I’m sure every season we sit and wonder why this happens to us.
There’s certainly no curse at the club like some suggest and I’m very reluctant to buy into the theory that this club is somehow “rotten to the core”.
What we’ve had, is years of new managers coming in to try and rebuild a struggling side, almost from scratch, and continually to get it badly wrong in the transfer market. Other clubs have spent less and built better sides because of success in the transfer market – there’s no magic formula that prevents you from being so reckless and incompetent. It’s a succession of managers making poor choices.
True, we’re a club constantly struggling to expect new managers to come in and instantly make their poor side better. But there is another side to this, and that’s that managers can still be more accountable then some observers make out.
When I think of the managers Sunderland have had in the Premier League since the latest stint that started in 2007, some have tried to evolve and some have tried to revolutionise. Steve Bruce, Martin O’Neill, Gus Poyet and Sam Allardyce are in the former category and Paolo Di Canio and Dick Advocaat are in the second. You don’t need me to say which has been the better method.
Where would David Moyes fit here? Both Advocaat and Di Canio placed a new emphasis on attacking football and it resulted in sides slicing through their sides like butter. Moyes can hardly be accused of that, but the one thing that is clear, is that the side that finished strongly last season has been dismantled – and let’s not forget that those players were going down until the signings that arrived in January significantly improved the starting XI.
So if you note that only three of the players that started the 3-0 victory against Everton on the night Sunderland sent Newcastle down into the Championship played at Stoke last week, you wouldn’t be surprised that it didn’t look as good. Unless, of course, the replacements for these absent players are better. In the case of Jordan Pickford, you’d have a case. But the rest?
Injuries have obviously played their part in this, Cattermole, Kirchhoff, Kone and Borini would all be playing if fit and, again, you can’t blame the manager for that. But it’s taken this injury list to enforce the inclusion of Whabi Khazri and, for the risk of sounding wise after the event, around £10million would have secured the arrivals of Yann M’Vila and Deandre Yedlin. The former’s quality is clear and when starting the season without the two midfielders who played alongside him, his role in the side could have been so important.
We all worried about paying a few million quid for the sake of a few months for M’Vila, but if there was even four or five more points on board because of him then it suddenly seems more than worth it.
Granted, Yedlin isn’t the greatest player in the world, but his replacement doesn’t look any better and it was an opportunity to get closer to the side that finished last season strongly.
Crucially, N’Dong, McNair and Djilibodji were the new signings that played against Stoke costing a combined fee of around £26m. Twenty. Six. Million.
So let’s not pretend the wrong decisions haven’t been made yet another manager in the transfer market.
That said, I can hardly see the logic in looking elsewhere for a manager at present. Bad decisions have been made, perhaps without the 20/20 vision that hindsight offers, and ripping up and starting again hardly appeals.
If this was another club considering a manager change I’d call it knee-jerk, so I see the sense in deciding to stick rather than twist.
The footballing Gods have listened to our prayers before, let’s hope they listen again. Before April.
The Wise Men Say podcast is available from every Monday, with SAFC debate from a variety of guests and reaction from David Moyes. Stream it direct from wisemensay.co.uk or subscribe to it on iTunes