Has it only been one year?!
Today was the day, all the way back to the end of January last year when Lee Johnson was relieved of his duties as manager of Sunderland.
It came the day after our, now infamous, 6-0 defeat at Bolton Wanderers and despite that fact was still a fairly controversial decision amongst Sunderland fans as we still sat 3rd in the League One table.
Not only had it come when we were still in a decent position to make a push for an automatic promotion position, but it came at the end of a January transfer window which meant the likes of Danny Batth was only making his second appearance for the club at Bolton.
Also, it’s bizarre looking back considering what they went on to accomplish in the remaining games of the season, the 6-0 defeat also saw the Sunderland debuts for Patrick Roberts and Jack Clarke. Nobody would have blamed them if they had questioned their decision to join the club at this point.
Although our position in the table was still promising, it was a bit of an accumulation of things where the Bolton defeat was the final act that sealed the ex-Bristol City managers position. Heavy defeats at Sheffield Wednesday and Rotherham were also fresh in people’s minds, and some memories even stretched back to our play-off failure the season before where a decent amount of blame was levelled at Johnson after defeat to Lincoln City.
It was also the first time that the axe had been swung by the new powers that be at Sunderland with Kyril Louis-Dreyfus and Kristjaan Speakman moving quickly after the humiliation at Bolton.
The club statement read:
Sunderland AFC today announced the departure of Lee Johnson as Head Coach.
The 40-year-old, who arrived at the Stadium of Light in December 2020, has left the club with immediate effect alongside Assistant Head Coach Jamie McAllister.
Johnson guided SAFC to 41 wins in 75 games, including the club’s first victory at Wembley Stadium since 1973, and he was named League One Manager of the Month on two occasions.
Kyril Louis-Dreyfus said: “I would like to thank Lee for his commitment and endeavour over the past 14 months. We regret that we have had to take this decision, but felt immediate change was needed. We firmly believe that this is in the best interests of Sunderland AFC as we strive to earn promotion this season. Lee and Jamie will always be welcome at the Stadium of Light and they depart with our best wishes.”
The process to appoint a new Head Coach will commence immediately and a further update regarding the club’s interim coaching set-up will be communicated shortly.
Our own Martin Wanless wrote in a summary only hours before the sacking was announced that Johnson may not survive, with the club in relegation form after collecting five points from the previous five games as he wrote:
It was an appalling display, utterly unexplainable and totally unforgivable. The worry is, we’ve seen it before this season – against Portsmouth, Rotherham and Sheff Wed we turned in similarly poor displays and lessons were vowed to be learnt.
Home truths told. Forgiveness issued. On the strength of yesterday’s game, nothing’s changed – in fact, this was worse than the lot of those other games combined.
If you told people then that a year from then we’d be pushing for a place in the play-off to compete in the Premier League you may well have had a suspicious look come in your direction, but after we did not pick up a win in the five games that followed Johnson’s dismissal those same people would have simply laughed off the prospect.
It’s been some year since.