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Captain’s Blog: “Nothing. Zero. Zilch. That's what the supporters appear to mean to the club”

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“I'm not sure that the club right now feels like my club anymore, though, and that's what is making me so disillusioned”, writes Michael Graham.

Captains Blog Header Simon Walsh

I realised over the summer that this season will see an important personal anniversary for me. On the 24th of October, it will have been 30 years exactly since I attended my first Sunderland game.

That's depressing, and not for the reason it should be - not because it means I'm three decades older and fatter and creakier and balder than I once was. It's depressing because I can't ever remember being so disillusioned with the club.

It's not a 'modern football is rubbish' thing either. I actually really like modern football. Sure, it's different to the game with which I initially fell in love, but different doesn't have to mean worse.

I'm also tempted to say that it's not about struggling form and awful results either, although I have to accept that plays a huge role in it. In football, it's a lot easier to forgive winners because at least any shame and misery involved is counter-balanced by some joy along the way, too.

But that, perhaps, is the most revealing and depressing realisation of all: I have seen struggle and relegation and embarrassment, and in no small quantities, and it was all still better than this.

Back in the day there were very few ways to keep up with a game live.

Including my memories of listening to games on the radio and watching them on Teletext, last season's relegation was the sixth I've witnessed as a Sunderland supporter. Two of them involved a record-breaking low points tally.

This is still worse.

Because although they were rubbish on the pitch, at least it felt like my club. I suppose it's like when your kids drive you mad. You still love them, you're still deeply proud of them, and although you tell them off and urge them to be better, you still identify with them, all while they are doing stuff that other people's children doing would make you want to get as far away as possible as quickly as possible and never come back.

I'm not sure that the club right now feels like my club anymore, though, and that's what is making me so disillusioned.

The Darron Gibson stuff... although his delivery was lamentable, could anyone really argue with his words and sentiments? I certainly couldn't. Sunderland is a club riddled with an absence of self-respect.

Sunderland v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

And, sadly, the fans can't help with this one. We can love the club and sing about it and support it as much as we want, and the bare minimum we offer our club is far more than the maximum most other clubs can expect, but we can't make them respect themselves.

We can't force them to show pride in their work. We can't make them invest themselves. We can't give them a desire to be here.

I don't care how strong your love is for something. If you feel it's not appreciated, or it's taken for granted, or there is an absence of reciprocity, even at its most minimal level, it's only a matter of time before that flame dwindles to an ember before dying forever.

And that's the problem that the club are facing, and I'm not sure they have really grasped the severity of it.

Obviously, the boardroom can't be blamed for the attitudes of the players. There is an indirect path, perhaps, but it's not strong enough to equate to blame.

They can, though, very much be blamed for the total farce that was the 'Dafabet Cup'. If you want to see how much respect those running the club have for the fans, look no further than that, really.

The Dafabet Cup - we sold out.
@Dafabet

There was an opportunity, a chance for building bridges. 20 years of football at the Stadium of Light. 20 years of memories, emotion, pride, and identity to tap into, honour, and celebrate.

What did the club do with this opportunity? They sold it.

On the day, there was no fanfare, no celebration. There was nothing done for fans, no special efforts made for supporters. No parading of former players, no hint to history, no doffing of the club's cap to the fans who have made the Stadium of Light what it is and has been. Not even any fireworks or entertainment or even videos of great moments. No ceremony at all. Nothing. Possibly even less than nothing when you factor in the contempt which which the fans were apparently considered.

Meanwhile, the sponsors - the current ones, not latest in a long line who'll go just like the rest when we can no longer do anything for them - were bent over backwards for.

They got an opposition that suited them, and one that certainly didn't merit the occasion, the supporters, and the city. They got apparent free reign on the club's social media channels for self promotion. They got the game named after them.

Just digest that: the club sold a celebration of the fans and for the fans to a sponsor - and probably not for very much.

Nothing. Zero. Zilch. That's what the supporters appear to mean to the club. The evidence, right now, is damning.

I just hope they realise what's happening in time and then actually care enough to do something about it.

Right now, I'm not holding out much hope that they do.