As a Sunderland supporter, an important factor for me is having pride in my football club. At times in recent years, things have gone wrong both on and off the pitch but in most cases, it’s felt as though the club has at least tried to keep its sense of self respect.
However, the past six weeks have been turbulent.
Off the pitch, PR disasters have been commonplace and the appointment of Michael Beale as head coach went from underwhelming to one that seems to be uniting the fanbase for all the wrong reasons.
Never before has an appointment been condemned so quickly by so many fans, and Friday night’s boring, lethargic defeat at home to Hull City did nothing to improve opinions.
Boos and chants of ‘Beale Out’ are emanating from huge swathes of supporters who don’t want the former Rangers boss at Sunderland, and four defeats in seven games is adding fuel to that fire.
Strangely, I feel as though the dire choice of head coach isn’t the biggest issue at Sunderland at the moment, because the main problem is a lack of pride.
The supporters can’t be proud of the club but the way the club has acted suggests that it doesn’t have any pride in itself, and the fallout from the Black Cats’ Bar fiasco paved the way for this.
Following the Hull game, images appeared of Newcastle United graffiti scratched onto the bar and there were reports of similar damage in the North Stand toilets.
The club prepared for this outcome by removing Sunderland-related items from that section of the stadium, something I still find ridiculous as the fans shouldn’t have been there in the first place, but what’s done is done.
However, the graffiti is evidence that the club wasn’t prepared to deal with the inevitable outcome, because the match was two weeks ago and nothing has been done to clean up the mess.
How does a professional business, after infuriating its fanbase by rolling out the red carpet for its biggest rivals, fail to ensure they’ve done the bare minimum and cleaned up the stadium? It’s small time and it shows a distinct lack of pride.
Over the years, myself and many other Sunderland fans have continued to find reasons to be proud of our club.
We’ve never demanded too much and we just want to see lads on the pitch putting a shift in.
I don’t expect players to talk of their undying loyalty to the club, because in the modern game, that’s rare. However, the bare minimum is for players to work hard and to give us something to smile about.
More often than not during the last two years, this is what we’ve got.
We’ve been let down more regularly off the pitch by those running our club, and they’re giving us more and more reasons not to have pride in Sunderland AFC.
Cleaning up graffiti within a two-week window shouldn’t be too much to ask and although it may not look like a big deal, it’s a metaphor for just how wrong some of the decisions being made by the club hierarchy are.
It’s sickening to see the way they seem to think they can treat supporters, and a real shift towards positive progression has dwindled in recent weeks.
Reversing this will be tough but not impossible, and I can only hope that the leadership has documented the last six weeks and will use it as a blueprint in the future to avoid making any more catastrophic decisions.
Why should fans of the club be proud of their team when the people running the club don’t reciprocate? Of course, thousands will stand by the club no matter what, but the patience of our fan base is being severely tested by the people in charge.
The best answer I can provide is this: it’s the fans who’ll persist.
Managers, players and owners come and go, but supporters remain and continue to ask for those who represent Sunderland AFC to give us nothing more than something to be proud of.