There’s nothing more fashionable at the moment than chaos. The UK barely has a functioning government, the star of The Apprentice is in the White House and Blind Date is back with Paul O’Grady as presenter. It’s difficult to know what is real and what is fiction.
So Sunderland’s decision to embrace uncertainty is very en vogue. It’s looking highly likely that we’ll be entering pre-season with no manager, a paper thin squad and with a change of ownership on the horizon.
As we prepare for our upcoming Championship campaign we’ll already be playing catch up with the rest of the division. While other clubs are bedding in their new signings we’ll still be looking for ours. While new managers will be assessing their respective situations, we’ll still have a vacant seat in the dugout.
It’s hard to retain any optimism ahead of a promotion push in the face of such instability - well, unless the strategy is to put our chairman in charge for the first five games only to bring in a recently retired player to galvanise the club and storm up the league.
A more realistic approach would be to just cut our losses and go for an experienced Championship head. Let’s put the sale of the club on hold and just navigate some choppy waters. Get a manager who will steady the ship and you never know - maybe they’ll grind us into the promotion places at a minimal cost.
You know the type of gaffer that I'm alluding to. It’s Neil Warnock smugly grinning after a 1-0 away win to Brentford. It’s Simon Grayson looking up at his own personal glass ceiling. It’s Mick McCarthy’s raised eyebrow.
Promotion under the tenure of a Championship journeyman wouldn't be all that exciting or progressive - in fact, it would in many ways be like one of our many recent scrapes with relegation.
Whilst it would be exhilarating and certainly enjoyable it ultimately wouldn't address any of our pressing issues. We would be looking at Sunderland back in the Premier League but with an owner we know needs to move on and a manager who is probably out of his depth - strengthening the squad won’t be easy because of those factors. October rolls around and we’re typically winless, out goes the manager and the survival mission is back on. Everything will have changed, yet our situation remains the same. Even after a relegation and promotion, the cycle continues.
It’s with that in mind that I don’t mind writing off this coming season. If Sunderland AFC is to really change, that needs to come from the very top and a change of ownership is crucial to any future success. I won’t get into the pros and cons of Ellis Short’s time on Wearside but it’s clear to even his biggest apologists that it’s time for him to part ways with the club. Making sure that happens is more important than securing the signature of any manager or any player right now.
Changing ownership would hopefully signal renewed investment in the club. It could open doors to a higher calibre of manager than the ones currently linked with the job, which in turn can help us to attract better players. If our prospective-yet-mysterious new owners have a vision for the club, we could be sat a year from now full of hope for a better future. Imagine actually going into a new season with some consistency? Of course, that is dependent on how we perform next season (us fans will need to see some evidence of an identity and a plan) but having a transfer window where we just need to strengthen vital areas, rather than overhaul an entire squad, would be bliss.
It feels like we’ve already reached rock bottom and the only way is up from here. However, that has to be done through careful rehabilitation so that we don’t end up back in the same situation in a couple of years time.
There’s so much that needs fixing at Sunderland and supporters have to accept that a quick fix isn’t likely to be helpful in the long term.