An 88th minute Josh King goal has today confirmed that Sunderland are to shuffle of the mortal coil that is the Premier League come season’s end.
It’s an awful feeling that confuses the brain. How should we feel? Sad? Angry? Relieved? Today leaves Sunderland fans in a state of discombobulation - unsure how to react to the news that with 4 games to spare, we have confirmed our own demise.
As David Moyes scurried down the tunnel making a swift exit from his dugout, players wandered the pitch applauding the diminished crowd who had shown their support once more for a team offering little to raise their spirits. The crowd size was significantly reduced today as fans chose to convey their displeasure with their feet rather than with bedsheets and protests.
It seems like a word that’s been played on a loop, but the fanbase truly are apathetic. There is no enthusiasm, or indeed concern for our position because deep down we all know that something is fundamentally broken with our club, and that sooner or later the great escapology acts of recent years would run dry. This season is that season.
I want to be angry, to throw all my energy into identifying the issues with our club that have led to this point; however I can’t. I can’t because there are so many things broken that it feels like an impossible task to identify them all and suggest what might work in its place.
We have a manager who exudes no character and inspires no confidence in his players, who has suggested all season that this would be our ultimate outcome, and has the tenacity to decline to comment on his future at the club.
We have a CEO who appeared to be camera-happy as he told us of a plan in place and a journey to be undertaken. Yet as the task at hand became increasingly difficult, he melted into the shadows offering little in the way of communication.
Then we have a long list of former employees who played such a large role in recent years of strife. Margaret Byrne, Roberto De Fanti, Ryan Sachs, Lee Congerton, Gary Hutchinson et al. who had limited footballing experience and wasted our valuable resources on a variety of failed projects. They failed to stabilize this club as much as anyone in the current hot seat, and have presided over a calamitous nose-dive into destabilization. Unforgivable.
Finally we come to the elusive Ellis Short. An enigma, a shroud, a spectral being hovering on the edge of everything; a puppet-master playing the strings of doom. Where has he been? What has he presided over? Why didn’t he hire people who actually understood the world of football? His intentions might have been noble, but ultimately he is the head of the beast. He is the man who has let this club down, and the lack of communication couple with the sheer ineptitude from his minions and he is nothing short of disgraceful.
But what can we do about it? We’ve voted with our feet, and voiced our displeasure. But what does that change? Debt and financial obligations tie our hands behind our back as the owner apparently looks to sell our club. Recent financial figures showed that last year was just as bad as ever, and despite reducing some of our debt there’s still much work to be done.
This summer will see yet more wholesale change to our beloved club, and who can guarantee that the current set-up off the pitch have any kind of valid plan other than reducing wages and recouping as much cash from sales as possible? Will Moyes stay, and if he doesn’t will the new manager have time to sculpt a team capable of fighting in the Championship?
I know revitalization takes time, and rebirth isn’t achieved in an instant. Yet this slow, painful Premier League death has crushed the life from the fans drop by drop. Where do we go from here? Do we, the fans, sit idly by and shrug our shoulders? Or do we stand up and demand clarification on things? I’m sure we’ll hear the soundbites and read the PR manipulated musings published by the club, but really what good does that do? We need clear, honest communication, and we’ve needed it for a long time.
Relegation is confirmed as the future of our club lies shrouded in mist. Something has to change because we can accept relegation and failure - we have done plenty of times before - but we can’t accept the sorry state our club finds itself in.