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Sunderland v Burnley - Sky Bet Championship

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How do Sunderland deal with our recent off-the-field issues?

“Saturday’s game was possibly one of the most unenjoyable days to follow the Lads,” writes Michael Dunne, who is worried by some of the things he’s seen and heard recently at home games.

Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

Saturday’s defeat was the strongest candidate for Sunderland’s worst performance of the season so far. Tony Mowbray’s ambitious changes in personnel looked exciting on paper - but certainly did not work when put into action.

The midfield of Dan Neil and Abdoullah Ba looked rather hopeless and devoid of leadership or direction - which highlighted the importance of Corry Evans. In addition to this, the rather bizarre decision to drop Alex Pritchard was not the right call as he sets the tempo for the team and how we play.

Mowbray will have much to ponder going into Friday’s game against Birmingham City. From my perspective, I find it difficult to blame him too much considering the hand he has been dealt, but at the same time our defence looks far more open, and our attack is far less effective since he replaced Alex Neil.

Sunderland v Cardiff City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Cardiff City FC/Getty Images

There is also a question mark around the constant rotation of players and it’s maybe no wonder that we can’t find any consistency in our play if there is constant chopping and changing. Hopefully this will become less of an issue when the likes of Stewart, Alese and Gooch return to fitness.

Whilst it is clear we have one or two problems on the pitch, it seems apparent to me that the biggest issues facing Sunderland as a club at the moment are those off the pitch.

I feel like this isn’t the first time I have written about this topic - again I am left confused by some people who support our team. Saturday’s game was possibly one of the most unenjoyable days to follow the Lads.

Naturally, when things are not going too well, frustration levels simmer and fans want to express this frustration. That is normal and it is what being a fan is all about, but Saturday’s game was not one where I felt toys had to be thrown out of the pram.

The throwing of items at the Cardiff goalkeeper, the paper balls being pelted onto the pitch as our own team attacked and at Cardiff’s Callum O’ Dowda, booing some of our youngest players as they start their first game and fights breaking out with away fans just left me bewildered and disillusioned at the direction of where some of our fans are taking us.

Sunderland v Cardiff City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Cardiff City FC/Getty Images

It appears to me that ever since we got relegated from the Premier League, the behaviour of certain sections of our support has simply gotten out of control. A constant barrage of abuse, racist slurs from individuals who feel they were born to be hooligans are making us look amateur, backwards and just a little foolish.

It can be summed up by the booing of the Cardiff team taking the knee before kick-off which was greeted by booing from primarily those in the South Stand, without a thought to the fact that we have three or four black players who represented our club at the weekend.

Political views aside, which in fact shouldn’t even be involved in football, this sends a negative message to these players before a ball is kicked.

In all honesty, whether the booing the knee is for political reasons or not, it just sounds racist.

From my perspective, I feel the club has completely turned a blind eye to the behaviour of some of our fans. They seem afraid to actually deal with issues head on and instead sends out statements from time to time that are generic and don’t tackle the issue.

All this tends to do is invigorate the people who like to cause trouble. About three weeks ago, I sent an email to the club about threatening abuse that I was receiving from people who supposedly support the same club as me. To this day, I have yet to receive a response.

On the weekend, some of my friends from Dublin came over for the game and their lasting impression was not the poor performance, but the vitriol they could hear all around them at the game.

I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the last time they made the trip - but who could blame them?

This club is fantastic - and our fans are generally amazing. It is what I love about us as a club, and why I dedicate so much time to supporting them, but things have changed a little lately.

Sunderland’s board are eager to be progressive and modern with the direction of the team on the pitch, but the truth is we won’t go anywhere quickly if some of our fanbase continue to lag behind and leave the majority of us reeling from their behaviour.

The biggest issues facing this club are off the pitch and they must be dealt with swiftly.

Blackburn Rovers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - Ewood Park Photo by Isaac Parkin/PA Images via Getty Images

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