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A week to forget that should be the catalyst for change

The club hasn’t covered itself in glory this week, but the fans ensured our huge potential is there to be realised.

Sunderland v Newcastle United - Emirates FA Cup Third Round
Sunderland fans before the derby match on Saturday.
Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images

To say this has been a week to forget would be an understatement. The result on Saturday underlined the difference in quality between the Premier League and the Championship, as top to bottom our players were made to look naïve.

The scandal of the changes to the Black Cats Bar, thankfully reversed at the last moment, showed that naivety is not just an on-the-field problem for us this season.

It has been a while since we tasted derby defeat and that certainly doesn’t make it any easier. As ever, it’s a painful experience, not numbed by the knowledge we were defeated more by our own failings than Newcastle’s edge.

Sunderland v Newcastle United - Emirates FA Cup Third Round
The Stadium of Lights as the Players emerged from the tunnel.
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

More tactically astute writers than I will have their say on what went wrong on the pitch, but to me Saturday’s result felt like the culmination of a week of chickens coming home to roost for Sunderland.

Yet, I feel more hope for our future now than I did at full time against Coventry.

Seeing the Black Cats Bar decked out in black and white was painful and embarrassing. The blame game has begun in the media, but for fans it was a sad and inevitable display of club senior leadership that knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. We have seen it with the continued problems that fans have had with the ticket office, the club shop, and the dilapidated state of the stadium on matchdays.

These are problems that have been consistently flagged by fans, through both official and unofficial channels. Despite repeated promises stretching back to the Donald and Methven era, either no or minimal improvements have been made.

The same contracts are renewed, the same supply issues choke fans’ connection to the club, the same decay sets in in the Stadium of Light’s concourse.

Kyril-Louis Dreyfus
Kyril-Louis Dreyfus
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

I think I’m an optimist and, while the club’s official statement on the BCB debacle was lacking, Louis-Dreyfus’ apology on Instagram seemed genuine to me. I hope his promise of action extends beyond just preventing a similar event in the future, and addressing the increasingly strong feeling of neglect felt by fans demonstrated with strength (though sometimes unfairly directed) at the Coventry match.

While we can’t say anything good will come out of a derby defeat, it did allow the leadership to see the full potential of the club. These fans in their thousands want to invest in their love of Sunderland AFC and ask only for respect in return.

These fans stayed with the team and kept singing for them when they were 2-0 down to their biggest rivals, with next to nothing being offered to keep them going.

They sang about their love of the club they grew up with, while their rival fans paid tribute to the petrostate that is busily hollowing out their club’s connection to them.

Perhaps this is not the week we deserved, but one we had to endure to act as a catalyst for change.

Kristian Speakman will have to address the well-documented shortages on the field to keep up the momentum on a season that is very far from done for Sunderland.

Louis-Dreyfus must now surely realise he has an equally big task on his hands to demonstrate he understands the importance that this club has to us as fans and make certain that the full potential of Sunderland’s greatest strength is realised.

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