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Dwindling crowds, poor performances & a lack of leadership - is there any hope for Sunderland?

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Whilst it feels like Sunderland’s bad fortune has gone on forever, the reality of it is that one day things will look brighter. It has to, right?

Watford v Sunderland - Premier League Getty Images

While the Stadium Of Light isn’t exactly a white elephant just yet, the team that resides there are starting to become one. The club feels like a shell, an unfixable project, and while many have already spoke about how the soul is being ripped out, our latest surrender when we lost last weekend to Preston really brought it home.

Anyone who was in the ground last Saturday will be able to tell you how the attendance was far less than the figure that was officially reported. Come full time - and if you exclude the North End fans in the North Stand Upper (the latest travelling army we’ve witnessed have a great day out thanks to our hospitality) - there was about five thousand left, at best.

It feels like our home has been like this for a while now, but you don’t have to go back very far for a time when it was not.

Come May, it will be two years since a packed house was rocking as survival was attained with a commanding 3-0 win at home to Everton. Now, the SoL is an eerily silent ghost ship, with only a few hardened souls left aboard as the ghouls in charge steer us towards another storm.

Those in the stadium, and those who were there until recently but can’t handle the pain anymore, are the only ones who care that such a drastic decline has occurred.

Those running the club, they don’t care. They’ll spout platitudes about how they’re hurting as much as anyone, but they’re not invested in the same way that the supporters are.

Professional pride may come into it for a handful of the players but on a day where one player was stupidly sent offwhilst another acted disgracefully off the field, it’s clear that most of them aren’t particularly bothered about this football club.

Outside of the fanbase, the manager is the only one left who can convince you that they want what’s best for Sunderland, but with the chaos surrounding him, it’s difficult to believe that he can succeed.

So this makes you look outward as you desperately wish for some comfort and yearn for at least some sympathy. You hope our plight will be recognised by the football media, yet you’re met with derision. Instead of even just some faint praise for those daft enough to still turn up, there are jokes made about empty seats.

It shouldn’t be too difficult for any of the sports press to look beyond the surface and understand why many Sunderland fans are choosing to do something more worthwhile with their Saturdays. However, in the eyes of many, we aren’t “long suffering” in comparison to West Ham United or those poor darlings at Arsenal.

With no hope to cling on to and no one giving you a shoulder to cry on, you just want it all to end. It says everything about our situation that there has been an international break this past weekend and I couldn’t be happier.

International breaks, especially boring friendlies, are usually to be feared and not be enjoyed. At the moment though, with my enthusiasm for attending games at an all time low, just taking a few days away to watch something that doesn’t involve Sunderland has been blissful.

Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship
The majority of us believe in him.
Photo by Jack Thomas/Getty Images

I know that, eventually, the enthusiasm will return though and this malaise won’t last forever.

I’m dreading the last run of games because even in my heart of hearts, I know we won’t turn it around. Come August though, I’ll have made my peace with League One and I’ll probably be looking forward to it. There’ll be excitement for new away games, the hope that a few young players will come through and you never know, we might even win a few games. In short, basically all of the things that I hoped the Championship would be.

All it takes is a few wins for that feeling to come back and it doesn’t matter what league those wins come in. If this season has taught me anything, it’s that I don’t miss being in the Premier League.

Of course you want to see your team competing at the highest level, but “competing” is the key word, and that’s what I want to see Sunderland doing. I don’t want us to be just making up the numbers.

I think I can safely say that’s what most other supporters want as well. Look at the fact that there are still thousands of fans still clicking the turnstiles at the Stadium of Light, they’re coming in the hope that the team will show some fight and proudly represent both the club and the city. When that starts happening again, the crowds will come back because Sunderland supporters know we won’t win every week, years of failure has made us almost sceptical of any potential success, but we do demand that our team gives their all.

Sunderland Association Football Club is on its deathbed right now. There’s barely a heart left to beat anymore such is the damage done to a once proud institution of the game, and no one else cares about us. We’re a mess, we’re watching the worst team assembled in our entire history and it feels like no one cares about us.

It won’t be that way forever though, it honestly won’t. Who knows when it will turn around - it might take years, or maybe next season will be the start of the club getting back on track. Us fans will be waiting for it, though.

The players who are just passing through will be long gone, those at boardroom level will have taken cushy jobs far away from our football club, and the media will once again roll out the cliches of Sunderland being “a city that lives and breathes football.”

The stadium might feel hollow at the moment, but once the supporters are given a reason to fill it with noise again, the soul will return.