Yes, the time has come. Our stay in the sunlight of the top flight ends and with the dusk comes reflection and a need for closure. Failing that, let's look at what our manager and owner have had to say for themselves and see what small comforts we can glean from the words of fools.
Before the Bournemouth match that spelled the end of Sunderland's decade-long stay at the top level, David Moyes was once again questioned about his future, and he had this to say:
No, I'm here, I'm the manager, you take it on the chin. While there's a chance, I've got to keep going.
There is nobody who wants to win more than me. I am used to winning, I'm not used to losing and I don't want to get used to it either.
You take it on the chin.
In the sense that in spite of the two dozen men in your squad, two transfer windows and nineteen years of managerial experience I suppose you could call losing and doing nothing about it 'taking it on the chin'. In a similar way that a boxer refusing to bring his hands up to guard his face, choosing instead to complain about the lack of money he spent on his gloves, will take it on the chin. You have no choice but to take it on the chin because that's where the premier league is punching you mate. For a bit of clarity here, David, you will also take it up the arse if you allow your opponent to bend you over and fuck you like Bournemouth did.
While there's a chance, I've got to keep going.
Let's not attach to these words any sentiment that isn't really there, for a start. On paper it seems like a defiant - even hopeful - stance to take on the near future, as if you won't stop until you've taken this team and hauled it back from the precipice using nothing but your steely will and tactical acumen. Of course as lip service what it really means is that you're at the stage in your tenure where not only an entire fanbase has tired of your dour brand of doom-mongering but local and national newspapers are onto you as well. You've been slagging off the players for a full season and you've made fresh enemies in the world of journalism with your clear and ever-present passive aggression, your insistence that you know best and that no one bar you, the Messiah, can save Sunderland from the fictitious demon that roams the Academy halls, pulls the plush covers off Ellis Shorts bed in London from the other side of the country and continues to “rot” the “core” of the club.
I'm a football supporter, I know what it's like.
Good one, Dave.
I'm not used to losing.
AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH. AHAHAH. AHAH. HAH. Aaaaah, Dave.
You have planned and executed 132 losses in the last four years. The last time you won a game you had to convince your opponent to buy your worst defender and play him against you for ninety minutes. By sheer chance you have contrived to be in the same dressing room as a winning team a paltry forty-six times in those years and more than half of those occasions were with a Manchester United squad worth over an incredible £300000000, youth not included. Not only could my nan have achieved the same points tally as you did with that squad, she would have bettered it and wouldn't demand plaudits for achieving the bare minimum expected of her. Before you ask, David - no, my nan does not play centre half and is not available on a free. You'll have to think outside your box and do something mental like set up a scouting network that isn't just one of your mates hanging around the leisure centres in Merseyside on the off-chance a failed athlete you're acquainted with walks past.
Honestly David, you should take this to Netflix and get your own show. What's that? You've already got a lucrative, three year contract making people laugh at you? Who on earth would give you such a thing...?
Hi Ellis. Bye Ellis.
Following mathematical confirmation of relegation, our lord and master rummaged through the drawers of his desk and dug out the statement he'd prepared three years earlier. Devoid of emotion and any potential connection to the fans, it reads like the sort of letter you'd get from a convict five years into a sentence for murdering your wife.
I am truly sorry that
Iwe have murdered your wifenot been able to retain our top-flight status.
Well that’s very gracious of you to think of us, Ellis - one can only imagine the tumult this rollercoaster ride has caused in your day to day life - but there are several problems with your platitudes, and they go beyond simple platitudes.
I acknowledge that during my ownership mistakes have been made, particularly in the area of player recruitment, and as a result we have found ourselves struggling to survive in recent seasons.
Which mistakes? Which mistakes have you made and how? Were they mistakes borne of a lack of knowledge of the arena you willingly entered, at the expense of the pride of an entire city? Did you learn from them? When and how did you learn from them? Now, after five years? Now that relegation is assured and you've managed to sour relations with every managerial candidate with a modicum of ambition? Now that you've turned down potential investors in your hubris, on the basis that you are the man to judge whether or not another foreign billionaire would have the best interests of the city and the fans at heart, like your esteemed self?
You specifically mention player recruitment. Even in this, the time for humility and apology, you try to deflect blame from yourself with that statement because with the subject of player recruitment comes the natural assumption that you yourself weren't responsible for scouting or negotiating transfers in or out of the club because that isn't your job and even you don't have the arrogance to assume that responsibility. Instead this job traditionally falls to managers and the great balls-up that was the Director of Football model, and so you hope in vain that the common sense implication of where the blame should lie when it comes to recruitment will avail you of where it does lie; you. That which you pretend now to accept so readily where your silence has so often spoken volumes for you, cannot be believed.
You hired those managers and you greenlit those transfers and where you didn't you gave others the ultimate authority to do so on your behalf, it was always your job and you simply delegated it to others, poorly. It's a poor workman that blames his tools and so your apology is half accepted for a truth I doubt you comprehend and half rejected for it's thin veil of denial. Points for trying though.
What really confounds and angers me most about that particular claim is that for all the blame that can be laid at the feet of the squad, all but a few of them have shown what they are capable of as men and footballers at some point or another.
You see Ellis, there is an intimacy between players and the audience, an intimacy born of hundreds of hours watching a mans every move and scrutinising his every decision on and off the field. Players lead public lives and display their emotions, no one can hide on the pitch – if they're arseholes we all see and know, and if they're proud to wear the shirt and elated by the fans we can see that too. This is how a connection is built between athletes and their fans and it's something that you have very little experience of. I imagine in your world most things are reduced to numbers easily and from an outside perspective football is also all about numbers, so one might say you could be forgiven for your naivete. Of course in reality this is not the case.
The point I make here is that while there are a few men that have come through the dressing room who either didn't play football well or didn't play well with others, the majority of men that take that job do so to better their own position in every way (not accounting for the leeches you and Dave have allowed to feed on our club in it's premier league death throes) and don't benefit from being shite or having fans jeer them. Yes, believe it or not, the leading of a team requires a leader and a plan requires planners. There are a thousand factors to be taken into account when it comes to why a team isn't performing on the pitch and guess what? It's your job to hire the leader.
Let's imagine for a moment this is Rome. It's Ancient Rome, Ellis, and you are Octavian. After the treacherous murder of your predecessor your lands have fallen upon dark times. Enemies beset you from every side and while you're weak you aren't broken. It lies with you to repair the damage done to the Empire and give your people safety. Worry not fair Ellis, for you have a plan.
If only you can assemble a team of warriors that could fight your nations enemies you could achieve safety and prosperity for your people. You have more than enough willing fighters but individually they are just a mob, each dancing to their own fiddle in an unattractive mess, it's chaos. You need an army. To form an army you need a General to choose the ranks and convey authority, courage and charisma, to turn your mob of harmless farmhands into a force. Who will you choose? A wise man? A strong man? A responsible man? A passionate man? All of the above?
You went and chose Bugs fucking Bunny.
You've had at least two top quality, international-level managers that you could have given this time to, that you could have used to seek stability and given free rein to eradicate this apparent ghost in the very walls of the Stadium, and you know as well as I do that they couldn't fucking stand you. And rather than own your failures and stand up and be counted like a man and admit your mistakes then and swallow your pride then, we would have this stability that you've convinced everyone is such an unattainable dream. You want to know the reality? You're the problem with the club. You're the ghost that haunts the halls, you're the constant, the guy in the horror movie that turns out to be in the painting from a hundred years ago even though he couldn't possibly be THAT guy because THAT guy would be dead by now. You're the antagonist in this story, mate, and you need to fuck off and take your voodoo with you.
So don't sit there and give us that same bullshit that's got you out of a spanking in shareholder meetings, why should I care that you claim you'll share your plans and connect with the fans? It's a lie, if you come anywhere close to being true to your word you will fall incredibly short of the mark like you always have in this business. If by some miracle you manage to be uncharacteristically transparent and honest with us I can be sure with every fibre of my being that your plan will go down like a lead balloon, the God's themselves only know what fresh horror awaits us in another year under your boot.
Your experiment is over, just do the right thing and give someone else a crack at the whip. Take a loss - just be sure that you leave Sunderland AFC out of it.