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Sunderland are back in their rut, and absolutely no one is leading them out of it

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The game against Gillingham was a shambles. The team were a shambles. The manager was a shambles. This club is an absolute shambles. Who is leading the fight to prevent that?

Sunderland v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

In some religions it is believed that life is a wheel. The souls of all living things have past and future lives, and where they land on that wheel is determined by their deeds in those lives. Do good things, come back as Sexy Zlatan. Do bad things, come back as a skidmark on the pants of Alan Brazil. It’s an easy choice to make (those pants are roomy and there’s central heating year-round).

So what the f*ck did Sunderland fans do to deserve to come back as a Sunderland fan? I mean, we can’t all have been Hitler. One of us, maybe, and there’s a handful that might have been SS, and some diabolical scientists in the field of Eugenics, and if that’s the case then fair enough - f*ck those guys. But not all of us.

Maybe it’s being banked in some ethereal account, all these shit sandwiches we’re eating. Maybe when we die we go to Valhalla or something.

”What fay path brings you here, lost soul?”

”Areet ow. What’s this? I was just on me way home from the match and got smashed by the number 18, then I woke up here.”

”Ah. A mackem. Your long journey is over, warrior. Take your place at the right hand of Odin.”

”Mint.”

Seems a bit optimistic though. Instead, we seem to have more in common with the players of Greek tragedy. Doomed to sacrifice everything on a fruitless quest beyond our comprehension, struck down by fickle gods and cursed to wander the banks of the River Acheron, waiting for entry to the underworld. But when I go to pay the ferryman he gives me an annoyed expression and, frustrated by this 30,000th mackem on his shoreline, explains that he doesn’t accept “that sh*te” for passage to the other side. I look down and see an SAFC season card in the palm of my weary hand.

I look up and I’m on a sunlit field. I can see Yann M’Vila running through the heather. He’s calling to me, reaching out with both arms. He’s smiling and the sun shines from his golden teeth. But I’m moving away from him. My legs are stuck in a deep slurry of mud, and the French demigod can’t reach me. He wants to, but he can’t. He’s crying now.

I woke up screaming.

In all seriousness though - what is happening right now?

It’s a familiar kind of irony that in spite of early attempts at a productive, ongoing dialogue between club and fans, those with the answers to our questions are holed up in a bunker built to weather the apocalyptic storm of impending relegation to League Two, or at best the withering fallout of our nuclear exit from any place of relevance as we continue to sit in the toxic pall we’re becoming accustomed to. Mutating into feral creatures with a language consisting primarily of boos and hisses, interspersed with the odd surprised yelp on the rare occasion we score a goal.

I’ve defended Phil Parkinson too many times to count, purely on the basis of his short time at the helm and the creaking old tub he’s supposed to be steering safely into port.

If it hadn’t been made clear to me before our spluttering defeat at the hands of the mighty Gillingham, it damn well is now - barely anyone entrusted with the Sunderland torch is fit for purpose.

I won’t go so far as to tar the younger players with this brush (though many are simply not very good), but the older heads in that squad are taking the royal p*ss. Most of these people remind me of nothing so much as schoolboys chortling at the substitute teacher when he turns his back to scribble “forward passes” on the whiteboard.

A picture of McGeady and Maguire sat in a McDonald’s enjoying a not-at-all earned waste of calories is an iconic image of the absolute clip of some of these men. Watching in mute shock as Parkinson failed to utilise his chosen substitutes to reinforce a needlessly second-string team in a match they were obviously losing, is about as much as I can take.

What the f*ck happened on Saturday? What was that? What purpose did that serve? What statement did that make, other than “I’m really not equipped to do this job, lads”; the telepathic SOS that Parkinson unwittingly sends out whenever he’s in the dugout.

The game against Gillingham was a shambles. The team were a shambles. The manager was a shambles. This club is an absolute shambles. Who is leading the fight to prevent that?

“Knock it off with the fancy words mate - it went tits up!”

Leadership isn’t a mystery. It isn’t difficult to understand the role it plays in all aspects of football. Underestimating the value of leadership is done at the peril of any club. Flat out ignoring the need for it at all is suicidal. So why don’t we have any?

Who now holds the fate of Sunderland AFC in their hands? Who holds the keys that unlock the door to some semblance of a tolerable reality? It isn’t any of the players on the pitch. It isn’t Charlie Methven. It isn’t Juan Sartori. It isn’t Phil Parkinson. It really doesn’t feel like Stewart Donald. It certainly isn’t an American consortium of billionaires intent on making us the 4th richest club in the world.

Jimminy Christmas - now I say that out loud again for the first time in months I realise what an utter mug you have to be to believe that’s coming true.

I’m guilty of whimsy, and glad to be, but I have to kick myself for my reckless naïveté in rushing to defend these men who came in riding shining armour, and slunk out wearing rags in the cover of darkness. I have to take responsibility for spearing my own inherent cynicism in a bid to regain my faith in this institution. I have set myself up for a fall in many ways, as have many others, but in the end that is our prerogative. We have the god given right as football fans to build up our hopes; like the framework for a monument that someone else must construct. We have no right to expect success - no football fan does - but we have every right to expect no less than the utmost efforts to achieve.

Does anyone feel that has been the case? I feel hard done by.

January may be fast approaching but every other day in the calendar is too, and with them the swelling fear that we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the last two years. Like the Groundhog Day from Hell, Sunderland AFC are back in their rut, shoelaces tied together and heads firmly in the sand. What a f*cking travesty.