You can divide the world into two halves; those who can and those who can’t. Almost from the very moment the season began at the Stadium of Light, David Moyes became a can’t.
Subsequently, because he couldn’t, then neither could his players either. Having turned the job down previously because he didn’t think he could keep us up when Dick Advocaat stepped down, it doesn’t seem as if he had a change of mindset in the meantime between then and accepting Ellis Short’s offer a second time.
I listened to Pat Nevin on 5 Live last Monday say that no-one could have kept Sunderland up, given the finances and players at his disposal and, if I’m honest, I couldn’t wholly disagree with that, yet I still think it missed the point.
I should interject here and profess that I love Pat Nevin. Not only is he the most erudite of pundits, he also seems a very nice man to boot. Only a few weeks ago I stood next to him in the media room at the Stadium of Light, in awe, desperately thinking of a way to strike up a conversation and coming up with nothing other than to ask if he liked my trainers or not. Wisely, I kept schtum.
This, though, was the point that was missed, not just by Nevin, but by others that have passed off our relegation as a mere formality from the the very start.
Yes, perhaps there wasn’t a manager in the world who would have kept us up this season, but neither did we expect it. What we did expect was someone to come in and show some fight, to tell us that they’d move heaven and earth to keep us up, that they had faith in themselves as a manager despite the constraints he had been placed under.
What we expected was Peter Reid waltzing into the dressing room and making the players feel like relegation wasn’t an option. What we expected was Sam Allardyce having complete confidence in himself and saying that if anyone was going to keep them up it was him.
What we were expecting was a team that, at the every least, would be hard to beat.
For all the talk before Christmas of David Moyes being misled by the club and the owner, it could be said that we were misled in to thinking we’d get a team built in the image of the manager we thought we were getting; resolute and gutsy.
Moyes might not have got the club he thought he was taking over, but we didn’t get the manager we thought we were getting either.
There were major hurdles to overcome, there’s no denying that.
The reasons for Big Sam’s discontent had come to the surface before his departure and were widely known so if you’re coming in to a job with your eyes wide open you’d know your environment.
On top of those, are injuries and having to handle want-away players an excuse or are they day-to-day problems that have to be dealt with by all managers?
Looking back, I was as right about Patrick van Aanholt as I was as wrong about Lamine Kone.
PvA might have contributed to Crystal Palace’s survival, but if a player is so adamant he wants to leave then it’s difficult to reverse that and only after the transfer window closed did we realise the extent of Kone’s desire to leave.
Which all leads us to the very point we find ourselves at now. Managerless and with a squad that isn’t just in need a facelift but a team of surgeons to come in and perform a total reconstruction from head to toe.
For too long now, we’ve been waiting for this opportunity to wipe the slate clean and move forward in a direction that has seen the likes of Southampton move light years ahead of us in terms of structure, ethos and personnel.
I’m excited at the possibilty of the club moving in a direction that is clear and confident in the process it will follow to get there.
But with the hope of what I’d like to happen comes the anxiety of the “might” which covers all eventualities.
Major surgery might be what is desperately needed, but, at this very moment, we don’t know whether we’re going to end up with The Six Million Dollar Man or Frankenstein’s Monster.
That’s why, as much as it ever was, this appointment has to be the right one. The name on everyone’s lips is Kevin Phillips and it’s unsurprising after the disconnect of the last 10 months that he is in such demand.
There’s such a hunger for the connection to return that it would be a smart move by the club to bring Kevin on board, not just because of what he has done in the past, but for what he is creating for himself now.
Speaking to him last week at the SAFC Museum event I hosted, it’s crystal clear that the aim for him is management.
When he spoke of management and his coaching pathway, you could see that same steely-eyed, pathological desire to score goals.
I’m sceptical about players returning to their old clubs as manager simply on the basis of their popularity as a player and his capabilities as a manager/head coach are unknown, but if there is one thing Kevin possesses is the ability to convince you he could do the job and as a player.
That is the very first task a new manager has to do – to convince you he is the right man and he will make you a better player and team.
It’s a fairytale solution, I know, but, beyond that, if we are to become more Steve Austin than Mary Shelley, the search for a manager needs to widen and the nets dragged a little deeper.
Football has moved on at an alarming rate in recent years and the face of coaching has changed. Look at the top of the Championship this season.
Only one manager out of this season’s top six, Chris Hughton, was British. The reasons for this can be discussed elsewhere, but it should be noted.
Norwich City are looking to appoint Daniel Farke, coach of Borussia Dortmund’s second team and more highly rated than David Wagner of play-off finalists Huddersfield Town.
With the likes of Marco Who the hell is Marco Silva?’ Silva impressing so much in his short spell at Hull City too, it might pay dividends if we looked a little further than just down the list drawn up by bookmakers.
We deserve someone who at the very least thinks he can do the job and wants to be here.
That would be a start.