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Barnesy’s Blog: Sunderland supporters just want their club back

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“Sunderland’s supporters just want their football club back - back where it belongs, but at the moment wanting it back and getting it back seem to be two very separate longings” writes BBC Newcastle’s Nick Barnes.

Danny Roberts

Concerning times. The football club is at its lowest ebb and no significant indication things will improve in the coming weeks. The opprobrium has swung from Jack Ross to Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven. Understandably in the circumstances - as Phil Parkinson has barely got his toes warm - but he is already feeling the heat, and feeling the burning breath of angry fans. Fans are disillusioned and bewildered, as the season which started stutteringly now appears to be fractured.

There is still time of course for things to turn around but the evidence of the 3-0 defeat by a team currently ranked 83rd in the top four divisions wasn’t providing fans with much proof a renaissance is on the horizon.

Arguably Phil Parkinson’s strongest eleven at the moment looked beleaguered and lost. Lost for pace. Lost for athleticism. Lost for ideas. Lost for pride. Lost.

The run of Cup ties adds to a feeling of rudderless incomprehension - the drab FA Cup draw with Gillingham, sandwiched between the bleak defeat by Leicester City’s youngsters and the humiliation at Glanford Park... or the ‘Sands Venue Stadium’ as its owners now wish it to be known.

Sunderland v Southend United - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Swallowed up in shifting sands, Sunderland are wading inexorably through, leaden legged and seemingly going nowhere - even arguably going backwards following an initial new manager bounce with the 5-0 defeat of Tranmere.

There was some hope after Tranmere, but it was swiftly dashed by defeats at Shrewsbury and Oxford, albeit both showed some encouraging signs as more chances were created but the failure to convert them stung badly. The win over Southend was laboured and old traits re-emerged that came fully to the fore at Scunthorpe.

News arrived this week that FPP Sunderland’s investment is a loan, secured against the Stadium amongst other outbuildings, and the Academy. Money the club dearly needs for major projects such as the Stadium roof. Neglect. One small word that covers a multitude of sins. Neglect in the infra-structure. Neglect in the team. It’s all coming home to roost.

Is there hope? Of course there’s always hope, but the feeling that Sunderland still hasn’t reached its nadir is becoming increasingly a concern. A change of manager has only highlighted that perhaps the problems on the pitch don’t lie with the man in charge but with the men they are in charge of.

Parkinson has struggled since his inception... Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Phil Parkinson is just the latest manager who has to grapple with a football club bereft of structure and with a playing squad clearly ill-equipped to deal with promotion from League One. The ‘stars’ are struggling; the burden placed on the likes of Luke O’Nien and Duncan Watmore to come to the rescue a telling and worrying indictment the squad is imbalanced with misfiring strikers; a midfield unsure whether to twist or turn.

The next few weeks are critical for Phil Parkinson. He has to limp to January with a squad looking low on confidence and hope he can wheel and deal to find a formula that works on the pitch. Then engineer the sort of form Roy Keane hit when he took Sunderland from Division One to the Premier League in 2007.

That’s the hope, but one fears the reality on the evidence of the last eighteen months is that January will be as frustrating as last January... and the January before... and until the problems of recruitment and structure are fully addressed and monetised then this vicious circle will spiral and spiral.

Fan anger is understandable, and their forbearance thus far has been commendable. Patience is wearing thin though. Sunderland's supporters just want their football club back - back where it belongs, but at the moment wanting it back and getting it back seem to be two very separate longings.