Blessed are they that Hunger...
There are dozens and dozens of biblical verses that reference hunger. If the revered cannon of scripture had been written in the last 40 years then surely the famine of the red and white legion would have been heralded as a parable of warning for disciples of football throughout Christendom.
I can imagine now, a host of sweaty, authoritarian evangelist preachers from America’s deep south hollering and hooting, shaking and shivering, forewarning their assembled throng of believers about the dangers of sinful leadership and the menace of weak and easily manipulated false idols who chase filthy lucre over glory.
I can envisage them screaming ‘Praise be,’ at the perilous consequences of blind faith and unrelenting support of the simple believer who worships Gods that neither deserve such devotion, nor appreciate it when they receive it. If any group of faithful devotees know about a famine of glory or a drought of greatness then Sunderland supporters must be first at the well.
In sporting terms, we have certainly known hunger and have faced many plagues. Yet we are preserved. We still remain. Such faithful resoluteness is worthy of both praise and honour despite our lack of tangible blessings that such reverence should bring.
Last week as of one of the devotees to the Sunderland cause, I was given reason to hope. We had entered talks with Garry Monk, who ticked many of the boxes I was searching for in answer to my prayerful solace. We need a leader who is young, energetic and unafraid to kick up dust in the face of pressure and declare ‘I will carry on.’ Turned down by professional clubs as a youngster he overcame the crushing glare of disappointment. He worked hard, he was relentless at his craft and at every level from League Two to the Premier League he proved his mettle when many doubted his ability.
What the doubters did not consider was his dignity and personal pride, his intense desire to succeed regardless of limitations. The same steely drive Monk took with him to Leeds, a club rich in history but steeped in toxicity and overwhelmed with the influence of a self-inflated tyrant unbothered by the pain of his people. With innovative coaching and an unflustered attitude to the work and despite surviving an early attempt to banish him from the club, he remained and took a team plagued by many pestilences to the edges of the play offs.
So when he was linked to taking over at Sunderland I was relieved that he could potentially likewise cope with the harmful and noxious swamps of the Stadium of Light. But he did not preserve. He did not remain. He fled to the lands beyond our southern borders, the lands where it appears that the terrible prophecies of the end of days have already happened, and no one has told them. A land so poisonous that even the plague of locusts thought ‘Sod this - shall we go to Mcdonalds instead?’
But I am not disappointed. I am not losing faith. Another has stepped forward into the pit of fire and declared he is ready to wage battle for the down trodden disciples and the unappreciated followers of the temple of Light. St Derek Mcinnes looks more than likely to be announced as our new leader by the Reverend Martin Bain and sanctioned by the Arch Deacon of Failed Plans, Ellis Short.
Some of my life-long friends, friends who’ve I’ve traveled around the country with supporting the lads and whom I greatly admire are unimpressed with Mcinnes place at the pulpit and are uninspired by the looming sermons that await us. They preferred the honest Monk. But for all of the same reasons I was happy about Gary Monk and more - I am optimistic and dare I say enthusiastic about Mr Mcinnes and his potential time at a place of worship we hold dear.
Mcinnes is also young and innovative. In his first post he took St Johnstone to promotion and stabilised them in the Scottish Premier League, where they had not been for 7 years. He saved Bristol City from the drop after an amazing 8 game unbeaten run and for reasons beyond his control was sadly unable to replicate that the season after. Undeterred by failure, he knew his worth. He understood his value. As did the owners of Aberdeen who took a risk on this young manager. Within a year he had won a League Cup (Aberdeen’s first success in 19 years), he took them to 3rd place in the SPL and they qualified for Europe for the first time in 5 years. He improved that with several 2nd place finishes and another Cup Final - all in a league where one crushing behemoth is immovable from the top of the league and his own club Aberdeen had budget for players not to dissimilar to my budget for Greggs pasties.
The Patron Saint of Misery David Moyes did not bring such achievements on his CV unless you count the Community Shield as a trophy. Nor could you class his reputation as innovative or enthusiastic.
Indeed we took a gamble on him on the bounce of two horrendous failures, where he turned a great, title winning team into a dull and average team, horrific to watch. He went to Spain, a place accustomed to quick, slick, pass and move football. They must have been wishing for Marty Mcfly to hit 88 miles per hour and take Moyes back to the time where tactics were written on the inside of cave walls. But we took a risk for he had kept the church of Everton mediocre for years and in our recent history, mediocre seemed like a golden hazed dream. But we gave him a shot. Now after a 3rd horrific failure I’m not certain who else will listen to David’s sermons any time soon, certainly not female parishioners who ask clever questions.
But McInnes has recently won things, recently been in finals, recently qualified for Europe and if that was not better than all of Monk’s achievements (which they are) it appears he wants to come here. I repeat - it appears he wants to come here. Brendan Rogers recently said this about his closest rival:
Can he (Mcinnes) go to England and work in a big job? Of course he can – 150 per cent he can. He has gone into Aberdeen and really imposed his way of working. I can look at it a bit closer since I’ve been here to see the job he has done. I mean they haven’t got a training ground for goodness sake – that is something fundamental... he is developing players without having a stable environment for them to come into and has made them very competitive.
Fellow Worshippers at the Temple of Light - this is a man who has forged a competitive team, qualified for Europe and fought for trophies and yet does not have a training ground to call his own.
He will not have such a harsh restriction at Sunderland but I’m guessing that the autocratic rulers of our team will impose harsh restrictions none the less. He can work on a shoe string budget, with limited players and under difficult circumstances - he can even rock a Jesus beard like you wouldn’t believe. Is there any better preparation ground fulfill his mission at Sunderland?
I never thought I’d say this after my hiatus into utter misery after our relegation, but despite his lack of glamour and big name appeal I am optimistic about the next Saviour in line. Let’s pray we aren’t searching our soul for a new one any time soon.