Right, let’s all admit it - at the beginning of this season, absolutely nobody predicted that Charlie Wyke would have scored 27 goals for Sunderland by the end of March. And rightly so, his return over the previous two years had been 11 in 60 games. Today, he’s a fans favourite on his way to becoming the top goalscorer in the league as we charge towards promotion back to the Championship.
We all were wrong; terribly and beautifully wrong. Si Señor, as it turns out all Wyke needed was a manager who would inspire confidence in him and a magician who would provide him with guilt-edged scoring opportunities on a regular basis, and he will score (in League 1, at least).
Last week many thought Callum McFadzean shouldn’t play another game in a Red & White shirt, then on Saturday he plays well, pops to score a bullet header and we’re all loving him. But hindsight is a wonderful thing and admitting when we have misjudged something or changing our minds when the evidence changes is good for the soul.
Cognitive dissonance, the holding of two inconsistent beliefs in our heads simultaneously, is an uncomfortable feeling, but one that ultimately pushes us towards changing what we once previously thought in the light of evidence and experience. It doesn’t make you a hypocrite, as long as you’re honest about it.
We can flip-flop, u-turn and contradict our previous opinions without being disingenuous; half the joy of the game is having our expectations confounded and being proven wrong (until, of course, we’re proven right again after a string of defeats).
I, like many writers and podcasters here and elsewhere, was initially wrong about Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven. It’s not re-writing history to look back and see that large parts of the fanbase were taken in by their PR stunts, ambitious plans and straight-talking manner, as well as their coopting of the goodwill of the dedicated people who contribute to fan media for their own ends, whether that was by letting them appear on our podcasts or hosting talk-ins and comparing at the fan-zone for them.
When Roker Report and other groups changed our mind about them following the disastrous appointment of Phil Parkinson and the failure of the FPP takeover - leading to the December 27th #DonaldOut statement - we faced widespread accusations of trouble-making. I even penned a Roker Report article a few days later about why I and some of our other contributors were not wholly on-board with the campaign. I was wrong, but it took an in-depth conversation with Dave Rose of Red & White Army to make me reconsider and get fully behind fan group moves to push Madrox into selling up.
To get a different perspective on this, I asked my fellow Roker Report editor and our podcast interview king, Chris Wynn, what felt better; being right about Will Grigg (he famously was the only sceptical voice on our January 2019 transfer deadline-day pod) or being wrong about Charlie Wyke (Chris invented his own ratings scale for Charlie earlier this season, just before his goal-spree began). His response to my question was nuanced and absolutely correct; it doesn’t feel good either way - he desperately wanted Grigg to prove him wrong and still thinks Wyke’s game is limited, but absolutely welcomes his upturn in form. And we gently rib him for it on the pod all the time too.
We should also admit that we all enjoy the feeling of schadenfreude that comes when the misinformed or ill-judged opinions of others turn out to be the nonsense that we’d always thought they were. I felt it pretty keenly when those making claims such as “there is no takeover”, “it’s a fake-over”, or “nothing will change if Donald retains ANY shares in the club” when there was little-to-no evidence to support such hot-takes beyond a vague “you can’t trust anything Donald says”, were proven wrong.
We all heard these calls across social media and other fan media outlets throughout the latter half of 2020, and no matter how many times evidence of the deal progressing were presented, the scepticism - based on bitter experience but little more - persisted. Yet, when Kyril Louis-Dreyfus did take control and started to rapidly improve all aspects of the club, supporters were more than willing to change their minds and become enthusiastic about the prospects for the club under his ownership. But we should also admit that Stewart Donald has kept one key promise - to sell the club to a good owner not the first chancer to put in a bid.
True fans don’t want Sunderland to lose just in order to be proven right about this player or that manager; only an extremist faction of the fanbase wanted results to go against us earlier this season in the misguided belief that somehow this would force out Stewart Donald out a little quicker, or push the club into the hands of Madrox’s creditors.
A few people - including esteemed members of our local press-pack - were also taken in by the incredible and unreliable character, William Storey, and his mission to sell a few crates of energy drink on the back of our club’s troubles. But it’s good to see that many of these same people have now come to see the Storey story for what it was, a cynical attempt to manipulate fans’ desperation for change in order to further his own profile.
We all have our opinions on football, it’s what makes it such a compelling and all-encompassing passion for so many people around the world. Ultimately, the truth is that 99.9 per cent of Sunderland fans who raise their voices on fan forums, social media or contribute to fan media want one thing and one thing only; to see our team win week in week out.
And it’s absolutely our prerogative to get it wrong and change our minds. It would be nice if we could remember this fact when calling out others for their mistakes too.