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Eleven days that may just define Sunderland’s season

“I have a feeling the crucial decisions that have been made by SAFC’s hierarchy in the last 11 days will indeed define our season”, writes Michael Oates.

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

I wasn’t entirely sure where to start when writing this.

There’s been a heck of a lot of wreckage to pick through over the past 10 days or so, but at the beginning is usually a good place to start when undertaking any assessment; the beginning of the implosion of our season, and the moment the self-destruct button was pressed at SAFC once again.

On the 29th January, as if we all need reminding, Sunderland were mauled at Bolton Wanderers. It feels like a lifetime ago considering what has happened at the club since. Whether you backed the decision to sack Lee Johnson or not, the way the club has been run since then has been nothing short of a disgrace.

Has something happened behind the scenes? There were rumours of discontent among the playing squad in November after our first dire spell of the season that all was not well and Johnson could lose his job. Results picked up, however, and we found ourselves in top spot going into the new year. There was a feel-good factor on Wearside; with many supporters fully believing that this could finally be the season that we won promotion.

The cold hard facts are that we have won once this year, that single victory coming in a period of seven matches.

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Sky Bet League One Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

We threw points away at Wycombe, imploded at home to Lincoln, conceded late at Accrington and have now lost three on the bounce to sides at the wrong end of the table. Something had to change after Bolton, and the club’s hierarchy decided that would be the manager.

Kristjaan Speakman and the rest of the staff behind the scenes handled the madness of deadline day on their own. Jay Matete was brought in under the radar among the euphoria of Jermain Defoe’s arrival. Incomings were signed without a manager in place.

The club sanctioned Tom Flanagan’s move to Shrewsbury; a decision that has perplexed many supporters. Has Johnson signed any of the players since he took over? Or have they been provided for him? Has he had some say? Who knows?

The sacking decision was explained to the playing squad, many of whom, if reports are true, were left reeling at the decision.

All of a sudden SAFC’s ‘project’ looked in tatters. It has led to further inevitable scrutiny on the ownership of the club as well, but that is a conversation for another day.

The search for a new manager has left some fans describing the whole process as farcical.

Sunderland v Hull City - Sky Bet League One Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

The likes of Grant McCann, Patrick Kisnorbo, Neil Lennon and Alex Neil have been strongly linked, but there is one obvious outstanding candidate.

The club have admitted this themselves.

We have given temporary charge to Mike Dodds which has been an unmitigated disaster. We have thrown six points away with two dire, abject performances under his watch. His interviews and assessments have been car crash stuff.

Forget about second interviews, process and any other rubbish that the club wants to spout. Time is of the essence and we haven’t much of it left. The job should have been immediately offered to Roy Keane. It is a simple as that.

The fact remains that if the teams below us win their games in hand, we will find ourselves sinking down into 8th spot; which is incredible considering where we were after beating Sheffield Wednesday 5-0 at the end of December.

We have 15 games to salvage the season, and some prospective managers may think privately that the size of the task ahead is too great and that this campaign cannot indeed be rescued. Others may see this as a free hit with nothing to lose.

The play-offs are our only hope. If we fail, the fingers of blame will be pointed at Lee Johnson and of course, the players. I however have a feeling the crucial decisions that have been made by SAFC’s hierarchy in the last 11 days will indeed define our season.


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