Recent events have led to much talk in the media of fans and clubs being deserving of success without much explanation as to why. I was always taught that success was earned not given and, despite this weekend’s disappointment, what we are witnessing at Sunderland AFC - in what is still early season - seems to be the beginning of a future sustainable successful era which is built on hard work and planning. And that feels good.
The media love to tell those who can still be bothered to listen to them that this club or that club is “deserving of success”. This completely disregards the fact that football is a sport, and whether it is the Premier League, League One, or the Papa John’s Trophy, football clubs enter a competition. Whether they do well or deserve to do well has nothing to do with anything other than the maximisation of the ability and effort of those who are participating in that competition.
It is difficult to understand why one set of fans is deemed to be more deserving of success than any other. Do Liverpool supporters deserve a Premier League triumph more than Everton fans? The media would make you believe so.
Does a season ticket holder at Newcastle United deserve success more than a season ticket holder at Hartlepool United? I don’t think so. All that such people have in common is that they have a season ticket at a football club, they don’t love that club any more or any less than the other. The whole argument is nonsense.
Ex-footballers declaring that the Newcastle players deserved the benefits of the takeover and the constant stream of media declaring how our near neighbours deserve success contradicts the essence of what sport and sporting achievement is supposed to be about.
North East football has been a desert in terms of achievement for 60-odd years. The reasons why are numerous and frankly quite boring, but the facts are the facts and they are that the three bigger clubs in our area have entered sporting competitions each and every season and achieved precious little. Sixty years is a long time for this to be a coincidence. They have got what they deserved over that period. This is not to mention the trials and tribulations that Hartlepool and Darlington have endured over the same number of years.
At the Stadium of Light, it is clear that an immense amount of hard work is being done behind the scenes, on the training pitch and each Tuesday night and Saturday afternoon. Now, success in League One, when compared to what is our ancient history and compared to what we - as fans and those in the club - would like to achieve is not a lot really.
But success it is and those who are putting those long hours in to re-structure the club, attend to the detail of careful recruitment and to rebuild bridges with the fans are clearly deserving of the signs of success and they deserve some recognition for it.
It is still early and there is a huge amount to do before anyone can claim any achievement or bar against which success may be marked. However, the local and national media continue to ignore what is happening at Sunderland. We should not be surprised by that really. Has much of the regional press pack really been interested in the goings-on at our club over the last 20 or 30 years? I would suggest not.
Now, when challenged, the Caulkins, Downie’s, and Edwards of this world will squeal that that they did a piece recently. However, when they do trot something out, it always has the feeling that it has been done as an afterthought, it is something that they had to do, a distraction from the day job, we had this feeling even when we were in the Premier League. Compare and contrast the coverage of the wilful destruction of our club in 2016-18 with what was merely inaction up the road.
The media more local to Sunderland have suffered as all provincial media outlets have done in recent years, and have had their voice and platform diminished and muted, although there is a sense that they could do much more and they should certainly be more confident and bolder. They need to be if they are to survive.
Perhaps none of this matters to those at the top of our club, but perhaps it does. It certainly does to us as fans as we often complain about it. We want our club to be recognised to be talked about, it is how we try to persuade those who have withheld their support over the years to return, helping in the rebuild of our club.
Since our relegation to this level, and in the absence of the national media lens, the marketing of the club has had to improve. This new regime seems to be much quieter than the last, and more content to let their actions do the talking they will be hoping that their hard work and the success which comes from it will do the job of the media for them. That is a position deserving of respect.
It would however only be natural to think that the media frenzy surrounding the events of the last fortnight will grate on those in charge at our club. Their quiet revolution continues, founded on good management and hard work without the spotlight being shone on them. It is clear that any success and recognition of that success at Sunderland will have to be earned, not given.