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Sunderland v Morecambe - Sky Bet League One

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In the twists and turns to come, will we back Lee Johnson?

There will be more bumps in the road this season and Mark Wood asks if we’ll show more faith in these twists as the season progresses?

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Football is all about opinions and everyone is entitled to have one. We have fans who will be happy to talk football and lavish praise week in, week out when the team is winning then be unhappy and rant when the team is losing.

Then there are also those who you only hear from when the team is losing and openly call for the manager to go. Quiet at the moment while Lee Johnson’s team have built up an unbeaten run, they will no doubt be most vocal as soon as a game is lost. But having a vocal negative element in our support, isn’t something that is unique to our club.

Anyone who listens to post match national phone in shows on the radio will find them dominated from week to week by fans of whichever particular big Premier League side is going through a tough time. And no manager is safe from calls from fans to be sacked by the owners or hand in their resignation if a couple of results haven’t gone their way.

Early this season, after the indifferent start of his Manchester City team, I listened to City fans calling in to one show saying that Pep Guardiola had ‘lost it and should go‘ - I mean this is Pep we're talking about! Yet it was also a view given about Jurgen Klopp by Liverpool fans last season.

Up until early October, Arsenal fans felt that Michael Arteta was responsible for everything that was wrong with the club on the pitch, off the pitch and indeed, in life. Now, to listen to them you can only imagine Arteta stood with his hands together pointing upwards and a halo above his head.

Leicester City v Arsenal - Premier League
The new Messiah.. Pariah..Messiah of north London
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Others to incur the mire include Brendan Rogers who ‘has had his time at Leicester’ according to their fans. This the same Brendan Rogers who put the F.A. Cup in the trophy cabinet in May.

And when their teams struggle there is a sheer volume of unhappy callers from the club that is doing badly that they end up dominating the show. For example Radio 5 Live could easily have been renamed the “Manchester United Forum” in recent weeks. Proof if it was ever needed that the unhappiest man makes the most noise.

All of this we see at Sunderland. It is not a trait unique to our fans.

In truth it has always been there, with any sizeable club. Just that now with the advancement of technology, all fans can make their voices heard.

I actually want Lee Johnson to succeed. I remember watching one of his earliest games in charge, away to Wimbledon in January and after 30 minutes of Sunderland sweeping forward in attack after attack, for the first time in years I was on the edge of my seat thinking this was more like what we want to see (we won the game 3-0 incidentally).

This season, after a full pre-season behind his squad, we have been witness to some of the best performances we have seen in our whole time in League One, and beyond those years too.

Then in a complete polar opposite we have seen the downturn when performances fell through the trapdoor. Bizarrely, a team that can completely put another to the sword 5-0, can also just as easily get turned over. The 4-0 at Portsmouth wasn’t a blip that we thought it was at the time, with further heavy reverses at Rotherham and Sheffield Wednesday. For a side with an intention of gaining promotion this year, we have probably lost two or three more games than we would have liked to by this stage of the season.

Portsmouth v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Was our swim at Pompey just a blip?
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

What does it tell us? In my opinion, that while we have some real quality in the ranks that shines bright when playing poor opponents - and beating the poor teams well is a sign of a good side - there is a fragility, that can be exposed when playing tougher sides.

There is a case that this fragility, is born from our recruitment in the summer, as we targeted young, hungry players to get us out of League One. Many of them are in their first season of senior football, and undoubtedly discovering that while it can be easy to show off their talents when sweeping to a 5-0 win, they in fact learn a lot more in a defeat against hard working opponents.

Teams in particular that play a high press, an opposition tactic which we have never come to terms with in all our time in League One. On top of that, we have an injury list that has the first team down to the bare bones and an oncoming Covid tsunami coming in fast.

We have put a good run together, but we haven’t lost our last game. There will be more bumps and dips before we get to the end of the season, but I want to see Lee Johnson succeed, because if he does then Sunderland will have been promoted, hopefully playing some great football along the way.

And then we are all happy. Right?


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