They say you should never chase your losses, however, right now it feels like that is all Kristjaan Speakman is doing.
As Sunderland’s season finds itself firmly in a death spiral, it’s only right that fans are to question the seemingly catastrophic role Speakman is playing in our rapid demise.
It didn’t seem much at the time but the decision to play on during a covid outbreak has proven to be a Sliding Doors moment – for all the wrong reasons. Up until January 7th, Sunderland’s season seemed to be going as well as could be expected – after a tumultuous summer where the idea was as much evolution as it was revolution, the club seemed primed to kick on.
Then came the first gamble, playing on when other teams stopped as to not ‘compromise the integrity of the competition’. At the time, it didn’t feel like it was much of a gamble to some, but to others it represented not only a gamble, but one the club didn’t need to take.
Hindsight being as wonderful as it is showed that to be the case, with Sunderland stuttering to a meagre one point from a possible six. Add to that the six goals conceded and the cracks began to appear.
At this stage, and with plenty time to recover, it was crucial that Speakman held his nerve. Playing was a gamble that didn’t pay off, but at the time jt wasn’t a season-defining one, unless it was hastily followed with more errors.
Naturally, and because this is Sunderland, this is exactly what has happened.
Following such frailty being exposed and now with a pitch representing something like Ypres or The Somme, the transfer window rolled on yet defensive cover never made its way in until the arrival of Danny Batth.
Currently, the less said about Batth the better as, after a positive debut, he has steadily worsened to the point where I’m wondering if he’s been a special agent employed by Jack Baldwin to exact his revenge. Again, this isn’t a season-defining mistake, you can’t recruit well all the time and considering a summer window that not only sang to the hymn sheet laid out by our new owner but provided genuine excitement, it was about time we got one wrong. It then, of course, made no sense to sell Tom Flanagan (our only defensive cover) for absolutely no good reason at the time – so guess what we did? Another mistake and arguably a more consequential one.
After a series of a few mistakes, arguably the biggest was to come. After a chastening defeat to Bolton, the decision was made to relieve Lee Johnson of his duties. The sacking of Johnson itself hasn’t necessarily proven to be the mistake, but the timing and the follow on from that fateful decision and this is where Speakman loses a lot, if not all, his credit.
Speaking shortly after the sacking of Johnson and the sale of Flanagan, Speakman took to the club’s official podcast in order to update the fans and has instead, in his attempts to placate and calm, served only to enrage us further.
In relation to sacking Johnson it was intimated that his sacking was very much not a knee-jerk reaction to the defeat to Bolton but something that due to issues on the background was actually something that had been coming for some time. As we sit more than 10 days down the line from this decision, I’m unsure as to whether sharing this information with the fanbase was an attempt to convince us or the management themselves.
Since Johnson’s sacking, it isn’t unfair to suggest that the actions taken by the club since have done nothing to suggest that the dismissal was anything but a knee-jerk decision – no more typified than leaving the squad in the less than capable hands of Mike Dodds. In sacking a manager out of a long-term concern that Sunderland would not achieve their goals this season, the subsequent actions taken have served only to ensure those long-term goals are not met.
As we have moved from blunder to blunder, it now feels as if Sunderland are trying to chase their losses in the hope they’ll win back everything they’ve lost. Dropping crucial points in games we didn’t need to play only proved to be the catalyst before the management team at the club have spent their last weeks making poor decision after poor decision. Selling players we couldn’t afford to sell, sacking managers without a replacement in hand and finding themselves in a situation where even the slightest interest in any manager is made public by one means or another.
This chaotic phase has also found itself onto the pitch. Uncertain and rudderless, the team itself is at such a low ebb that apathy must be at an all time high, even if we have signed Jermain Defoe.
It feels in the past four weeks the good work that happened in the 14 months prior has been almost completely undone as the club has stumbled from one mistake to another.
Fans are now very fairly concerned, as not only does the longer-term vision of the club feel wilfully abandoned but there seems no clear end in sight or end to the almost continual mistakes being made.
Right now, the club needs someone to take control of the situation and stem the flow of ineptitude that is pouring from it. We simply cannot spend a second longer devoid of hope or ideas, managerless and sliding down the table. To save the season the flow must be stemmed, and to stem the flow is to put an end to the mistakes.
In this instance, those making these decisions and these mistakes needs to stand up and take responsibility, much like the first team must do for their recent spineless performances. Only then can we hope to salvage something from the ruin, with any further delay only making such a salvage job less likely.
One season in League One seemed almost unimaginable a few years ago, facing our fifth is utterly unacceptable by any measure – but facing a fifth season in League One where the damage has been self-inflicted? I’ll let you draw your own conclusions there.
And so, as we sit here now the club feels utterly pathetic, it feels abject and it feels like a club that is putting everything above the things that should take priority.
We are selling players for their own benefit but to the club’s detraction.
We’re more interested in protecting the supposed ‘integrity’ of a competition than winning it.
We’re more interested in being respectful to people we’re about to sack than prioritising the club that will still be here when they’re gone.
We’re more interested in being the nice guys despite knowing the nice guys rarely win.