Perhaps one of the most intriguing facets of Sunderland’s support has came to the fore over recent weeks whilst results on the pitch have faltered slightly - the variety of opinion on the team’s current situation, the validity of each one, and the acceptance that not everyone agrees with each other.
It’s something I felt like addressing today, because viewing social media and message boards since the game and for most of this morning has been interesting to say the least.
First and foremost - everyone is perfectly entitled to their opinion.
Whether you want Jack Ross out, you think George Honeyman isn’t very good, or if you can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to get behind the team, your opinion is just that, your opinion. And if people feel like they want to disagree, that’s fine too - provided it falls within the bounds of decency and respect, of course.
So it’s disappointing to see so much mud-slinging, personal insults and accusations flying around, just because people don’t agree with each other. Surely, we as fans are better than that?
One thing I’m sure all Sunderland fans can agree with each other on is that we want to see our team do well in League One, and the EFL Trophy, and get promoted back to the Championship this season with a couple of trophies in tow. How we get to that stage is obviously up for debate, but as supporters we all obviously want to see our team succeed.
So you have to ask - do illogical comments and petty insults help the team to get where it needs to be, or help fans to understand one another? We can reasonably debate a tactical decision without flippantly bringing the manager’s intentions into question, for instance.
We can query a substitution or a team selection without losing sight of our end goal. Healthy debate encourages others to come forward with their thoughts, but poor form dissuades people from engaging in debate with other fans.
Ultimately the only opinion that counts when it comes to the final say on tactical decisions, team selection and everything in between is that of the manager - and come the end of the season I’m sure a proper and thorough inquest into how the season panned out will be undertaken.
But, until then, I personally feel that we as fans have to do our utmost to back manager and place faith in the team to get us to that end goal. If we don’t, we can very easily become part of a far more negative and distractive problem. And that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t give their opinion on matters, but that they have to be mindful of what their words mean and the impact that they can have.
You only have to think back to the way Stewart Donald spoke in his recent Roker Rapport Podcast appearance about personal abuse levelled at him and his family during the transfer window. Yes, we get incredibly frustrated as fans, particularly when we think people aren’t doing their utmost for the club, but does that mean personal abuse is warranted?
Venting your frustrations in the stands and on social media is part of the game for fans these days and nobody should be denied their right to do that, so long as they don’t take it too far. Having an opinion is fine unless, like I say, you overstep the mark.
So my message to my fellow fans would be this - please don’t take anyone else’s opinion too seriously, because it’s just that, an opinion that they hold and believe themselves. Accept that not everybody agrees with what you have to say, and if you do put your feelings out there be prepared for reasoned, meaningful debate with others that want to engage.
Fair enough, isn’t it?