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Editorial: Don’t panic Mr Mainwaring, don’t panic...

“Not all managers deserve a second chance to put things right, but I think that given the way we started the season, there’s enough there that tells me Johnson can turn this short spell of horrific form back around.”

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

It’s pointless even trying to sugarcoat it - the last few weeks have been absolutely tragic for our football club when it comes to the results on the pitch.

I witnessed it firsthand away at Rotherham and Sheffield Wednesday, where I walked out early at both games because of how fed up I was with our pathetic performances - and I don’t delight in that, because leaving games early is something I’ve probably only done half a dozen times in my time as a Sunderland supporter.

Mansfield, though... That is a bad result on paper, losing without scoring in a home game against a side struggling in the division below. That said, does anyone actually care that we’re out of the FA Cup? I think deep down, people probably don’t care as much as they might have done when we stood a chance of winning it as a top-flight side, but we should still want to win every single game we play in - and a victory over Mansfield probably would have given the fanbase and the players a confidence boost that is sorely needed.

Football is a results business, and after four seasons at this level, it’s fair to say that anything other than promotion for Sunderland this season would represent a complete disaster.

We tossed it off last season, got done over by COVID the year before that, and chucked away automatic promotion and subsequently the play-offs in 2018/19.

The KLD takeover earlier this year signalled the start of a new era, but the management team he inherited remains in place - and Lee Johnson has been given ample backing and time under his new gaffer in the time that has since elapsed.

New Sunderland Manager Press Conference Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

With the help of several others, namely Kristjaaan Speakman, Johnson overhauled an aging, tired squad in the summer and brought in younger players that would be adaptable enough to play in a style that he wanted to see his side play.

And we’ve seen the benefits of that already this season - we’ve played some genuinely stunning stuff, and the youthfulness of the side has seen us turn in some impressive performances.

But - and this is a theme when it comes to the managerial career of Johnson - his side have clearly been worked out by our opposition, and we simply do not look prepared for it. Charlton, Rotherham, Sheffield Wednesday and Mansfield have all discovered that if you press the hell out of us in possession, and then create from crosses out wide when we are out of position, we have a backbone made of jelly, and are easy to play against.

That, combined with the crisis of confidence we’re experiencing, has led to some truly disastrous results.

Pressure is ramping up significantly on Lee Johnson, which may seem mental to some, given how well we did to get past Queens Park Rangers and into the League Cup quarter finals almost three weeks ago. We were all on top of the world back then but, in typical Sunderland fashion, we were brought back down to earth with an almighty bang - and now, there are some fans who want to see the back of the manager.

Johnson’s comments after the game have caused debate, and he sounds to me like a man who is feeling the heat - looking for excuses as to why his side just aren’t clicking.

For me, I think he needs to look more within.

He needs to stop panicking. He needs to refocus, both himself and his squad.

Frankly, he needs to start earning his money. Because this is where things usually turn for the worst for a Sunderland manager - but Johnson has the luxury of managing a side at the top end of the third tier, and a change in the overall mood is only really one or two good performances away.

Despite the fact that I’m as pissed off and angry as any other supporter, I simply cannot subscribe to the idea that a change in manager is what we need right now.

This may seem a crazy suggestion, but I think that it’s important we don’t panic too much.

I think we’ve all been guilty of that in the past, and particularly under Ellis Short, some rash decisions were made when it came to a change of manager in order to just get the club through another season.

Now though, things have changed. We’re a different beast, and whilst we can’t reflect too much on what has gone on in the past, we still need to try and take a breath occasionally, and consider what is truly within the best interests of the club.

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Sky Bet League One Play-off Semi Final 2nd Leg Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Is it another overhaul? I honestly don’t believe so, but that’s just me. You reading this might disagree, and that’s fine - opinions make the world go round.

Personally, I’d like to think the powers that be at the club won’t let their short-term panic get in the way of their long-term vision for the club. If they didn’t see Johnson as part of that, they would have gotten rid of him in the summer.

Not all managers deserve a second chance to put things right, but I think that given the way we started the season, there’s enough there that tells me Johnson can turn this short spell of horrific form back around. I’ve been impressed by the Lads this season at times and I know they’ve got it in them to improve - we just need to see it quickly.

Hopefully, a win on Tuesday will help us all to refocus, take a breath and look at what is more important - and that’s beating a very tough Ipswich side weekend after next.

Nobody knows more than Lee Johnson what that pressure is like, and I don’t envy him, not one bit. For his sake, he needs to work out what is wrong and fix it quickly.

Time to start earning your pennies, Lee!

But yeah, let’s not panic... not yet, anyway.

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