On what it has been like since relegation was confirmed...
I think it’s all still very raw, very new for us. That feeling of failure is a harsh one, a difficult one to take. But, nevertheless, it’s one we have to take, we’re responsible for it.
And of course the uncertainty of everything, of what’s happening with the club, who’s going to own it, what’s the plan - so we bounce from one negative to another, so it’s tough at the minute. It’s hard for everybody involved, it’s hard for the staff, we don’t know what’s going to happen either, as well as the players, so it’s tough all round.
But we’ve still got two games to prepare for, so we’ve still got a job to do between now and the end of the season which is, what, ten days away or whenever it is, so yeah - we’ve got to get on with it.
On Ellis Short and whether he’s spoken to him...
No - still no conversation with Ellis, there’s nothing I can do about that, all my conversations are with Martin, our Chief Executive, who has been here for a bit longer than me and has almost - this season anyway - been the front-man, at the front of it taking all the criticisms and this that and the other. But he works his socks off, Martin Bain - and there’s not a lot that he can do about it, he’s got a menu and he’s got to stick to that and get on with it. And he’s worked his socks off to try and do the right things for Sunderland.
And of course, we are where we are - we’re relegated, it’s the unthinkable but it’s happened. The club needs a lot of change, which is obvious, but because of the uncertainty it’s open season for criticism. We can be criticised for everything we do, everything we’ve done, everything we haven’t done - now’s the time when we’re all in it and we’re faced with that - it’s football, it’s the way it goes.
A club like Sunderland almost floating aimlessly in the dark. So until we get someone to come in and say “there you go, there’s a plan” we can start working towards it. We can’t yet because we don’t have anybody to do that, to tell us what we’re able to do, what we’re able not to do.
On his own future as manager...
We were at the Player of the Year awards last night at the Stadium. We were there - myself, the staff and all the players. The supporters last night were... I don’t have the words to describe how good they were with us, and we didn’t exactly deserve anything from them cos we haven’t delivered, but they were remarkable really.
And I said I wanted to come and manage Sunderland. I never wanted to come and manage... I never exactly set out and said “I want to manage in the Championship” - I wanna manage Sunderland Football Club, and that’s where I am. It hasn’t gone the way we wanted it to go, the way we hoped for it to go, but nevertheless I’m still here, and I still have the opportunity to put things right here. Again - that won’t be my decision, that’ll be someone elses. Who’s? I don’t know, but it’s not like me “right, that’s it for me” - I think its a super football club, I do, it’s a great football club. It’s in a position where it’s very tough and it’s attached to a lot of negativity cos of two back to back relegations.
We’ve not been able to stop the slide, but it’s still a great football club, regardless of what anybody says. We’re an easy target now - you can say what you like about us, pick this level, that level, whatever... easy target - and no doubt that’s what’s coming, and that’s fine.
It won’t always be like that, it won’t - for me, for the people here, for the football club - we won’t always be where we are. So it’s fine at the minute, easy target, things will be said, no problem. It won’t always be like that and the sooner we know who it is that’s gunna be here and what the plan is, then we can just get on with things and start moving forward.
But, right now at this minute, it’s complete darkness and that’s unnerving and it’s unsettling.
On the importance of finishing the season well...
Of course, of course. Now we know where we are, in terms of on the pitch, there’s only one goal now and that’s promotion, that’s obvious, so that’s what we’ve got to build towards. How we do it, though, that’s the big uncertainty. For us we have to bounce straight back - it won’t be easy but it’s doable.
And who knows, I think in the long run there’s been a lot of things wrong here maybe to get to the level we’ve got to, and to the low where we are, we need to go there to clear some decks, to revive it and replenish and start moving forward. So time will tell whether that happens or not and who is gunna be sat here doing that, but you’re dead right - clubs drop for whatever reason, things go wrong, you can’t stop it, you’ve gotta just ride it out, see it out before you move forwards, and that can happen here that’s for sure.
On the Fulham game...
We’ve got a job - we’ll have travelling supporters there tomorrow night, we won’t be doing a job for anybody else. The season’s 46 games - I’m not complaining to anybody else cos we’ve been relegated, that’s our fault, our problem. We try and take care of our own business and if anybody gets promoted, or relegated, it’s because its on them and its across the season. So, we’ve got a job to do tomorrow night for our supporters and for the club.
Yep - points, in terms of us in the league standing, that’s not gunna effect anything, but the performance - we’ve got a duty to make sure we do our best tomorrow night.
On players “wanting to be here”...
Well we mustn’t let that that happen because that won’t say a lot about us. Whether you wanna be here or you don’t wanna be here, people still look at you and judge you, because even our players have got careers after this season.
You look at people and you judge them on things like that. We’ve still got a job to do - we can’t go down to Fulham and think “ah there’s only two games left, let’s just get on the pitch, let’s get off it, let’s get home”. It’s a game of football. We’ve got to go and make the most of it, get the most out of it. It’s easy to sit and start licking our wounds and feel sorry for ourselves and “my god, this is so bad”, yep it’s all that, but like I just said we don’t have to stay where we are, simple as that.
I think people enjoy it sometimes when they see someone else in a gutter. Everything’s going wrong for them, everything’s low, everything’s negative, cos then its spotlight off them if you like and “let’s keep pointing fingers in that direction, look at how bad that is, aren’t we lucky that we’re not there”. But you don’t have to stay there, we don’t have to stay where we are.
Yes we are at the minute - it’s hard, it’s tough, it’ll pass. It will pass. But you see next season, whoever’s here, this club starts winning games - you see the difference in the place.
And I know that through experience; through going to other clubs and going from one season to the next season and its two different clubs. Same club, different feeling.
So right where we are now its hard, open season for criticism, that’s how football is, no problem, but we won’t always be here, we won’t, I know we won’t.
On persuading players to stay...
Truth of the matter is, it doesn’t matter what you, me, Martin Bain, anyone else says to an individual, they’ll make their own mind up. People can’t see that this is a good football and people can’t see that they’ve got a future here to build, especially the younger ones. Then that’s up to them and they’ll have agents, they’ll have agents that are not actually their agents promising them this, that and the other.
That’s not something we can affect too much, we can sit them down and say; “This is a great club.” It’s much better to sit them down and say; “This is a great club and this is what the plan is.” As of yet, we haven’t got a plan. Your Goochy’s and Honeyman’s and those young boys, you want to hang onto them and you want to build around them, that’s obvious.
On Jack Rodwell playing tomorrow...
I don’t even know where Jack is, to be honest with you. So, he won’t be involved and I’m sure if there was a sniff of a first-team appearance, I’m not sure he would be 100% fit for it, so I don’t think that’s going to be the case.
I’m quite sure we’ve gone down the legal route of that situation. We’re stuck with a player that doesn’t want to play for Sunderland Football Club and wants to leave. But then, where’s he going to leave and go to? So, there’s the conundrum.
If you’re here and he’s got one more year on his contract, he doesn’t want to play for us, so fine, go and player for somebody else, but the stumbling block is the contract. So, we’ll see, it’s the end of this season now. I know Jack did that big article about wanting to play for England again, so to do that, he’s going to have to go and play football somewhere. So, the proof is always in the pudding.
On injuries ahead of tomorrow...
Maja has been complaining this week with a slight problem, but he’s going to train today, he should be alright. McGeady has been playing for six weeks with injections in his heel, so he won’t be available for tomorrow. Lamine has trained this week and has done OK, he should be OK. Billy Jones is 50/50 after last week. Bryan has had some work done to his hamstring and his lower back, but he won’t be available for this week, but he should be available for a full week’s training next week.
On potentially giving chances to youngsters tomorrow...
I think we’ve gotta be careful with - for them, you know, that we don’t put them in too early. And like Maja’s had game time, Asoro’s had game time, Ethan Robson’s had game time, even Embo had game time. He played away to Wolves, too soon really but it was needs must, and did okay.
But we’ve still got to go with a team I think has got the best chance of doing something tomorrow night cos you’ve still got to protect the young players as well. You put someone in too early and you know it can be detrimental to their future as well, if you put someone in too early.
And make no mistake about it, we’re up against one of the best teams tomorrow night who are playing for everything, so it don’t come much tougher, so we’ve gotta go with the strongest team we can that we think will be the best match for Fulham, who are a very good team.
On how we can finish positively...
Just finish it right and we’ve only got five or six days of training and two games of football, it’s not a lot. We’ve just got to finish it right and in the right matter. There’s nothing we can do about our position, we’ve just got to finish the two games off properly.
Ironically enough, it’s been a bit like that for us where the last two games are against the two best teams, but that could be a good thing for us, a big test. We’ve just got to finish it off in the right manner. Again, we can’t change our fate, it’s done, it’s sealed. However, we can approach both games with the right attitude and that’s what we must do.