Back in 1973, baseball legend Yogi Berra once famously said “It ain’t over till it’s over” - Sunderland certainly proved that in the FA Cup final that year, but the same really cannot be said of their current-day counterparts.
The saying itself is a tautophrase that really doesn’t make any sense if taken literally; however, when applied to Sunderland’s current situation, its meaning becomes pretty simplistic. Sunderland might not be down yet, but if truth be told, we’re pretty close to checking out.
So, with six games left to play we find ourselves at least six points from safety - where do we go from here?
TABLE: The @SkyBetChamp is shaping up nicely ahead of the run-in...— Sky Bet Championship (@SkyBetChamp) April 2, 2018
Not much movement following the Easter Monday fixtures, but where will your team finish come the end of the season? pic.twitter.com/esbXwlp0fh
Chris Coleman has been brutally honest in recent days, suggesting major changes are needed at the club in order to find success:
I knew that Ellis wanted to sell and I thought, in all my optimism, that we would probably have a buyer by now because this is a great club. And I thought that if we were still in the bottom three in January, maybe we would have more of a punt, to be honest, in terms of bringing players in.
None of that happened.
I also thought that I would have had a bigger impact in my own work, which hasn’t really happened – I look at myself as well. I’m not telling you anything that, if I had the chance to speak to Ellis, I wouldn’t say to him. Everything needs to change here.
Coleman sees where the issue lies, and in all honesty it’s plain for many to see. An owner in absentia cares little for the club, and as such there is no leadership and direction. As Coleman went on to say:
There are big, big, changes needed here, and I knew that even before I spoke to Martin. He laid it all out for me and I knew what was here.
We are just hoping and praying that it is in the Championship with a new owner, as opposed to anything else or anywhere else.
I found Coleman’s comments interesting at the time, yet largely ignored them when the club managed to reignite a vague sparkle of hope with their win against Derby last Friday. I, like many others, was absorbed by the prospect of another great escape, but it’s clear to see that Coleman knows exactly where the issues lie and I can’t help but agree with him - especially after yesterday’s disheartening defeat.
Poor business and a lack of transfer funds has seen our club plummet faster than China’s Tiangong-1 space lab; much of that is down to a total lack of strategy and involvement at the top. Like Coleman said, where was the backing in January when it was clear that relegation was a very real possibility?
I find the neglect almost criminal - why let your business sink?
We have six games left to find a miracle, yet that looks incredibly doubtful following yesterday’s loss. Coleman won’t admit defeat yet publicly, but privately I’d wager he knows our chances are incredibly slim.
That being said, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do, and Coleman perhaps has one eye focused on this summer with his recent comments. He needs backing, and it wouldn’t be too surprising if he decided to walk away from the club should he fail to find support in the wake of this torrid campaign. His critique of the club’s ownership is as much a safety net as it is a thrusted barb, and Coleman is being very coy in his approach.
Ultimately, what’s done is done, and right now all Coleman and the club can do is hope for new, dilligent ownership as well as some semblance of momentum going into the close season. The likes of Gooch, Love and Honeyman have all demonstrated solid levels of play in the last couple of games and should they continue to progress, then perhaps Coleman will stick around in the hopes of building a dynasty from scratch.
It’s all what-ifs and maybes, but something needs to change for the better if we are to carry any hope or optimism into next season. It might not be over until it’s over, but for Sunderland fans that’s a hard belief to hold right now.