After a lovely walk up and down Seaburn beach on Thursday night I stuck the dogs in the back of the car, switched on my engine and turned on the radio, hoping to catch the end of BBC Newcastle’s Totalsport. With about twenty-five minutes to go there was a nice chat with one of the Sunderland Women players about their cracking start to the season, another reminder that it’s not just the men’s team that’s going places at the minute.
Closely following that was a caller that, at points, made me want to drive my car off the road and into a tree. All of that positive energy I’d built up from a pleasant evening on the sea front, wasted. All cos of some bloke on the radio.
I should know better really than to even give his comments credence, but I almost can’t ignore the things he said about the state of play at Sunderland because I’m worried that he’s just one of many of our supporters who still don’t get it when it comes to the way the club are trying to get by on a day-to-day basis.
It was as though he had ignored everything positive we’ve done in the summer relating to the business we did, and then hadn’t watched the last four games and performances.
The opening gambit was to abruptly ask Marco Gabbiadini what he thought about the situation with Ross Stewart’s wages, something which made Marco take a breath and politely remind the bloke that the conversation has been done to death already, but that Stewart was sold because he was offered an inordinate amount of money to leave.
I’ll spare you every single detail, but the gist of this guy’s gripe was that we didn’t just give Stewart what he wanted, throwing the owner’s intentions into question and that we’ll end up selling Roberts and Clarke next because we won’t pay big wages to retain them.
Marco and Simon Pryde, in fairness to them, were measured and calm. I guess over the years of dealing with the odd idiot or two they’ve earned a PhD in how to talk to the likes of this bloke. They explained the logical reasons why the club choose to operate the way they do these days, and that it’s all for the betterment of the club. We’ll lose players we like occasionally, it happens - but as long as the wheels keep turning and we make decisions that will improve us, it’s all fine.
The fella who called in to give his opinion is just the person who has unfortunately bore the brunt of my frustrations here and isn’t really the issue, and I hope that after his chat with Marco he might have gone away and changed his perspective on a thing or two, but it does remind me that there are still a lot of supporters who are really struggling to get their heads around that these days Sunderland are trying to run a successful football club.
I guess the only way to educate people about it is to keep doing what we’re doing. Keep reinforcing the message that for Sunderland to be healthy over the long term that we have to look after our pennies, but when we do invest, invest wisely. Sign players that we can improve and turn a profit on eventually, which in turn will help us further improve the club and our squad. And keep repeating that process over and over, all the while becoming bigger and better.
It’s the dream for all clubs not owned by an oil-rich state and I’m sure there will be bumps in the road, but remaining on point and watertight is key. To date, I think we’ve done pretty well since Kyril arrived. It’s clear the vision he and his team have for Sunderland AFC is working, because we eventually escaped League One and then have looked very competitive in the Championship, all while dramatically reducing the average age of the football team and playing an attractive style of football that fans enjoy watching, and that makes us an attractive option for players in the future who we might look to recruit.
Football is supposed to be fun, and at the minute for Sunderland fans it’s very fun. I just hope we keep changing people’s minds as we go, playing attractive and expansive football with our young team that reminds us all of the journey we’re on.
The only way to drown out the noise is to achieve success, and I’ve got no doubt that we’re only going to keep on rising from this point.