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The issues at Sunderland’s core require desperate, proactive attention

“I genuinely believed that things had changed at Sunderland but I can’t help but lament the way we’re headed. I want whoever runs this club to pour their heart and soul into it every single day.”

Sunderland Press Conference - Stadium of Light Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

Currently at Sunderland we’re stuck in a short-term mentality that - for a litany of very detailed reasons - has plagued this club under various owners and CEO’s.

For me, that is precisely why we’re stuck with Phil Parkinson as our current manager, entirely hinging our hopes on signing a bunch of new players in January to provide us with the short-term boost needed to get into a play-off position - well below the standards that a club of this stature should set itself at the beginning of the season when you’re in League One, surrounded by clubs unable to compete with our structure, fanbase and budget.

Ultimately this current mess could have been avoided when the reset button was hit in the summer of 2018. Stewart Donald had the opportunity to start afresh when Ellis Short left the club, with a clean slate in the form of wiping out our massive debts afforded to him by the kindness of the outgoing ownership.

What has become increasingly obvious, to me at least, is that he should have hired an experienced and qualified Director of Football along with a CEO to run the club day-to-day on his behalf. Where cuts were made both on the playing and internal side, they should have invested wisely in Sunderland’s recruitment and operational structure.

Sunderland v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Instead, ignoring what are very real problems has led to where we are now - mid-table in League One, with a bad manager trying in vain to achieve results with a poorly-recruited squad of players, in a club being run on a shoestring. We’ve got an owner who isn’t on Wearside to oversee things, and nothing else in the way of leadership within the club itself.

Not only do we lack in leadership, but we lack in standards. For me, this club should aspire to be the best it can possibly be across the board. Fools should not be suffered gladly. Anyone who doesn’t subscribe to our way of operating cannot be tolerated for long.

The last time we had any discernable standards that I can really think of was when Roy Keane was manager, and I yearn to see my club return to those days when we had a man in charge of the team who set the tone for the way everyone in the club - both above and below him - behaved.

The photo of Aiden McGeady and Chris Maguire eating a McDonalds after our defeat to Gillingham split opinion, both on social media and on the radio last week. On one hand you have people who think the whole situation has been a storm in a teacup - on the other you have people pointing out that such behaviours, however large or small, would not have been deemed as acceptable when, say, Roy Keane was our manager.

FBL-ENG-PR-FULHAM-SUNDERLAND Photo credit should read IAN KINGTON/AFP via Getty Images

The pervading issue runs far deeper than that, though. Culturally there has been a lack of standards from those employed by the club for many years - stretching back to the 80s, even. Kieron Brady spoke on the Roker Rapport Podcast recently about how Sunderland was described to him as a ‘holiday camp’ ahead of his signing way back when.

So has anything really changed in that regard, all these years later?

Nobody with the power to enact real positive change at our club takes Sunderland AFC seriously enough, and that’s the problem. There needs to be a very real and frank discussion in the near future about what this club aspires to stand for.

Leadership and standards start at the very top of any organisation. If the owners of the club are absent and in the eyes of the supporters don’t appear to care in our most desperate state then why expect anyone beneath them to hold stronger ideals? I genuinely believed that things had changed at Sunderland but I can’t help but lament the way we’re headed.

I want whoever runs this club to pour their heart and soul into it every single day.

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