Wednesday night saw Sunderland succumb to their fifth defeat in eleven games across all competitions this season. In the wake of the midweek defeat, Simon Grayson admitted to the Sunderland Echo that the cup defeat was in part due to the fact that weary legs were rested ahead of this weekend’s game at home to Cardiff:
It was always going to be difficult with the team we put out – we certainly had one eye on the weekend.
Grayson’s words suggest that the gaffer has clearly identified this weekend’s contest as a crucial clash, and while few want to label the game as a must-win - in reality most know just how crucial this game could be.
We haven’t won at home since December 2016 - it’s been almost a year since we were able to leave the SoL with a smile on our face and three points in the bag. How utterly depressing and dreadful is that? You want to scream and shout, and ask what’s gone wrong, but in reality we should be asking what’s gone right?
And yet despite all the tripe presented to us over the course of the weeks, months and years gone by, thousands will still make their regular pilgrimage to the banks of the river Wear tomorrow hoping beyond hope that the men who pull on that red and white shirt, who represent their city, culture and identity, will give them something to cheer about.
It’s hard not to be pessimistic with so much negativity surrounding the club right now, but we need to find hope from somewhere. We need just a small glimmer of ambition in order to help stoke the flames of our one-club romance. It’s easier said than done of course, but the players need to perform. For us, for Grayson, for themselves. We need to see them give their all.
Furthermore, Grayson needs to instill a sense of pride in his men. Where’s the blood, thunder and passion synonymous with the North East? Where’s the desire to rise up from the ashes and fight back against the odds? The club talks about getting back to the roots of the region, but we’re not used to giving up without a fight. We might not be the prettiest place in England, but we’re proud, hard-working and determined to succeed. Can we say the same of the Lads wearing our shirt?
I won’t sit and complain about budgets and planning because whether we like it or not this is the side who will for the next three and a half months take to the field wearing our colours - they alone have the opportunity to turn this season around and cement their favour with a fanbase who would give almost anything for a shot at success.
Yes there’s all sorts going on behind the scenes, and yes a lot of it is upsetting. However, life is about living in the moment, and Sunderland’s players simply must stand up and be counted. Leaders need to step forth and rally the troops because right now we’re struggling, and we need to halt the slide.
Forget the flash cars, women and watches, this is about self-respect and the desire to succeed. These lads need to look themselves in the eye and ask if they’re leaving everything on the pitch because to us that doesn’t feel like the case right now.
Do these men want to win? Do they want to be remembered for more than the numbers in their bank account? Do they want to embrace that primal desire to be the best? If any player was to read this article I’d hope that they’d say yes to all of the aforementioned questions. And not just because that’s what they should say, but rather because they want to succeed, they want to walk away content with the feeling of victory.
We’ve looked sluggish in recent weeks, and toothless at times, too. But one win could make all the difference. Tomorrow is a new day, and a chance to start afresh. Passion, desire and getting the basics right are key to any victory. Now is the time for our players to stand up and be counted. Now is the time for something to change.