Sunderland are on life-support, only kept alive by a man who no longer cares for this delicate, cherished object in his possession. The beating heart - our fanbase - are struggling. In fact it beats less and less; with each passing defeat more and more people lose faith, tuck their tails between their legs and walk away.
I sit here as a broken fan, hurting having watched my club deteriorate right before my very eyes. And whilst I know that I’m not alone, never before have I felt as isolated as I do now. Supporting Sunderland has never been more difficult or challenging.
It feels like we’ve finally hit the bottom. No amount of social media campaigns and perfectly-designed video packages will do anymore, nor will soundbites about how we’ve trained well all week and are looking forward to putting the latest defeat behind us. Enough really is enough.
Just look at the table, for God’s sake. We’re SECOND BOTTOM of the Championship. Remarkably, we are just three points from Hull City in 21st. But time is dwindling away - we have only fourteen games left to save ourselves, many of which are against sides battling at the top end of the table. To say that our future appears ominous would be an understatement at this stage.
I have to ask the players, though - where is your professional pride? Your dignity?
Sure, this isn’t the easiest place to play football, but you are aware that only you can do anything about what happens between now and the end of the season, right?
We’re talking about the very future of a near 140-year old footballing institution. Relegation will mean, amongst many things, further job losses to ordinary working-class people that depend upon this work to pay their bills and feed their families. And that’s before we even consider what dropping into the third tier would mean for the financial health of Sunderland - it doesn’t seem plausible that we’d be able to run as we do currently with even less money coming into the club.
Do some of our players know this, understand this? Do they care? We’re told that they do, but we’re certainly not seeing it on the pitch. The only players that truly look like they want to be here are the lads that have been promoted from the U23s squad, eager to take their opportunity. That won’t be enough, though.
Experienced campaigners like Lee Cattermole, Billy Jones and John O’Shea are seen as the linchpins of this squad but aren’t capable of performing on a regular basis. Why is this? Are they finished? Have they given up too? Loanees like Ashley Fletcher and Tyias Browning don’t look up for it either. It’s worrying watch their body language during games. We’re relying on these men to sort us out and they just don’t look mentally up to the challenge.
I do wonder how this turns around when we have supposed leaders and loan players saunter around the pitch making it abundantly clear that they’ve given up and have had enough.
Even the rabble-rousing tones of Chris Coleman apparently aren’t enough to inspire them to work hard for every second ball, every tackle. With each and every passing game there are more and more examples of bad workmanship and defending; poor effort and desire.
I sat back and listened to our manager this morning in his press conference ahead of the tomorrow’s game and, in all honesty, I couldn’t help but feel like he’s putting on a brave face and knows that we’re defeated. He seems utterly resigned to the fact that his players don’t have it in them to turn this around.
He talked honestly about the players’ inability to play in front of the home crowd, of feeling the strain. He even conceded that we are more capable away from the Stadium of Light because there’s less pressure on them.
How has this happened? How has such a charismatic, powerful man been reduced to this? He deserves so much better than Sunderland.
I genuinely hope that there are members of the squad reading this, taking in every word. I’m just a fan, one of many that attends every game, that lives and breathes this football club, that bleeds red and white. You can never truly understand the pain that you are causing us.
So, I plead with them.
Go to Bolton and show us just what you’re capable of. Even if you’re hating every single minute of your time as a Sunderland player, deep down you have to understand what your negligence is doing, of what the consequences of your actions may be.
Roll up your f**king sleeves and face up to your responsibility as not only professionals but as men. Luckily for you there is still time to fix this mess and only you can do anything about it. I can’t stress this enough.