Following victory over Hull City my emotions are difficult to clarify. Going in to the game I was convinced the more positive the outcome, the stronger my anger would be. It is true that I now expect so little of the squad that victory is an alien concept, but it's more than that.
Too little, too late springs to mind and of course it was always going to, because this is Sunderland we're talking about and where something can go wrong it traditionally does. The most I can take from this is that the travelling fans were rewarded for their amazing commitment to a team that really don't deserve them. We've done little but dent the ambitions of our fellows in Hull and it's fair to say that we weren't watching world beaters out there yesterday. Some would sooner enjoy the elusive cheer for a week and pretend we're building momentum, but the truth is that for all that the cracks can be temporarily ignored, the wallpaper is just that - paper; it's thin and cheap, fragile.
In his post match ad-lib Moyes speaks of men playing for the jersey and for personal pride and to the casual observer this seems plausible. But in reality what are the implications of that? That pride in themselves and the jersey didn't exist before they failed to justify it? Without failure they could never understand or appreciate their responsibility? Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone? A ridiculous suggestion.
Another reason given for this brief and all-too-fleeting win is a lack of pressure: without the lodestone of the expectant paying public around their necks, without the crippling uncertainty surrounding their own careers and future and the aforementioned pride, it is easy to believe that they might feel lighter on their feet. However this is perspective is flawed. It is superficial and inaccurate because it pivots on a very basic understanding of people and their mental capacity to achieve.
In a world of video games and bad journalism it's easy to fool yourself into thinking that success in football and football management follow very simple rules, rules that can be quantified in three or four line rhetoric from that bloke at the pub, echoed by yer da. Of course this is nonsense. Pressure exists in all walks of life and at any one time the average person is assailed by it on a daily basis. There are few things in this world that can remove every obstacle from a persons mind and although it seems money would certainly help most of us, we're given reliable information that it doesn't. Young, old, rich or poor we are all vulnerable to the stresses of our lives and footballers, no matter how mercurial we make them out to be, are no exception.
To reach the dizzying heights of professional football takes brass balls and determination. Talent is one thing but without the drive and ambition to back it up it means nothing, the journey from grassroots to the realms of six-digit salaries and domestic stardom is paved with the bones of those that didn't have what it takes and fell by the wayside. There isn't a single man in the professional game that can blame pressure for failure because they wouldn't be anywhere near that game if they couldn't hack it.
You simply cannot blame pressure for abject failure. Imminent pressure from a defender will force a striker to blaze the ball anywhere but the goal, but the pressure required to cripple an entire team for an entire season does not exist in reasonable terms: we're talking about constant deaths in everyone's family, harrowing, daily dreams of a life not lived as anything but a footballer, war pounding on the walls of their very homes. That's not happening so we can safely ignore “pressure”.
No my friends, the requirements for abject failure are met at a higher level than fan expectation and some assumed lack of pride, and the same man that brings that smog of inability and mediocrity and self-righteousness to the club is the man that will lead it into the battlegrounds of the Championship. I wouldn't follow that man out of a fire, let alone into one.
So to tell me that these players, these grown men are so burdened by that expectation, to win even one third of the matches presented to them is an insurmountable task, is madness. It's an excuse, it's weak and it's for the cheap seats. The kitchen is hot and you know what to do if you don't like it.
Furthermore, let's not forget that a major factor cited by Moyes for not only our transfer activity but his squad selection, is experience and the ability to handle pressure. The likes of O'Shea, Cattermole, Larsson – all lauded as men that are used to this fight and can bring that to the pitch. Pienaar, Gibson, Anichebe, Lescott – all supposedly given contracts because Moyes believed they could steady that ship further and provide a bit of skill to boot. Laughable and, I believe, total bullshit.
I've said my piece previously on who we brought in and why I think it was done so I won't take you down that rabbit hole today. Suffice to say this is just one of a dozen examples of at worst sabotage and at best negligence from the boardroom, and if it isn't those things then it is certainly no less than a damning example of David Moyes' intelligence and tactical acumen. So damning in fact that the man quite simply shouldn't be trusted to make toast by himself, let alone build a Championship squad.
Damian is the host of the Roker Rapport Podcast, out each and every Sunday evening for free on iTunes and Acast.