As far as seasons go, this hasn’t been one of the better ones for the loyal fans of Sunderland AFC. Whether it’s the inevitable collapse on a Saturday afternoon or the hope that preceeds it, this campaign has definitely been nothing short of a disaster.
We ended our last term in the Premier League with the vain hope that we’d be too strong for the Championship, and would ultimately come back up in style.
Those lofty expectations didn’t unfold quite as planned, however, and the side led first by Simon Grayson and finally Chris Coleman failed to even retain their status as a Championship team, never mind challenge for promotion. Subsequently, the club has been relegated for the second successive season.
Even after the defeat which secured our fate, at home to Burton, I couldn’t help but think that I really wouldn’t rather be in anyone else’s shoes; wherever this club goes, I’m going with it.
While it will inevitably hurt to see us struggle in an unfamiliar division, for a fanbase that has become accustomed to disappointment in recent seasons, any form of improvement will be worshipped as if we were up there with the best.
The likes of Blackburn, Wigan, and even Portsmouth have experienced positive seasons in England’s third division this year, and while the latter haven’t ended up at the very top of the league, the feel good factor seems to have returned to Fratton Park.
This feel good factor is something we’ve been missing for some time now, but as we pass Blackburn and Wigan on our way down, there are signs that this disappointment may not last forever.
Wolves are another example of how the drop to League One doesn’t necessarily mean the end of a great club as they totally transformed their way of thinking to eventually gain promotion back to the promised land this season.
I, for one, am extremely proud of the fact that we’ve managed to get as many fans as we do to watch the shower we’ve had to put up with in recent times. Just imagine for a second if the Lads get off to a flier. Imagine the atmosphere as the crowds begin to flood back to support the team they were once proud of.
It is difficult to comprehend that this Stadium of Light is the same arena that managed to host sell out crowds against the country’s best not so long ago, but even a slight upturn in form will see the crowds rush back to see this special club on its hunt back to the glory days.
There’s one major problem with this, though, and that’s Ellis Short. Whilst the American businessman is still at the helm, the hope we once had will continue to dwindle.
We seem to have made significant steps recently toward removing the man who will likely be recognised as one of the worst owners English football has ever seen - even if it would appear that a small number of potential owners have decided not to persist beyond their initial interest in purchasing the club.
At this point, though, any takeover is welcome, and the recent suggestions prove there may just be reason for positivity this summer.
Our recent upturn in form has added to this potential positivity, and while it may well be too little too late, the signs are certainly promising. Our latest results haven’t included many wins, but there’s been a significant improvement in our performances with us managing to stay in games until the latter stages.
The 5-2 defeat away to Ipswich and the 3-0 defeat to Barnsley always come to mind when thinking of our most disappointing games this term, but these types of scorelines and performances have faded towards the latter stages of the season.
The belief of a team which has been apparently proven to not be good enough for the Championship surely improves tenfold when solid performances are put in; especially ones like the emphatic victory at Pride Park.
To motivate a group whose season looked like it would end with an almighty whimper would be a big struggle for even the best of managers.
I haven’t understood some of the negative reviews of Chris Coleman recently. Yes, he might wait too long to make a substitution every now and then, but when you analyse our position it would be ridiculous to suggest we’d be capable of attracting anyone with better credentials.
In my opinion, we’re lucky to have him, and the time to judge him will be once he’s got his own squad in place. The players we signed in January were all brought in on bargain-basement deals and I don’t truly believe that Coleman truly wanted many of them.
At least this summer represents a chance for him to get rid of the players we don’t want or need and, in turn, replace them with the right type of characters that are needed to give this club solid foundations upon which we can build.
Although Coleman may not have the perceived necessary experience to tackle League One, I’d much rather have him than any other lunatic who would take this job given our current plight.
Finally, we’ve got a fantastic group of young lads coming through who seem to be up for the challenge. The likes of Honeyman, Maja, and Asoro have featured more heavily this season, and proved they have the quality to compete at this level, never mind the league we are heading into. If we can keep hold of them and build a side around them - things could look a lot brighter next season.
It’s a big ask, but things might just change for the better this summer. One thing’s for sure - Sunderland fans will be there in their droves to support the Lads.