In the wake of a poor finish to our third League One season, and the looming promotion playoff scenario, I found myself reflecting on the year we’ve had, the time we’ve spent in this rubbish league, and what exactly the future holds.
As I’ve thought, I’ve been growing in bags of confidence and I hope it’s something we can all have heading into an important next couple of weeks.
Promotion Still In Our Own Hands
There has been an ever-growing air of negativity about Sunderland’s prospects of gaining promotion since our poor ten-game run-in to the end of this year’s campaign. While admittedly, the results have not been good at all, the overall form hasn’t been too bad and the finishing league position is better than we could’ve hoped for after the first few months of the season.
Three matches with a rested, and possibly well more fit squad is what now stands between Sunderland and a step back towards our proper position in the pyramid. Two legs against a Lincoln side who in truth are in no better form than ourselves at the minute and 90 minutes at Wembley (who cares who it’s against). Despite the recent form, despite the injury crisis, despite the automatic promotion that could’ve been, here we are.
We’re on the brink, with as good of odds as any to move forward. In my book, there all the reasons in the world for the Sunderland fanbase to be as positive as we have been for the last five or so years.
Promotion is NOT the Main Goal
One thing I’ve noticed in the past few weeks is how our losing out on automatic promotion may have clouded our ability as fans to see the big picture more clearly. The ecstasy of a Pizza Trophy in Wembley may have put us into a hysteria that is now leading us astray.
The biggest criticism over Sunderland’s freefall into League One and inability to get back out again has been the lack of proper organisation, asset management, and vision for long-term sustainability.
Owners and managers alike have been so shortsighted by quick promotion that they’ve left us in the shambles that we currently find ourselves. Ellis Short’s tenure ended with desperate grasps to leap right back into the Premier League by signing waning, aged, cheap players in hopes that our club's size and stature would magically gain our promotion.
Stewart Donald’s tenure was marked with massive asset stripping, selling our best young prospects and signing inexpensive, lower league experienced players. The players themselves are decent enough players and on the whole have given themselves to the job at hand. However, the vision of both Short and Donald was never in the long term.
Kyril Louis-Dreyfus has come in and restored, and in many ways, revolutionised the long-term vision and objectives of SAFC. He’s invested in assets, invested in fan relations and bolstered our backroom team off the pitch.
In other words, he’s building something. Lee Johnson has done an extraordinary job with the squad he’s inherited, and I have no doubt that he will continue to build on that with a fresh transfer window.
I believe we are in a great situation to be promoted through the play-offs this year. However, even if we aren’t, I can see incredible reasons for hope and optimism for Sunderland in the years that follow. Great clubs are built from the ground up. KLD has laid a foundation already in his short time that, I believe, will yield massive success in the very near future.