What is there to say that hasn’t already been said? In the sparsely-populated Press area tucked away in the roof of the Stadium of Light last Saturday, the assembled few huddled together and joined together in pre-match prayers to the God of Journalism.
“Our Father, who art in Scotland, Hugh McIlvanney be thy name. Give us this day, our daily bread. And also something different to write about. Anything but the same old story of a promising start to a game and falling behind to the first goal before the inevitable defeat. Amen.”
Sadly, we now know these prayers fell on ears as deaf as those of the players when Grayson conducted his team meetings. It was a prayer that echoed around the empty spaces surrounding us, the vacant spaces literal evidence of the fractured nature of the club at every level right now.
Disconnected, despondent, disillusioned.
We know exactly what is needed but getting it is no simple task. New ownership and some serious financial investment? Forget about that. It isn’t happening any time soon.
To some extent, Short has provided enough funds to put the club in a good position but it has been frittered away on awful recruitment.
To that effect, Martin Bain is going nowhere either. Bain is the man entrusted with the responsibility of making sure the club is still an attractive and viable option to potential buyers. The accounts might say that he is doing the job he was brought in to do but as an entity, the club has continued its demise under him.
It’s two strikes for Bain now - and the club simply cannot afford a third.
An appointment that wholly brings discontent amongst the fans will be the final swing and miss that will bring the curtain down on the club as we know it. Football clubs end up where they deserve to be, and after the habit of failure this club has settled into, perhaps League One is that place. But surely it’s in the interests of Short and Bain to make sure another relegation doesn’t happen. Surely there is enough money down the back of Short’s sofa to save the club’s value from plummeting further?
Even if it’s the case that Short can afford to write off his losses if the worst happens, this city and its fans aren’t lucky enough to be able to do that. It would be a huge blow to the area.
No longer the supermodel that persuaded Short to part with a fortune, the club has become a cumbersome Frankenstein of failed botch-job operations with an infection in the bloodstream, causing visible irritation under the skin.
Slowly but surely, the unrest and whispers of discontent have spread even to the most unlikely of places within the club. The bitter truth of it all is that although it might feel like it, we haven’t yet reached rock bottom.
Tuesday was a tipping point. The patience and hushed tones of apathy were broken by calls of ‘Grayson Out’ - mere confirmation that the point of no return had been reached.
Even allowing for past failures and mismanagement, Grayson’s record of one win in 15 league games was difficult to defend. Despite a goals for column that surpassed that of Aston Villa and equalled Sheffield United and Middlesbrough, the mental and physical fragility of his side only weakened further as even the new faces readily acquainted themselves with the scars of failure already ingrained in the rest of the squad.
Faith is something that is in short supply on Wearside and it would have taken the collective belief of an entire year of pilgrims making their way to Lourdes to have stuck with Grayson. One of the good guys who at the very least showed some of the fight that had been missing in the previous incumbent, it’s a shame that it didn’t work out for Grayson.
Given more time, could things have improved? Maybe, but the possibility that things could stay the same or actually get even worse was the more likely scenario.
Grayson is but one in a long line of managers and coaches chewed up, spat out and left to wonder what the hell had happened as they flew out of the revolving door and landed on the pavement. They can’t all be bad managers, can they? On paper, most have seemed good appointments.
Coming here has hardly been a springboard for success for them, has it? More a pit full of quicksand that, even if you do manage to escape its pull, drains you of all your energy and drive. The question has to be asked as to why that is.
On paper, everything has been at their disposal to make sure they have the chance to at least shape eleven players to resemble a team but only Sam Allardyce got anywhere near that. Why?
Nobody is free from the blame, especially the players. Individually and collectively they have to take a big chunk of responsibility, particularly those who have been at the club during the great escapes and relegation.
Plenty has been said about the culture around the club and, to be honest, I’ve not listened to it in the past. But as uncomfortable as it feels, it seems as if those questioning it, are right. The more you hear of the attitude of the likes of Jermain Defoe being the exception rather than the rule, then it’s clear something is wrong.
Let’s not kid ourselves about what players have done, how much we paid for them and how much they earn. This isn’t a side which is too good to go down. And at the moment, it would be disrespectful to sides in League One to say they look like a League One side. The lack of confidence is apparent but shouldn’t hinder commitment and when you look at the goal that ultimately lost Simon Grayson his job, it tells you everything you need to know about the side right now.
Harsh? Perhaps, but I’m tired of caveats and ‘buts’ when trying to not go overboard with criticisms. It’s time for the players and leaders in the dressing room to pull the club through and just point fingers upstairs or towards the bench.
The club is full of good people and so are the stands. It’s just a shame that they are the ones who really suffer when others who are in a position to actually do something about the club’s predicament are failing.