Well, things don’t seem to be getting any better for us.
I spent most of last week accepting it was probably a tough ask going to Ipswich and getting anything based on how good they actually are, whilst also looking forward to playing a seriously depleted and out of form Hull side at the Stadium of Light.
But, we lost. Again.
That’s now three losses on the bounce and, crucially for Michael Beale, three losses from his first four home games in charge, which certainly hasn’t helped to endear him further to a home crowd filled with supporters who never wanted him at the club in the first place.
Chants of “Beale Out” rang around the Stadium of Light at full time on Saturday, further underlining that — rightly or wrongly — there’s a huge section of the Sunderland fanbase who would much rather he pissed off now instead of delaying the inevitable.
Liam Rosenior perhaps said it best in the aftermath of the game when he admitted this was the worst his side had played all season, yet they somehow won the game — this really was an open goal for Beale and his players, and they didn’t just miss, but instead volleyed the opportunity straight over the roof of the stadium and into the car park.
I’ve got to admit, I’m concerned. Not least because of the way this all seems to have fallen apart as quickly as it has, but because I don’t hear what Michael Beale says and believe he’s going to be capable of turning this around, nor are we seeing evidence that he’s having a positive impact on the team.
And I’m not just talking about seeing radical tactical change here because that would be daft — really, he’s only had three weeks of proper time with his side to work on the training pitch — but I want to see an indication that he’s motivating the players to perform beyond the base level of their ability. They don’t look like they’re particularly enthused by his presence at the club either. And then in games, I’m seeing him pick teams that lack width and a cutting edge. Okay, these were issues well before his time here also, but the bench on Saturday was littered with lads that could have made a difference, not just from the start but during the game, and once again it seemed he waited far too late to positively impact the performance with substitutions and tactical tweaks.
Will he learn quickly from this?
I’m not sure, but he absolutely has to if he wants to keep his job.
I don’t think the dissenters are about to get their wish just yet, but Beale has another massive home game coming up at the weekend and if we don’t see some evidence that they’re all up for the fight, the atmosphere will turn even more toxic than it did on Friday night.
After we play Stoke there’s then the small matter of Middlesbrough away, facing a side we traditionally don’t fare too well against as they often seem more up for it than we do. Beale’s record in “derbies” (and I use this in the loosest sense of the word, but it’s a derby for Boro at least and that should matter when we’re preparing for this game) at his past two clubs is not good. He totally misjudged how we should approach the Newcastle game and his record at Rangers against Celtic was poor also. This might not actually mean anything in the grand scheme of things, but it does make me wonder about his man-management skills and his own understanding of how to manage expectations in a big game.
If he lasts that long, it’ll be interesting to see how it all turns out.
But, it’s all about the here and now and Boro are in the distance. All that matters at the minute is the Stoke match and getting a win there, against a team who have tasted defeat just once since they sacked Alex Neil in December - funnily, that defeat came this past weekend when they faced Tony Mowbray’s new side Birmingham.
It’s likely some fans — particularly those who never wanted to see him go — will look at how well Mowbray has started life as Birmingham manager and do so with a tinge of jealousy and sadness, but I’m not about to re-write history. I supported the decision to remove Mowbray from his position as I think we’d simply just hit the end of the road. It’s just weird that we sack a manager and still actually like them, which isn’t something that happens too often at Sunderland. I wish him continued success, just not at our expense of course.
This is now a huge week for Michael Beale, and for the football club.
Sadly, at the minute it feels like most of the ill-feeling from supporters towards the club is because of issues off the pitch, and that’s now bleeding into what we see on it. In that sense, I feel a bit sorry for Michael Beale as it’s made his job twenty times more difficult as a result. All of the recent games have fallen against the backdrop of piss-poor mismanagement from people who really ought to have the best interests of the football club at heart.
The minutes from the meeting between Sunderland’s leadership team and the Supporter Collective are expected to land in the coming days, and the fallout will no doubt cause controversy and drama on social media as I can only imagine there will be stuff in there that people won’t like.
With collective patience wearing thin at present, we need to see evidence of change. We need to see that they’re owning their responsibility to the football club to improve things where it’s needed, and if that happens, it will focus everyone’s attention back on where it really matters — the football pitch.
The scrutiny is now not just placed on the Head Coach for what happens from game to game, but also on the club’s owner, the club’s Sporting Director, and COO. Not only do we need to draw a line under a horrendous six weeks both on and off the pitch and they need to show they’re listening to supporters, but we need to sign some players that are going to make an immediate difference to our squad, and we need to get back to winning games.
If we don’t, I dread to think what happens next.