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Editorial: Well, that’s been a bad few days for SAFC – and it could have been easily avoided

While we’re progressing on the field, off the pitch we’re still a bit of a mess, as this last week only proves too well.

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Well, even by Sunderland’s standards, the change in mood from Tuesday night to Friday was marked. The optimism that came from the 1-0 win over Leeds was quickly dissipated by the news of Mick Beale’s seemingly imminent appointment and the Newcastle ticketing arrangements, and the frustration and disappointment that’s caused has been marked.

And it’s frustration and disappointment that could easily have been avoided – particularly in the case of the FA Cup tickets.

The lack of consultation and communication with supporters over the allocation of tickets for Newcastle has been problematic and shows that, despite the progress the club’s made on the field, off the field it’s still as amateurish as it was while we were in League One.

Yes, some consultation would have added a bit of time, and that can be a challenge to find at this time of year, but consultation with RAWA, Supporters Association or BLC would have been appropriate.

As well as the crowd trouble that having that many Newcastle supporters in our stadium will likely cause, putting the safety of our supporters at risk (I certainly won’t be taking my son to the game), and the traffic problems having that many coaches coming through, you’ve got the added controversy caused by giving Newcastle ‘home’ seats.

Sunderland v Newcastle United - Premier League Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Those are seats some will have sat in every week since the Stadium of Light opened its doors more than 25 years ago. Seats that are in our stadium’s traditional ‘home end’; seats which – not wanting to sound melodramatic – loved ones who are no longer with us will have sat.

Of course, those seats are used by many different people for concerts and other events at the SoL, but to see away fans sitting there in a derby simply doesn’t feel right.

It seems like a money grab, with the club putting income ahead of anything else. What else are we going to do? Give them the home dressing room? Given that we’ll likely have to give them ‘our’ end for the warm-up, we could end up walking the other way out of the tunnel.

As supporters, we’ve been asking for the away fans to be relocated for a few years now, only to be told it can’t be done. And then, lo and behold, when it comes to Newcastle, we instantly find a way of doing it.

Quite frankly, the way it’s been handled has been a mess – and could easily have been avoided with proper consultation in the first place and half-decent communication when the decision was made. I appreciate we’re in an era of everyone wanting information and transparency about everything and a lot of the time; people demand things that aren’t necessary; however, in this case, it’s firmly warranted, and the lack of it just illustrates how much better we need to get off the field.

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The move to online ticketing was a mess and continues to cause problems; I know of one person who went into the ticket office after being unable to resolve a ticketing issue online, and the ticket office staff didn’t know how to help him either – while the strips fiasco is once again causing money to be lost. I tried to get my lad a home strip for Christmas, but there aren’t any available in his size. It’s a small example, but one that will no doubt be common – he wants a Sunderland shirt for Christmas, and I can’t give the club money for one.

Of course, the news of the Newcastle tickets came as part of a series in news coming from the club. The fan display needing to be changed caused more ill feeling – although, to be honest, I can see why the club had an issue with the proposed display, particularly when KLD had publically contributed to it.

I’d much prefer to see a pro-SAFC display, and hopefully the vast amount of money that’s been raised for it can be invested into something more positive for Sunderland.

The interest in appointing Mick Beale was the third bit of news that wasn’t received particularly favourably, and I must admit that while I expected it wouldn’t be universally popular, I am surprised at the extent of the vociferous negativity it’s attracted.

Yes, he wouldn’t particularly be my first choice (Alex Neil and Tony Mowbray weren’t immediately inspiring in my mind either). Speakman and Co aren’t perfect; they’ve made some mistakes and will no doubt do so again, but overall, they’ve got more things right than wrong. As far as I’m concerned, they have significant credit in the bank, and ultimately have earned our trust.

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Mowbray’s departure wasn’t just to do with results and performances, and they need someone who’s going to be a true ‘head coach’. Beale’s critics point to the way he comes across in the media, the way he left QPR, and his transfer record and handling of players at Rangers. He’s still a young coach but has 20-odd years of coaching experience and seems very highly rated for his coaching, at least.

The club simply aren’t going to appoint someone they think is shit. Whoever they appoint will be – in their view – the best option they can reasonably get, and they’ll have the belief the next person to take the hot seat can help coach and develop the players while getting results on the field, too.

I said after Mowbray was released that it’d be a huge ask for a foreign coach to join at this stage of the season, and maybe that’s a factor in looking at someone more familiar with the league, the country and the players. Who knows.

At the time of writing, we haven’t appointed a new head coach, and Beale wasn’t at the Bristol City game – a poor result that just compounded a bad few days – so maybe that one’s not as advanced as we were led to believe on Friday.

Regardless, let’s hope this coming week is more positive for Sunderland. A new head coach in place and three points against Coventry would certainly help settle things a little – and, as we know, if results are coming on the field, everything else is a lot more palatable.


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