When David Moyes delivered the verdict early last season that Sunderland would be fighting a relegation battle, the consensus was that he lost the dressing room, and his words became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Rafa Benitez is fresh from his Rafalution, but he made a similar prediction, suggesting that his squad may be in for a scrap in the lower reaches of the top flight.
Moyes did not mean to send his squad into a self-doubting spiral of disappointment with his words. He was, just like Benitez is this season, managing expectations.
Now, I doubt that any Sunderland fan this time last year was thinking that the Black Cats could mount a credible assault on the top half of the table powered by super Donald Love and Paddy McNair.
They were still reeling from the departure of Sam Allardyce at the end of a summer that started so promisingly, with thoughts of building a new foundation for success.
Plans on Wearside have a habit of going sour while the ink is still wet.
Moyes didn’t mean to, but he compounded the depression of a club that a couple of months earlier harboured ambitions of mid-table.
A year later, we are building again, and the club, through Simon Grayson, are still managing expectations in the Championship.
But while Moyes did so with his words, Grayson, like it or not, is managing those expectations in deed.
Signing players for £500k when the likes of Boro are throwing around huge sums as they plot an instant return to the Premier League.
I prefer Sunderland’s way of doing things, not that they have much choice in the matter.
Servicing the debt is the primary goal this season, while consolidating our place in the Championship.
Thoughts of promotion seem ridiculous, however, those tipping us to ‘do a Leeds’ and drop into the third tier is similarly fanciful.
The chances are we will do neither. We’ll probably not be flirting with the top two, we might not be far away from the play-offs, and the bottom three should not be a concern.
It all sounds a bit boring, doesn’t it? A season in prospect of us just chugging along? To me, it sounds perfect.
When did Sunderland ever build on their successes over the last ten years?
Our self-inflicted exile from the Premier League needs to be used as an opportunity to rebuild.
To first of all get on to a sound financial footing, to cut the costs, to solidify the foundations, blood our talented young players, develop some more. Find diamonds in the rough.
Looking enviously at the likes of Boro spending big money isn’t going to help us.
They’ve been where we are, having to ship players on Premier League money off the wage bill and replacing them with £100k signings, augmenting a squad with loans, frees, journeymen and youngsters.
From that point, they were able to build again and now have the luxury to plough their resources into the squad rather than towards interest payments.
I would not suggest those days ahead of us will be particularly dark – chances are we will win more games than we lose, something we never managed to do in the Premier League.
The real challenge will come when we are financially on an even keel, where the decisions taken regarding player recruitment need to be better than the ones that have got us in this mess in the first place.
But that’s a battle for another day.