It seems almost a lifetime ago when our former manager,Gus Poyet, revealed back in 2014 that something was not quite right with the deep-rooted culture at Sunderland AFC:
There’s something inside Sunderland, something at its very core.
It’s hard to explain but there’s a way of life, something deep down, that makes it difficult to fulfil its potential. There’s something there, something I couldn’t find.
If I knew what it was I’d say, but I don’t. But it’s there and needs to be changed at the root.
This somewhat cryptic message hit a nerve among Sunderland fans who knew deep down that something was just not right with their club.
How could manager after manager keep failing?
Only Big Sam seemed to really inspire confidence that something could be changed, a job he later revealed was “the hardest thing he had ever done” in football.
Rumours of a drinking culture inside the Sunderland team mixing with a disgraceful attitude and lack of professionalism were seemingly summed up by Darron Gibson, in August last year, when he was secretly filmed during a drinking session at the hotel he was staying at in Durham.
Following a 5-0 thumping at the hands of Celtic in a pre-season friendly Gibson slurred “we’re f*cking sh*t”, adding “there are too many people at the club who don’t give a f*ck”, before publicly shaming numerous stars including Wahbi Khazri and Lamine Kone.
There was a sad element of truth to those slurred words as last season marked a new low for a new generation of fans who asked themselves if it could truly get any worse. As we watched on in disbelief it became painfully clear that the majority of players truly did not care, nor wanted to be here.
As we assess the damage that has been done, the healing process will take time as players will need to be moved on and new players brought in, essential changes in order to help to shift attitudes at the club.
The moving of Rodwell in particular represents a key moment in the change already underway.
The arrival of Steward Donald and Jack Ross has also done much to ripen what was once rotten, bringing in a sense of fresh air to the club and a renewed optimism that has seen 21,000 season tickets sold for the upcoming season.
The very presence of Steward Donald, engaging with fans on social media and on podcasts is truly world away from Ellis Short who, like a rotten core of players, had wanted out the club for some time.
The restoration of pride in our club and a connection to the community once more is long overdue and progress has been made as recent seat changes represent a small but hugely symbolic change.
Pride and passion in our club is ultimately what is all about, if we can turn up and support the team again in numbers there is no reason why the Stadium of Light can’t be turned into a formidable fortress once more.
It has been a huge summer for Sunderland and as we look ahead to life in League One, the rebuild of the squad may not yet be complete but the rebuilding of a club and the culture behind it is thoroughly underway.
As we move forward, let us now finally say goodbye to the notion of a rotten core at Sunderland.