For any Sunderland fan who grew up in the late 90’s, sentences such as “you don’t know how lucky you are, son!” and “you should have seen us when we went down to Division Three” were common place.
Worn like a badge of honour by our forefathers of Wearside - it was a nod to the fact that supporting the Lads was about following through on your support, come Hell or high-water. Always being there, and always bleeding red and white. Our league position and the division we were in was irrelevant - you’re Sunderland, and that’s how it stays.
But when I look back on this season - a period that is about to see us relegated to the third tier for only the second time in our entire history - I can’t help but think when I am old and grey that the sentence “where were you when we had a trio of f**knuts in Lee Camp, Jason Steele and Robbin Ruiter guarding our nets?” might just be my rallying cry to whinging teenagers complaining about not getting into Europe or whatever in 2039.
Yes, even after our recent resurgence in form which could have otherwise seen us put up a fight against relegation till the bitter end, Cardiff loanee Lee Camp - with all the stature of Yoda - has been culpable in many of the bad situations we’ve found ourselves in in recent weeks.
Some people have claimed up to thirty goals have been shipped due to our “goalkeepers” this year. What might have been if we didn’t have a bunch of brain dead charlatans masquerading as professional footballers? How many goals and points have they potentially cost us this year?
Bad goalkeeping was almost unheard of on these shores until the summer of 2017. With an impressive list that contained the likes of Jordan Pickford, Craig Gordon and Simon Mignolet as our former stoppers, seeing the likes of Jason Steele and Lee Camp flap around their box has been utterly soul destroying.
It’s a thought many of us have had. Could we have legitimately stayed up had we a decent goalkeeper this season? It’s a difficult question because it’s simply never ending and comes loaded with too many ‘what if’s’, but what is more evident is that had the likes of Martin Bain, Simon Grayson and Chris Coleman done their homework on who they were bringing in - we would have stood more of a chance.
Hanging onto David Moyes for way too long ended up costing us (and Bain) dear but in a series of mistakes made by the former Rangers CEO and Ellis Short, but perhaps the decision to sell Vito Mannone was one of the most catastrophic.
The Italian goalie was prone to his own occasional erroneous performances, but failing to scout his replacement and adequately replace him could be the lasting legacy under his stewardship.
Martin Bain took the reigns of a club - at least on the face of it - that was on the up on the pitch. A positive end to the campaign under Sam Allardyce had Wearside in a buoyant mood, but his mistakes since taking charge have had grave consequences. His highest profile, right next to the appointment of the now-West Ham boss Moyes, is his decision to cash in on a goalkeeper who would have - at worst - proven himself to be an experienced and decent all round stopper in Vito Mannone.
With Lee Camp’s ‘performance’ at Reading helping condemn us to almost certain relegation, now is time for Martin Bain and Chris Coleman to begin the search for a number one that can be relied on - and by God do we need one! Going into League One with the likes of Steele & Ruiter (thankfully Camp isn’t ours) just feels like a recipe for yet another arduous struggle, albeit at a lower level.
None of us can feel sorry for ourselves this coming summer, least not Bain, the players nor Coleman. The mistakes have been made and we will begin 2018/19 in League One for only the second time in our history, but rather than wallow in our own misery as we have done this season, we need to begin to pick apart exactly where things have gone wrong in the Championship and find a remedy to fix it - fast.
We haven’t got time to piss and moan about how it could have been better because this club is too big of a machine to grind to a halt, or fall down any further than it already has. We need to start the renaissance and claw back the passion that has crept in over the past few weeks, find players with ability and an attitude to match.
There’s a huge rebuilding job to be done across all areas of the club, but when you do start Mr Bain and Mr Coleman, please begin the rebuild from the back.