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Hull City v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One - KCOM Stadium

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Editorial: Sunderland’s leaders need to step the f**k up and sort it out before this season dies

Stop pissing around, stop banging on about your recruitment ‘process’, and get Roy Keane through the door. Every day we waste messing around is a missed opportunity - we need to save our season.

Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images

Two days on, and I’m still absolutely fuming with how Saturday unfolded for Sunderland.

I can’t even be bothered to sugarcoat it - we were rank, and I’m sick of being in this hellhole of a league. Was it pig-headedness? Are they deluded? Or just daft?

I don’t know who it was that picked the starting eleven against Doncaster (I presume that it was Mike Dodds), but they absolutely shit the bed with that decision - selecting ten of the eleven players who made up part of the side that shipped six goals against Bolton last weekend was absolutely criminal.

Practically every single person in the Victory Club before the game groaned when they heard the team an hour before kick-off, and as I made my way over to the ground I could overhear conversations between people who bemoaned the lack of wholesale changes by the men in charge.

Supporters felt totally uninspired by the team that was picked, and as things transpired, the performance by the players on the pitch matched the mood of the fans.

As a fella in the South West corner bogs said to me as we were 2-0 down, “if us pissed fans can see it, how come that lot in tracksuits can’t?”. And he was right.

They were blind to what was coming.

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

What message does it send to the squad when you don’t lay down a marker after such a heavy defeat? Mike Dodds and his crew had literally nothing to lose - they know they’re only in charge temporarily, yet it was as though Lee Johnson was still there picking the team.

After the game he spoke about being “shellshocked” because he “didn’t see it coming” - well, you must have been the only person who didn’t, mate, because the rest of us were baffled when we saw the team that you’d selected.

Why sign a right-back for proper money if you aren’t going to play him?

Why continue selecting players that are out of form, when they’re clearly flagging and in need of a break, and some time out to recharge the batteries?

Why bring in twenty-odd million pounds worth of wingers from Premier League clubs if you’re just going to continue selecting the same two wide players that have been poor for months?

We’ve signed a midfielder specifically because we lack battle in the centre of the park. He’s played regularly for Fleetwood this season so he’s fit enough - so where was the logic in not starting him, especially given we’ve looked so poor in the centre of the park for weeks?

Honestly, it’s baffling.

Sunderland v Doncaster Rovers - Sky Bet League One - Stadium of Light Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

Clearly, Speakman, Dodds and co. took the game for granted - they thought we’d win just because it was against the worst team in the league. They didn’t for one minute expect that we’d get beat - and that’s on them.

That’s why they continued to pick out of form players, because they hoped that a home game against a poor team would help play the side back into form. That’s probably part of the reason why they’re taking their time with appointing a manager - because it wasn’t going to take much for us to beat Doncaster. And how wrong they were.

Three important points, gone. Three points that will probably prove costly in the race for automatic promotion - all because we want to be the good guys.

They clearly thought that the big crowd and the momentum created by Jermain Defoe’s return would be enough, but it wasn’t - and we tossed a huge opportunity away.

Infuriating. These people are well paid to make these decisions, so they deserve all the criticism that comes their way when they make stupid choices in football games.

Sunderland v Doncaster Rovers - Sky Bet League One - Stadium of Light Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

Chatting on the club’s official Podcast last week, Kristjaan Speakman talked about how they felt it would be disrespectful to Lee Johnson if they had lined up a manager before he had been sacked, which is why they didn’t start their process for replacing him properly until the day after deadline day.

Whilst it’s honourable that they’d choose to operate in such a way, I’d argue that their dilly-dallying has cost us dearly.

Every other club in world football seems to have replacements lined up when they sack a manager - it’s just the done thing. So why are we any different?

Had Roy Keane, for instance, been lined up to start work last Monday, I don’t for one minute think that we would have lost that game.

In fact, I’d argue that their dicking around has led to them backing themselves into a corner. Sacking Johnson without having his replacement lined up has given all the negotiation power to Keane, who has done most of his contract bargaining in public.

KLD and Speakman have no real power in this situation - if they don’t give Keane what he wants, he probably won’t take the job. It’ll have to be on his terms or they’ll need to look elsewhere - and let’s be honest, appointing anyone but Roy at this stage would completely kill the mood around the club and the fanbase. It’d be a disaster.

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

Those are not the only bad decisions that they’ve made this week, either.

Why would you sell a defender, only to not replace him?

I watched Arbenit Xhemajli last week for our U23s and I was horrified by how off the pace he was. We cannot seriously be expecting this guy to play regular football in League One - he’s had almost 18 months out of the game, and really should have been loaned out elsewhere to get much-needed minutes into his legs.

The same applies at left-back - we’ve let Denver Hume go because it was apparently the right thing to do for his career, but in doing so we’ve left ourselves short in a key position. Currently, only Dennis Cirkin plays there, and he’s clearly struggling and in need of a rest. Unfortunately, he’s the only senior left-back at the club and that means we can’t give him the time off on the sidelines that he clearly needs.

It’s simply not good enough, not when we’re as bad as we are defensively.

We need options, and now it’s too late to go and sign anyone - not unless we have an ace up our sleeve and plan to raid the free-agent market.

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Sky Bet League One
Flanagan was poor, but he hasn’t been replaced - will it cost us?
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Every decision taken by those at the top recently feels lethargic, complacent and arrogant. In fact, it’s pig-headed. Have they just tricked themselves into thinking they’ve got this thing cracked? They’ve been given free rein to create this structure, and I wonder how many of them are prepared to speak up and point fingers now that we’re facing tough times.

I hope to god that Roy Keane takes the job, because clearly what we need at this club right now is someone to come straight in and address the complete lack of accountability and lack of high standards, both on and off the pitch.

Frankly, we’re doing our level best to totally ruin any chance of gaining promotion, and unless we find ourselves in title-winning form soon, it’ll be the play-offs for us - again.

It’s Keane or nothing, surely? Appointing anyone else is tantamount to suicide.

So stop pissing around, stop banging on about your recruitment ‘process’, and get Roy Keane through the door, and sharpish. Every day we waste messing around is a missed opportunity - we need to stop the self-sabotage and save our season.


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