I'm not talking about our performance on the pitch either. I'm not talking about specific performances from players, questioning their heart or their ability. I'm talking about the club, the entity that is Sunderland AFC, a club now personified by the unmitigated losers that constitute the hierarchy. Owner, chairpersons, PR, media, scouts, the lot. All complicit in the downfall of something grand, the corruption of a pure thing.
Like many of you I have bit my tongue and waited with baited breath for the miracle to come.
“But what sort of club needs a miracle every season?” you might cry. Irrelevant.
"But what about Roberto Di Fanti? He left a right mess.” Gone, long gone.
"Wey they only make one Kevin Phillips per generation!" True. But still.
The whole feeble, apathetic ignorance of deliberate sabotage has become too much for me to bear.
How could we have been so blind? Our unabashed love for Sunderland has clouded our minds and our judgement. Our working class stiff upper lips have bitten down and choked the righteous cries of protest in another stirring attempt to dull the pain and the disappointment and the injustice of our position as fans of the club that beguiles us. This club stands for something, it means more than points on a board or bragging rights in any league. At least it used to.
When the Sunderland manager sat down with Ellis Short for the first time the very real possibility of relegation was top of the list of things that needed to be said. I wasn't there, no one told me, but I'm telling you now that's what happened because I've felt it in my bones ever since the first time that David Moyes said the most honest thing to leave his mouth in a year, intimidation of journalists not withstanding:
On relegation: Well, they would probably be right because that's where they've been every other year for the last four years, so why would it suddenly change?
I think it will be, I don't think you can hide the facts, that will be the case, yes. People will be flat because they are hoping that something is going to dramatically change - it can't dramatically change, it can't.
Why? WHY!? BECAUSE YOU'RE THE MANAGER AND IT'S YOUR BASTARD JOB! THAT'S WHY!
And that's where we went wrong, good people. The moment those words left his mouth a great big klaxon started blaring in the back of my mind and it was then that I should have railed against that man with every ounce of strength I had and the same can be said of us all. We didn't. Bemused at what we all thought must be some kind of lesson in cautious optimism, we sat back and considered this point en-masse, finding reasons to justify the claim and tempering our own expectations even further as a result. Job done by Moyes. We wound our necks in, realising how foolish we had been to be floating on the lingering high of another gorgeous comeback miracle under Allardyce and licking the wounds sustained as a result of the high profile loss of a man that looked like he could do a sterling job for us. The manager we actually needed, had and lost all in the short space of a football season.
It was the writing on the wall and it should have been obvious to us but no, we took it on the chin and got back in our place. How dare we Mackems expect the best? How very dare we.
Then came the transfer window. Let me break down this very obvious indicator of our impending demise and possibly the greatest signal we could receive of the hierarchies intention of relegation.
Love, McNair, Djilobodji, Ndong. Of these players one of them is capable of Premier League level performance. We all know that now, it's a no brainer. So rather than presume the players or Moyes and co just got unlucky with injuries, or the scouting setup wasn't quite spot-on or whatever other nonsensical excuse you want to believe, let's face the facts. They were never meant to be in the Premier League. It was ridiculous to hope that they would be and each has managed to convince us of this within a very short space of time.
Gibson, Pienaar, Lescott, Anichebe. Old, free agents, all players that would jump at the chance of 6 months of Premier League wages with no expectations or responsibilities. On the flip side of this look at them from a financial perspective; weak contracts with no clauses, disposable men that would fill glaring gaps in the squad and if they had a good day – fantastic. If not? Oh well, they'll be gone soon, who cares?
I'll tell you something else right now – the fact that Anichebe actually managed to make a nuisance of himself for the opposition was nothing short of a brief football miracle, a flash in the pan, the dying light of a once dangerous footballer brought out by the love and hope that washed over him from the terraces. In short it was you, the fans, that allowed that brief flame to spark once more before it died. We'll not see it again, it's gone. He'll remember it and we'll pine for it for the rest of the season but Victor's not changing anything now.
Couple all of this with the knowledge that this veteran manager of top flight football, once the hand-picked successor to arguably the greatest manager of all time, doesn't know when to make a fucking substitution? Omits hard-working, talented players because they aren't tall or British enough? Are we living in the fucking twilight zone? Have I gone mad and am now at the nuthouse banging my head against a padded wall, drooling about Moyes being the saviour, the only man with the only plan to “save” a 138 year old sodding institution!? How could we have been so blind to this?
THERE WAS NEVER A PLAN FOR SURVIVAL.
It's beyond obvious and it's so tragic that it's almost funny.
I've got my own suspicions as to why Ellis Short would tank this club. It could be because he's an idiot and has no concept of how to run a club. It could be because we're in a ridiculous amount of debt (because of the contemptible running of the club) and it would actually be more financially sound for us to collect parachute payments as well as the TV rights money, money that, lest you forget, we will only receive because he threw everything and the kitchen sink at survival last year, something he rather conspicuously isn't prepared to do again. Funny that.
Every single tactical decision made by Moyes, on the pitch and off it, is questionable. We compliment him with surprised tones when he gives 20 minutes to a player that actually wants to be on the pitch and is capable of changing a game. We're rewarding a man for doing the bare minimum expected of him, and therein lies the problem. There is little doubt in my mind that Ellis Short gave David Moyes the remit of overseeing a Championship club. We're all sitting here thinking “why's Moyes brought this shite in? It's not good enough.” and doing our best to blame the finances and give Short an easy time because 'he spends money every season'. But Moyes himself is sitting there chuffed because it's just a bonus transfer window for his soon-to-be-relegated squad. Fantastic, he's thinking, I've got a season to bed in these lower league players, streamlines the job next season.
And why should he worry? David Moyes has now overseen a clusterfuck of an opening season, brought in all his old, dross mates for a quick pay day, alienated and insulted the fans, threatened to slap a female reporter for daring to suggest he'd be fired for being shit, but he doesn't have to worry does he? He's got the job regardless. If the man can get away with all that does anyone seriously still think there was ever going to be a push to stay up? It's been nothing but excuses and lies from that man since he stepped foot in the Academy and it's nothing short of sickening.
Regardless of the reasoning behind it, it's plain for all to see. Fans of other clubs can see it, pundits can see it, journalists can see it but of course we as the victims of this structured suicide struggled to recognise our oppressors. We hope, we struggle, we strive – we never give up.
Well whoopdie doo. Good for us, eh? Bending a knee like good little peasants and letting usurpers shatter everything we love. If you're not angry, if you don't feel like you're having the royal piss taken out of you by a bunch of uncaring mercenaries on more money than you or I will probably ever see then I feel sorry for you. I can see my enemy now and the path has never been clearer. If we let people like this run ramshod over us, lie to us, throw us scraps of poorly conceived slogans and hashtags so they can rake in ticket sales then what are we? Pathetic, that's what. Undeserving. Unworthy of the crest.
Fancy chucking Margaret Byrne a few hundred quid for that marvellous job she did of protecting a fucking nonce? Well that's what you've done with your season ticket, good job. Joleon Lescott could use a few months wages so he can afford another house or two, make sure you get a thank you card from him mind.
I fell in love with Sunderland when I was a child, a child brought up on the belief that nobility and strength and courage exist and that they are indomitable, that any man or woman can stand up for something greater than themselves and rage against anything bigger than them. I fell in love with you people, with your strength and your passion and all it meant, it's an ancestral gift given to the rarest of tribes. I believe in Sunderland and its people and I'm asking all of you now to fight for what you love.
If we sit here and take this shit then good riddance to us, I hope we keep falling down the leagues until the whole club’s cheap enough that I can buy the fucking thing, I know then at least that someone that loves it with all their soul will own it, that the players that go out on the pitch will do it with fire in their eyes and a heart to fight.
And if any of you dare to sit there and whinge about your fellow fans protesting, take a look at yourself and ask who you are and whose side you're on. Do you let people walk over you? Do you like watching bairns cry on the terraces or, worse, NOT GIVE A FLYING FUCK ABOUT GOING TO GAMES BECAUSE WE LET THE MAGIC DIE?
Poor little sods, I feel for them. Getting dragged to watch that shite because their dads and granddads knew what it was like to watch a club give a shit, to watch a community united through the beautiful game and electrifying atmosphere of standing shoulder to shoulder with your own and challenging the world. If you want to roll over and take it like a bitch, knock yourself out.
I'm not going to. I'm asking you now to pass this message on to every fan you know, if you do decide to walk through those turnstiles anytime soon make your voices heard. Take your bedsheets, take your placards, your drums, but most of all take your defiance. Take your anger and your rage and your hurt and pour it out where those bastards work, where the cameras are and they can't hide.
I don't want you to abuse the players, quite the opposite, I want you to show them how much this means to you. Not just by turning up or tuning in or tweeting shite about it, let your voice be the weapon you raise in defence of this beaten club. Write open letters to the club, let everyone know how much you're hurting, how wrong they've done you. Let them know that this cowardly, embarrassing downfall of something beautiful has only made you cry out to help it, and hate them even more.
Don't give them a free ride, don't let them off with anything. Moyes needs to go, Short needs to go, and they need to go now, not in a year when they've bled us dry and blamed it on some phantom “rotten core” that they couldn't excise, but now while our pride is tattered but intact.