David Jones: Things might have to get worse before they get better at Sunderland

Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce.
Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce.
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All Sunderland fans want this Christmas is a team to be proud of and right now that seems as far off as at any time in the last four years.

Sam Allardyce has lost six and won three of his nine games in charge and the gap is growing between Sunderland and safety.

He continues to tinker to find the most effective team within his squad who can stand up, compete and provide an attacking threat; while the tactical plan has been abandoned early in the last two games amid confusion and panic in the defensive ranks.

It’s hard to know which way Allardyce can turn next, especially given injuries and suspensions, and the threat of a wounded Manchester City fast approaching on Boxing Day.

Add to that the element who are clearly unhappy on Wearside and seem to be looking for the earliest possible exit and you have a melting pot of managerial mayhem.

From this position it looks an impossible job to keep Sunderland in the Premier League, but if anyone can keep us up it’s Allardyce.

His honest, straight talking certainly has been refreshing and he hasn’t tried to hide behind anything than the grim facts of the limited squad at his disposal.

Nothing I have seen makes me doubt the wisdom of his appointment, and I feel sure it will get better, but perhaps not before the situation gets even worse.

The theory doing the rounds in football circles right now is that Sam has taken on more than he bargained for and that the problems run much deeper than he had calculated.

But while we are all desperate to stay in the Premier League, we need to remember if the worst does happen it really isn’t the end of the world for our club.

I was covering the Aston Villa game on Tyneside this week and in the build up to the game I was interested to see their chief executive Tom Fox speak publicly about the club’s travails.

Fox told Villa fans “the club does not go away if we are relegated”, stressing that financially they have taken measures to ensure they will not be broken by dropping to the Championship, whilst also stressing that they have not given up.

It’s time for strong leadership and some words of assurance from the top of our football club.

We are accustomed to hearing from Ellis Short once or even twice a year when he appoints a new manager, but now is the time for some clarity and guidance.

Lee Congerton appears to have left the club, Allardyce talks of finding bargains in January when it’s clear the squad needs heavy investment, while we all sweat on the consequences of relegation.

How damaging would it be to Sunderland? Would it lead to job losses at the club? Are their clauses in the players contracts limiting the club’s financial exposure to relegation?

And what would it mean for our owner? What is Ellis Short’s long-term plan?

I’m afraid these are questions I can’t begin to answer, but I hope they are addressed and the end of another tumultuous year would appear to me the perfect time to do just that; supporters will forgive a lot if they feel like they are not being ignored.

I want to sign off this week by wishing you all a very merry Christmas. Regardless of how our team continues to test us, we still boast the most incredible support who’ve stuck with the club through thick and thick.

We can be optimistic in the New Year that Sunderland still have the best fans in the business, we’ve got a terrific, experienced manager and we know from experience it’s not too late to get out of this mess.

Keep the faith!