Last night was dreadful. Honestly, these last few weeks have felt like we’ve found the bottom of the barrel, and the way we’re playing right now I can see this season being another relegation battle. Relegation from the Prem was upsetting, but what has followed since has been nothing short of humiliating.
Simon Grayson and his squad must shoulder a lot of blame for the recent inept performances that have seen us ship 19 goals in 10 games - including 5 during last night’s horror show. We’ve looked frail, toothless and leaderless on the pitch, and the only people who can change that are the players who follow their manager’s instructions.
That being said though, what did we really expect from this season after losing 14 players and replacing them with a little over £1 million worth of investment in 10 new players? As an outsider looking in I’d view that as poor investment, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see this side struggling.
Don’t get me wrong, a few of our new signings look good additions - particularly Aiden McGeady, Lewis Grabban and Callum McManaman - but the majority of them haven’t really brought much to the club in terms of quality, and that’s clear to see from results alone. Martin Bain recently emerged from the shadows and spoke about the club’s good business this summer, but I’m sorry spending £1 million on a squad overhaul that has us sitting third bottom isn’t exactly impressive or astute.
The jury is still out on the other signings who have done little to impress since arriving at the club. However, it is worth keeping in mind that a solid number of last season’s squad have remained on the books, and their penchant for finding defeat has continued into this campaign. Billy Jones, John O’Shea, Lamine Kone, Bryan Oviedo, Lee Cattermole, Darron Gibson, Jack Rodwell and Didier Ndong all featured heavily during last season’s calamitous collapse, yet have done little to turn our fortunes around this campaign.
Look at that list and you’ll see a core group of players who we should be looking to as leaders. There’s an incredible amount of footballing experience between those names, yet for whatever reason they simply don’t seem capable of pulling the side together and finding a way to win. We obviously don’t get to see the inner workings of the dressing room, but those players and their vast experience really need to look themselves in the eye and ask if they’re giving everything for this club that affords them so much.
After last night’s game Grayson noted that:
It’s probably summed up when you go into the dressing room and one of the younger lads says, ‘we’re soft as such and such’ - and he’s right.
We’re too easy to play against, the opposition have too much time on the ball. They get two easy goals, that affects us, we don’t do enough to stop the opposition from playing.
At this level you have to stop the opposition then you can go and play, we haven’t done that again.
The fact that either George Honeyman, Lynden Gooch or perhaps Tyias Browning stood up and had a go at the rest of the Lads says all you need to know about this side: it’s clear to see there’s no leadership there.
And what do we expect when the entirety of the management at the club - from boardroom to dugout - doesn’t lead by example?
You’ve got an owner who tried to sell the club in the summer deciding that he doesn’t want to invest any more money into a sinking ship; a CEO who’s sole purpose at the club is to downsize and save money; a manager who was hired only after we were rejected by Derek McInnes and had buttons available to restructure a squad in dire need of a total revamp - many of whom are complicit in this chaotic mess in which we find ourselves. It’s a total shambles.
But what else did we expect? Negativity breeds negativity, and Sunderland from top to bottom appear to be the most lamentable club around.
There’s no short-term fix here, and what’s even more worrying is that there doesn’t seem to be a long-term solution either. Getting rid of Grayson doesn’t solve much because who would realistically come to Sunderland and get this side moving in the right direction? I’m struggling to think of anyone who wouldn’t fill the role of short-term escapist - a situation that has plagued us for many a year.
Essentially it just feels like we’re trapped in an endless cycle of negativity with no way of breaking free. Does this side look capable of turning the season around? The last 7 games with 6 defeats, 1 draw and 17 goals conceded suggests no.
We’re at that stage whereby something big has to happen in order to generate forward momentum - but where that cathartic moment is coming from is anyone’s guess right now.