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Blackpool v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One

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Was this inevitable?

“We are all guilty of getting over-excited when Sunderland are on a good run, and guilty of getting too down after a few defeats. Was it always inevitable that a play-off position was the best we could hope for?” asks Dave Holloway.

Photo by Dave Howarth - CameraSport via Getty Images

The uncertainty around the club and the lack of investment in proper scouting and recruitment have led to inadequate transfer dealings in each of the windows since we slipped into League One, and for many windows prior to that. This has had one result - an unbalanced and inadequate squad for the job in hand.

The deficiencies are obvious: we have a lack of pace in midfield, we lack of variety up front, and there’s a complete overreliance on a bit of magic from Aiden McGeady - nothing has really changed since 2019, has it? If we add in the fact that we are now on to our third manager in three seasons, then is it any wonder that we are where we are?

The Phil Parkinson era was a disaster that was too late in ending. Now is not the time to depress ourselves with thoughts of that awful 12 months or so. Lee Johnson came into a club teetering - a mess of a first-team, with issues on and off the field, and still at that time there was an unanswered question over the future ownership of the club.

Fleetwood Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

So, what were his chances of achieving a top-two finish?

If we are honest with ourselves I am sure that we all agree that they were slim.

Despite injuries to all of our first-choice defenders and first choice defensive back up at the same time - Johnson found a way to get results, but this was only for a time. It took a dozen or so games for our opponents to work us out. Fixture pressure and injuries meant that there was no time to change things.

Over the last three games we have reverted to type - this was inevitable.

We have plenty of decent footballers; they have talent which at times makes you think they are better than League One but there are good reasons why this squad are playing at this level. As good as McGeady is he is 36, he can’t be expected to perform to the peak of his abilities twice a week - ditto Grant Leadbitter. We rely too much on the quality of those two veterans who have played way above this standard.

This is a squad that has performed probably to its maximum potential.

It is a superior League One squad that lacks some key attributes.

Sunderland AFC Training Session Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

They have performed to par - yes, they can beat anyone in this league - but it is a 46-game season, and three years in a row they haven’t been good enough to make the top two.

That tells us all that we need to know.

So, we shouldn’t be disappointed, we are where we deserve to be and all that can be done is to hope - to hope that Streaky Johnson has a well-timed winning streak in a few weeks’ time, but if that doesn’t happen, then we have another hope.

The hope that the progress which has been made off the pitch in recent weeks by the new owners bears fruit - not just in the summer transfer window, but in a succession of transfer windows, and that next season and seasons after that are better ones.

This really needs to be the case whichever division we are in, and there is still plenty of hope that it can be in one higher than League One.


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