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Could Sunderland have a reason to grumble if the season was decided without completing it?

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In today’s roundtable, our writers discuss IF Sunderland would have reason for complaint if decisions regarding promotion were decided without finishing the season. What do you think?

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

Would Sunderland have reason for complaint if the League One season was decided on current league position or average points per game and ultimately miss out on a chance of promotion?


Gary Engel says...

If Steward Donald’s pre-season boast that Sunderland were going to aim for 100 points this term had been achievable, I doubt there would have been a peep from those at the Stadium of Light right now. However, our current position in limbo makes the 100 points claim all the more ridiculous.

With the club’s resources, compared to the majority of those in League One will always make Sunderland an early promotion favourite. The side effects of that of course, is the pressure of heightened expectations as well as being the side most of League One raise their game against. Those factors have counted against us ever since relegation from the Premier League.

If, on paper, Sunderland’s resources are seemingly far greater than the rest of League One, then the fallout if promotion isn’t achieved at the second time of asking could be seismic.

As so many in the footballing world have highlighted, the future of lower league clubs could in the next few months hang in the balance. The Black Cats’ best hope of financial stability is to find a buyer, which would prove easier as a Championship club rather than a League One side.

Sunderland’s wish to complete the season has been called ‘selfish’ by some, but in the coming months the decisions that are made may be deemed very self-centred as it becomes a case of every club for itself.

Sunderland’s desire is understandable, plus one thing that occurs to me. If this season can’t be financed by clubs or completed safely, then just when will another season be given the go ahead to begin?

Coventry City v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Philip West says...

Although we might well cite the unusual and unprecedented circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic and the (apparently imminent) cancellation of the league campaign as evidence that promotion has been taken out of our hands, I don’t think that, in all honesty, we can complain about the likely outcome, which will be a third consecutive season in League One.

Before the season was paused, Sunderland’s form had taken an alarming dip, culminating with two damaging and potentially terminal losses against Coventry and Bristol Rovers. We’d stuttered with a less-than-convincing last gasp home draw against Fleetwood, and then thrown away a priceless home victory against Gillingham. In all four matches, we had control of our own destiny, and on each occasion, we were unable to capitalise.

Over the course of the season, we simply haven’t looked like a promotion-winning team on a consistent basis. The abysmal run of form that we experienced throughout late October through to mid-December set us back enormously, and we were forced to play catch-up because of it. Although we turned our form round admirably over the New Year, you always got the sense that we our promotion hopes were extremely fragile, and that it was based on a sense of hope, rather than expectation. Playing catch-up leaves you with virtually no margin for error, and almost every game became a ‘must-win’. Unlike promotion-winning SAFC sides of the past, coping with pressure on a regular basis was something that, sadly, the 2019/2020 squad was unable to do.

One thing that this season has shown is that this Sunderland team is simply not adept at chasing teams down, which is a valuable lesson for next season. We simply must develop a cold, ruthless streak, and try to become, in league position terms, the hunted, rather than the hunter. Easier said than done, admittedly, but it simply has to be the aim.

Yes, there are ‘what ifs’, and I’m sure there will be a good deal of finger-pointing and apportioning of blame, but as it was last season, our imminent failure to get promoted will be a collective failure. The players, the manager, and owner must all shoulder a degree of responsibility.

Coventry City v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images

Martin Wanless says...

You can argue we are where we deserve to be, of course. However, seasons play out over 46 games (44 in our case) for a reason. And that is because it isn’t over until it’s over.

While I disagreed with the tone and some of the content of the recent statement issued by the club calling for the season to be finished, I do believe we should finish the season on the field. Whenever it is safe to do so. To do otherwise threatens the integrity of the league.

You can dissect games as much as you want, however the fact remains that, before the ‘break’ we were joint 6th, and - I believe - would have made the play offs.

We have a good squad - a squad that, I believe has under performed in large parts of the season due to the early form of Phil Parkinson’s reign.

However with the fitness work Nick Allenby had done, and the relative depth of our squad, we could very well have finished the season strongly.

While we had suffered a dip in form, it’s easy to forget we went into the Coventry game - only 3 games ago - in forth place with a chance of climbing higher.

The fact that, at this point of the season, with eight games left - only two of which are against teams in the top half - we had a huge chance of being in the play offs. And that’s a lottery, as we know.

Morally, using a computer to finish the season and promote or relegate teams is wrong.

We should either write off the season and start again when it is safe to do so, or finish the season when it is safe to do so.

Sunderland v Wycombe Wanderers - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images