.
Firstly, the fact we have done it before in incredibly similar circumstances in 2006/07. Don't get me wrong, I know the Championship has dramatically changed since we last dominated it under Roy Keane. However, the squad we will most likely be relegated with is infinitely stronger than the Sunderland squad of ’06. Don't forget we went down with Le Tallec and Jon Stead as our first choice centre forwards and Kelvin Davis in between the sticks. Also, don't forget that the club was in turmoil during the summer before the season started: we were in the process of a takeover, Niall Quinn was our caretaker manager, and our squad had gone through a radical overhaul.
I remember listening to other fans discuss with absolute certainty in the summer of 2006 that it would be years and maybe decades until we'd return to the Premier League. We won the Championship the following year.
I'm not saying it will be easy. Far from it. I'm saying we have done it the hard way just eleven years ago and we are capable of doing that again next season.
Secondly, the players we will be able to bring in during the summer will inject some much-needed belief into the squad. We will be one of the biggest clubs in that league next season, if not the biggest, and the calibre of players we will be able to attract will reflect that. Whether that manifests itself in the loanees we can bring in from the top clubs, or the Championship players at other clubs that will view us as a better bet to secure promotion, we will be able to rebuild a squad capable of winning the Championship this summer. We won't stop being a big club just because we've been relegated.
Again, it is key to stress here that parachute payments and the sale of key assets will be necessary to re-invest in our squad - but there are as many examples of clubs who did this well as there are examples of those who didn't. It pains me to say it but Newcastle are the perfect example of a club who made over £30m profit last summer despite also heavily investing in players to help them win the Championship. In an ideal world, both Short and Moyes (and Martin Bain too) will have left long before these sort of decisions need to be made.
Thirdly, we can play a huge part in the promotion bid next season and help make sure that we bounce straight back up. In a decade full of darkness, the fans have always been the brightest light. The attendance at the United game on Sunday was just shy of 44,000. Given that we haven't scored since the dawn of time, are definitely relegated, have David Moyes in charge, and also that the game was televised, this attendance is staggering. The atmosphere may have been muted but it would only take a few wins at the start of next season to rekindle the roaring enthusiasm we’re used to.
We only lost one game in the second half of the 06/07 season and most of those games we won by the odd goal. I went to plenty of those matches in 2007 (it was my favourite season as a Lads fan) and I am certain the fans helped get the players over the line on numerous occasions. When we are fully behind the team we can make a huge difference.
Don't get me wrong, this season has been a nightmare and I can understand why your faith in the club may have been shaken, but I remain confident we can win promotion back to the Premier League next season, and I hope you do too. Please do screenshot this so you can mock me in a year's time!
Michael - We won't bounce back up!
After 10 successive seasons in the top flight, to be even in the same conversation as the Championship, for me, is an absolute disgrace. However barring a miracle to end all miracles Sunderland will be there next season.
I've seen people say we won’t be able to return to the Premier League with David Moyes in charge, should we be relegated. Personally, I don't think it matters who we have as manager because it won’t make a difference. We won’t bounce back in the first season, this is a rebuilding process and it will take some time.
Make no mistake, to not get promoted in the first season would arguably be a failure. We should be aiming for top six minimum next season, if not top two. After all, we managed to bounce back straight away under Roy Keane right? Unfortunately, it won’t be that simple.
The Championship is a much tougher league now than what it was 10 years ago; with a host of highly competitive teams striving for promotion into the cash-rich Premier League.
There are plenty of teams who are regularly used to competing at the top end of the table: Leeds United, Sheffield Wednesday, Norwich City, Reading, and Derby County are but a few names. Remember as well we'll have two teams coming down with us and both of them will have the same aim as Sunderland.
For arguments sake, let's look at the three teams who got relegated a the end of last season: Aston Villa, Norwich and Newcastle.
Newcastle have by far in my opinion the best side in the Championship and with the money they've spent they should be walking it, or at least looking comfortable at the top of the table. It's only now really that they look like comfortably seeing out promotion as Huddersfield were giving them a real go for a majority of the season. Their fight for instant promotion has been a tricky one.
Norwich for me have criminally underperformed with the squad they have. I tipped them to go up with Newcastle at the start of the season, but they've fallen short of expectations by some distance. Assuming they don’t finish in the playoffs, I think they’ll be back in with a shout of promotion next season, adding another team into the fight for promotion.
Aston Villa were never in serious contention to make an immediate return to the Premier League for me. Not because I don't feel their squad is good enough but because I feel they have been so badly damaged from last season’s nightmare that it would be a tall order for them to fall on their feet - especially with new owners in place.
I worry that Sunderland will be next season's Aston Villa. This season has been so damaging for the club as a whole that we too will struggle to bounce back immediately. The enormous turnover of players will potentially hinder our chances of success on the field, while off the field staff from across the club will lose their jobs. And that’s not even taking into account the income that we would lose upon relegation - via decreased TV income and reduced gate receipts. To me, there's too much off the field to sort out, let alone on it.
Exploring the potential turnover of players, there would more than likely be wholesale changes to the playing squad. The likes of Jordan Pickford, Lamine Kone, Whabi Khazri, Fabio Borini, Jermain Defoe and presumably many others would leave the club. On top of that, you've got John O'Shea, Jan Kirchhoff, Victor Anichebe, Steven Pinnear and Joleon Lescott out of contract in the summer, and that's not including Adnan Januzaj, Jason Denayer and Javier Manquillo who will return to their parent clubs.
We would need a whole host of players just to have a squad let alone one to get out of the Championship. Factor in the time required to gel with their teammates and acclimatise to life in the area and you can see managing the turnover of players will be an incredibly difficult task.
While I firmly believe Sunderland should be one of the biggest clubs in the Championship and we should be able to attract the very best of that division, we have no automatic right to bounce straight back. We have to earn it. Because we have been out of the Championship for 10 years now I do worry about how we would adapt to that league.
Piling further misery into an already depressing article, there is another big problem at our club: financially we aren’t doing very well - and that’s a huge understatement. Everyone knows by now we are in massive debt and above all else that has to be dealt with first. Sales of key players such as: Pickford, Kone, Khazri and Borini should be able to generate a relatively large sum of money; but how much of that money will we see put back into the transfer budget? Some of that I am sure will go towards clearing the debt - an issue that needs to be dealt with, but could potentially harm our chances of assembling a squad capable of fighting for promotion.
The final thing to worry about for me is the owner trying to sell the club. I have had a more lenient attitude towards Ellis Short than many, but I do want him to sell Sunderland. Selling is one thing, but finding the right buyer is another completely. The fact that the club is openly up for sale will undoubtedly create instability which could potentially harm our chances of attracting players and performing to our best on the field.
Don't get me wrong I would love more than anything for Sunderland to make an instant return to the Premier League, but with all of the aforementioned factors both on and off the pitch I just don't think we will be able to make a swift return. I do think we will come back up before the parachute payments run out, but for me stabilising the entire club from boardroom to changing rooms is more important than gaining promotion next season.