Bottom of the league, encumbered with debt, sorely lacking confidence both on and off the pitch, and lurching from crisis to crisis - it’s rubbish being a Sunderland fan right now. In fact, it’s so rubbish that apathy has become a buzzword associated with the club this season. Scores of fans are losing interest in our perennial woes, and instead of rage consuming them, they are simply shrugging their shoulders in defeat.
Fellow writer Damian Brown typed this stirring battle-cry earlier in the week, and for the most part it’s hard to argue with much of what he has to say. However, in my opinion there is a very clear issue that can easily be resolved - we don’t have a bloody clue what’s going on.
People comment on Facebook and Twitter noting that wins will get the fans back onside. Quite right. However, when you’re languishing at the foot of the table having failed to find a goal in 2 months, that’s easier said than done. I’m quite sure we are trying to win - I just don’t think the players, or indeed the manager, actually have the confidence to do so. This clear lack of self-belief is an issue that rings alarm bells because it seemingly suggests that there is a lack of communication and planning taking place behind the scenes.
We, the fans, deserve to know just exactly what’s going on.
Martin Bain and David Moyes both waxed lyrical early in the season about the club needing to rebuild and that we were about to embark on a journey - little did we know it would be a journey down a league into the Championship.
Fundamentally, that experience, coupled with David’s longer term approach [was why we wanted him]. He is a builder. He understands the need to win, first and foremost, but in parallel, he understands that the job he has come here to do – and the job I have come here to do – is to build, to rebuild really.
Bain exuded this sense of calm collectedness that had myself and many others believing that he and Moyes would be able to stop the rot. In fact, Moyes seemed like the perfect appointment, after all he’d worked wonders at Everton under fairly similar circumstances.
Bain went on to make comments like:
I think it is apparent to everybody that we have a journey we have to embark on here. So when I first met David, we talked a little bit about the past, but we can’t change the past.
We can certainly change the future. From both our perspectives it’s about rebuilding, lets’ do the basics right. That’s the biggest message I want to get across, we want to get back to basics.
Buzzwords galore sparking flashes of hope that we prayed would ignite the flames of rebirth - a light that would guide us from our perennial struggles into an era of stability and growth. Even Moyes was optimistic about the journey:
It was a long time in doing it because (chairman) Bill Kenwright gave me £5million a year to spend at Everton - that was the budget - or if I could generate some other money myself, so I had that to work with and I was happy to do that.
I had to go on the training ground, I had to organise and I had to coach, I had to build it up and I think if you look at the team we had at the start compared to the team when we left, it was a team full of international players, it was a team which was actually competing.
In the last eight years, we finished in the top eight and really there were only one or two bad years - we finished 17th one year - and apart from that, the journey was terrific.
But what is this journey? What is this rebuild? What does it look like, and when will it be complete?
We’ve heard a lot of gusto about this rebuild, but in all honesty we’ve seen very little substance as to how it will be implemented. Instead we’ve been fed information about a faltering club with limited funds and a need to invest in youth if we are to reverse our financial misfortunes.
Fundamentally, the overall financial aspect of the football club is what will help determine our success going forward. So I have a big task in my hands as to how we might look at what we invest, where we invest it - maybe having to realign some of that spend - and that’s probably my biggest task going forward.
Like it or lump it, we should be looking at bringing players to this club and selling them for a greater value.
We have to look at acquiring players at a younger age, too.
Bain said this back in December, and at the time I had this perverse sense of satisfaction. I’d researched our finances to the best of my abilities and it didn’t surprise me that we had no money - after all we are swimming in a debt that shows little sign of receding. It was refreshing to hear the CEO tell it how it was, and this coupled with his claims of bringing the club back to its working class roots had me excited.
Now, however, I’m left wondering if am a victim of that rather baffling spectre known as spin? After all, that grim interview with Martin Bain back in December of last year was the last time we heard from the ex-Rangers man - and since then the club’s on-field antics have spiralled into a chaotic maelstrom of disappointment. Where did this face of the club disappear to other than briefly being mentioned with regard to office-based redundancies at the club?
This was the man who said that we need to, “get back to the basics and talk football.” So why aren’t we?
Why haven’t we been given a little more information about the club’s plan other than it the fact that it calls for buying and selling players and the fabled notion of stability? I’m not asking for a detailed manifesto, and I’m not asking for the board’s deepest darkest secrets. However, I am asking for a more info. How much will relegation impact our ability to compete as a club? How long do the club estimate this rebuild will take? Is Ellis Short still thinking about selling the club?
I know the club’s finances up to July 2016 will be released in the next 3 weeks, and that will make things a lot clearer to those who study them, but why not open lines of conversation now? Do we really have to sit through the media’s maelstrom of slating our fans, slapgate, and impending financial doom in order to attempt to comprehend just exactly what is going on behind closed doors?
If we’re screwed, we’re screwed and I’d like to know it. If it’s going to take multiple years to get back to a steady financial footing I think I’m ready for it. We’ve flirted with doom for several years only to be found wanting.
We know it’s going to be bad news, and we know this summer is going to potentially leave us with an incredible rebuilding task on our hands. Yet, if the club want to restore some kind of confidence in the fan-base they need to open about our predicament. We need to hear them say it if we are to move on from this equal parts angst and apathy-laden half-life.
So haul out the cameras and book Mr. Bain in for a bash on the sunbeds, we the fans need some cold, hard truths. It’s the only way we can move forward together.