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Opinion: “The pressure of promotion leaves Sunderland’s long term plan muddled”

“Pressure has come on the board lately. To me, it seems clear, they have been reactive instead of proactive, leaving their philosophy muddled and unclear,” argues Mike Dunne.

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

They do say it is the hope that kills you. The hope of something brighter is around the corner. The hope of any sort of success for Sunderland fans. We actually are not looking for much. Just a team that has some bottle and can get this club out of the doldrums of League One. The longer we are here, the more likely we are not getting out of it.

I do not need to harp on about the performance on Saturday against Doncaster. It was embarrassing. For two weeks in a row, the fans have backed this team to the hilt and they have responded with gutless and spineless performances. They do not deserve us and we deserve far better.

When Kyril Louis-Dreyfus and Kristjaan Speakman arrived at the club, they brought the aforementioned hope that the fans are looking for. They were making all the right noises and appeared to be putting all the correct structures in place.

Lee Johnson arrived as head coach. Player recruitment was going to be completed in a more sophisticated manner with an emphasis on youth. The club and its various teams were all going to implement an exciting attacking style of play that was fluid throughout the club. All these changes were seen as positive, progressive and the club finally looked like one that had its affairs in order.

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Sky Bet League One Play-off Semi Final 2nd Leg Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Roll on January. Sunderland stuttered and stalled. The first team dropped points in multiple games that truthfully should not have happened. Pressure slowly built on Lee Johnson as the month progressed. Some fans, not all, were calling for the head coach to be sacked. The Stadium of Light was becoming more and more volatile as fans were torn on what they wanted. As we know, unfortunately for Johnson, the Bolton defeat was just one shocking defeat too many.

Rightly or wrongly, the Sunderland board took the step to relieve the head coach of his duties. The ownership were decisive in their decision-making. They did not waste time after the game.

However, the question now is, what is the plan for the team? To me, it appears clear now that the ownership had no sort of contingency plan in place should something like this have happened. So inconsistent was our form, one could argue that this was on the cards for weeks.

What were the ownership doing in this time? Why has it taken so long to appoint someone?

As we all know, it looks increasingly likely that Roy Keane is going to be appointed as manager to the club. On one level, it is understandable why the club would go in this direction for a manager. It would excite fans and hopefully offer that rocket to the players that they need. Keane will raise standards, take no-nonsense and unite a fan base. I can get behind this.

Sunderland v Bristol City - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

However, Keane is not what this board promised the fans. Keane is not a coach. He is a motivator, a leader, and a manager. The Irishman has said as much himself. On ‘The Overlap’ with Gary Neville, Keane stated that he saw himself as a manager who likes to motivate people and observe players from a distance. In addition, he stated that he does not particularly enjoy coaching and would not necessarily have a style of play. He just wants to win games, no matter what.

Should Keane be appointed, what does this mean for our supposed style of play, our structure, and our club philosophy? Has the board changed tack already? It appears that going for Keane, along with signing Jermain Defoe is being done to just appease the fans. From the outside looking in, it appears they wilting to fan pressure.

Selling defender Tom Flanagan can also be added to this. Sure, he splits opinion, but he fitted the style of play and now we have been left short. He has been replaced by a player in Danny Baath who encounters difficulty with accurate distribution from the back. It just does not make sense.

The board has openly stated their determination for automatic promotion, but the table now looks ominous. Their ambition is correct and what we should be going for. That being said, their long-term plan should supersede the short term. It is questionable whether that is the case.

To me, it seems clear, they have been reactive instead of proactive, leaving their philosophy muddled and unclear.

Should we get promoted, that will be forgiven. However, that remains to be seen.


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