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Opinion: “This run-in is going to test Sunderland’s nerves - and our reaction matters!”

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Sunderland’s dip in form caused unrest from some sections, but with a nervous end to our season ahead, our support could be vital in ensuring we emerge from this campaign victorious.

Sunderland AFC via Getty images.

It’s very easy to criticise. I have, and still do, on a daily basis because it’s difficult when you’re in that troubling moment. It can be difficult to be emotionally invested in something, whether it’s an idea, movement, vision or organisation and not react when it’s not going the way we would like, so we lash out with negativity.

It’s the same when the beautiful game isn’t going the way we’d like. We all immediately react, and need a direction to vent because it helps to process what’s just happened, or is currently happening.

However, in the age of social media and the immediacy of news and analysis, the most extreme views and comments can often gain unwanted momentum or debate.

For example, our form since the turn of the year has generated some fairly extreme reactions that have been surprising - especially when you take into account our recent past and the fact we had to essentially reboot the club last summer.

Sunderland’s form so far in 2019

But maybe it’s not surprising that negativity gains a lot of momentum? Maybe it’s the way of things?

Within the reaction to our form in 2019 there was an increasing number of voices calling for a change of management. This opinion was generated by a tiny fraction of supporters, but it was enough to provoke the opposition to vocalize their feelings, which then generated a higher volume of debate on the subject than the initial suggestion warranted.

In recent years, most, if not all of us, have been there. We’ve checked the websites, we’ve clicked the refresh button, and we’ve even read the papers if we were desperate, praying for one of our failing managers to get his P45.

This was the result of mismanagement of the club and generated a culture within the upper echelons of the club and also with the fans that a high throughput of managers was expected.

Ellis Short made 15 part or full time appointments to the Sunderland hot seat in only 10 years.
The Mirror

There has always been an argument that fan reaction influences owners of football clubs and how they view what management team they have in place. It’s always been an action taken by club owners to remove the manager, and then make a popular appointment to get the fans back onside.

With the platforms available, and they way they are used, most viewpoints have now become immediate and extreme. This, in combination with the volume of comments exponentially increasing, creates pressure like never before on owners of football clubs.

It’s maybe a coincidence, and possibly weighted by taking our club as the example, that in the last ten years we’ve had 16 appointments as either manager or caretaker manager of the club. In the ten years before that it was 7, and then 5 in the ten years before that.

The League Manager’s Association end of season report published at the end of last season highlighted the current trend across the board, where the average tenure for all managers (as of 31st May 2018) was 1.53 years and managers dismissed during the 2017-18 season were in a post for an average of only 1.18 years.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Even though we had a decent tenure in the Premier League whilst churning through those 16 managers, there was only a few seasons that gave any sort of satisfaction with how the club performed.

We’ve seen abject failure by the management on the footballing side over the years and we know exactly what it looks like. This isn’t it.

What Jack Ross has done so far is probably expected due to the stature of the club, but it wasn’t a certainty that we’d be in the promotion mix and it hasn’t been easy making sure that, at this stage, automatic promotion is in our own hands.

There is no denying we have drawn too many games we should have won; the manager will be the first to admit that fact and take criticism in some form.

But only losing 2 out of 33 games, being unbeaten at home, scoring in every game this season, only being out of the top six in the first two weeks of 2018-19 and a semi-final of a cup still to negotiate, is a pretty useful platform to enter the final third of the season.

Sunderland’s league position progress during this season so far

We’re also not used to this situation as we once were; it’s been around 12 years since the club have been in a race that could end in going up automatically or needing to navigate the lottery of the play-offs - and this one looks like it could go all the way.

In the last twenty years we’ve only had three seasons where we have been pushing for promotion to the tier above and nerves are going to play a huge part - especially as there is arguably more pressure on us than the other clubs in contention to achieve promotion.

It’s difficult if it doesn’t go the way we’d like, we invest our time, money and emotion into the club, but our reaction matters, especially during what could be a tense run-in.

Reflection in the event of any perceived failure can wait until the end of the season, until then, it might go a long way to filter out the extreme stuff and get behind the team for the next step to what could be a successful season.