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Opinion: “These are exciting times for Sunderland!”

“Hopefully, this is a new start and the beginning of the resurgence. I’m not sure I can take another false dawn”, writes Jack Shields.

Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Have you caught your breath yet? I’m not sure I have, actually.

Who would have known when travelling down to Bolton on Saturday what was about to unfold in the next 72 hours?

We had arguably the worst result in our history, followed back the sacking of the manager, and then the return of a club legend to get pulses racing!

Thrown into that Wee Phillie doing his best Louis Theroux-investigative journalism impression, and it was one of the most memorable weekends in the history of following this crazy club.

Sunderland were simply appalling at Bolton Wanderers.

No fight, no desire... nothing. We were comprehensively outplayed by a side that sat barely mid-table before the match started. Take nothing away from the hosts, they played well, but there really is no excuse for such a heavy loss.

Bolton Wanderers v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

The goals were as painful as they were frequent. It was hard to pick the most embarrassing. Perhaps the mix-up between the defenders and Thorban Hoffman or maybe the way they carved us open for the third or was it even Danny Batth’s laughable own goal?

The capitulation wasn’t a one-off either. There’s been Portsmouth and Rotherham and Sheff Wed... When you look at the sheer amount of times it’s happened, it’s a sign of a team that isn’t learning from its mistakes.

Our goals against column reads 39 and we’ve still got a good chunk of the season to go. The fact that after the new year we’ve conceded two lots of three-goal hauls and a six, is worrying. Teams with leaky defences are rarely successful, even if we do have one of the best attacking records in League One.

It was, in my opinion, the worst result in our history. To be beaten so heavily in the third tier of English football - it will be a low-point for years to come.

With that, Lee Johnson was gone. I don’t think many would shed a tear.

From the outside looking in, it may seem a strange decision. We weren’t a million miles away from the automatic positions and at times we played nice football and got some very impressive results.

Sunderland v Portsmouth - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Ultimately though, this is Sunderland in the third tier of English football... in 2022. It’s not the time for sentiment and it’s not the time to be talking about a long-term plan at this level. If at any point we look like we are moving further away from our supreme goal, I find it very difficult to defend ‘rolling the dice’ and trying something new.

I understand the ‘consistency’ argument. That repeatedly sacking managers might not be the best idea to develop a club. I also take on board the positive aspects of his reign - his improvement in players like Ross Stewart, he improved the style of play from the hoofball of Phil Parkinson and he was developing a younger, hungrier squad.

I think though the positives outweighed the negatives. The aforementioned heavy losses, the strange comments in interviews, the playoff failure last season.. it all added up unfortunately for Johnson.

I never got the feeling Johnson was right for us. You think of managers that have had success here in the Stadium of Light era: Peter Reid, Roy Keane, Sam Allardyce. They all fit the same model; played at a high level, straightforward, honest, hard-working, and passionate.

Johnson never had the reputation the others had, he hadn’t played at such a high level. He also didn’t endear himself with the right type of comments. His lack of honesty in interviews was infuriating. The ‘zones’ he was apparently a fan of came across as slightly pretentious and wouldn’t endear himself to our supporters.

The next appointment is a massive one, they always are. The future of our football club relies on us finally climbing out of League One. Our development and progression have stalled because we can’t get out of the starting blocks.

Hopefully, this is a new start and the beginning of the resurgence. I’m not sure I can take another false dawn.

Roker Photo by: Bill Allsopp/Loop Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
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