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Barnesy’s Blog: “It hurts to hear the anger and frustrations of the Sunderland supporters”

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I can’t remember a time in all the twenty-seven years I’ve been a commentator, at any club, when I’ve felt such a disconnect between the supporters, the club and the manager as there seems to be at the moment.

Danny Roberts

Quite understandably the recent results have largely contributed to the wave of opprobrium directed towards the owners and Phil Parkinson, and it’s difficult at the moment with the performances of late to argue the fans are wrong to express their fury and their feeling of impotence at not being able to halt this seemingly inexorable slide down the League One table.

The judgement call to sack Jack Ross has been widely argued about, and despite the paucity at the moment of the results and performances under Phil Parkinson the general consensus still seems to be the decision to sack Ross was the correct one. The point of discussion rather seems to be over Ross’s replacement and whether it was the right one.

Luke Edwards writing in the Daily Telegraph argued that it’s time to stick with Parkinson, and all will turn out okay in the end. It’s hard for fans to digest as many are now adamant Parkinson was the wrong appointment. No amount of argument or pointing to Parkinson’s track record will assuage those who are of that mind. I’m not going to try to persuade any fans who are of that way of thinking that they are wrong. They could well be right.

Sunderland v Coventry City - Sky Bet League One - Stadium of Light Photo by Dave Howarth/EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images

My concern is: where do we go from here? We could argue all day and all night about the rights and wrongs of the past month, but the crucial thing now is what happens from hereon in. There’s no doubting the club is at a crossroads with the ownership, the team, its finances and its future. There are many fans on the cusp of leaving and not coming back. There are many more who will stop coming to games, but will come back when the good times return - but crucially the club cannot afford to lose anyone. If Sunderland is to once again regain its rightful status it needs everyone to remain on board.

It’s painful to watch the fan base fragmenting with fans angry, disillusioned and in some cases just resigned. Shrugging off the malaise where before they would have been energised in their disenchantment.

Appealing for people to stick with the club in these bad times is perhaps disingenuous of me as, after all, I’m paid to watch it week in week out wherever whenever whatever.

However both Benno and I care. Our lives are inextricably woven into this football club. Benno as a player, a pundit, a resident and me as a commentator and with friends and people very close to me whose lives revolve around Sunderland AFC.

Brighton & Hove Albion v Sunderland - Carling Cup Second Round Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

It hurts to hear their anger. Their frustrations. They question: ‘what’s going on?’. If only we knew. We haven’t got the answers any more than they have. The confusion that seems to abound publicly is a mere reflection of what appears to be happening behind the scenes.

There is a theory - chaos theory:

Chaos theory is an interdisciplinary theory stating that, within the apparent randomness of chaotic complex systems, there are underlying patterns, constant feedback loops, repetition, self-similarity, fractals, and self-organization. ... This behavior is known as deterministic chaos, or simply chaos.

It sounds familiar. Is this where we are at the moment?

It feels like it. A manager who posits positivity and has a football team closeted in the Academy of Light exuding nothing but positivity, surrounded by a City in which the football fans are feeling anything but positive at the moment.

What will change it? In the short term results. What would everyone give for a solid win and performance at Gillingham? It would be a start. It needs to start, because if it doesn’t the fragmentation and the anger will fester and the invidiousness will snake through the veins of the club. A win will at least imbue fans with some hope, albeit faint, that this can be turned around.

The remarkable fundraising for fans for the Community Soup Kitchen and Foodbank is evidence of the good heart at the centre of Sunderland. I hope and pray that heart is not too wounded by recent events that it struggles to recover. This all appears very dystopian, but that’s how this disconnect manifests itself in all my conversations and wherever I go.

I can offer no answers, and I too feel impotent that I can’t.