Phil Smith: Will changing the players be enough to get Sunderland fans back for next season?

A year ago, the Stadium of Light ended the season with atmospheres more thunderous, more spine tingling, more impressive than ever before.
Few fans stayed to see the end of Sunderland's season at homeFew fans stayed to see the end of Sunderland's season at home
Few fans stayed to see the end of Sunderland's season at home

The following year has played out part tragedy part farce, a collection of bad decisions and bad luck, the former more prominent than the latter.

The descent from jubilation and hope to utter apathy and despondency has been brutal, culminating in this non-performance.

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Premier League football at the Stadium of Light, which has seen it's fair share of lows but also some truly dizzying highs, ending with little more than a whimper.

The last rites played out in front of a sea of red seats. Those whose lives are built around the club pushed to the unthinkable, that there may be something better to do with their Saturday afternoons than come to watch Sunderland.

Of course today's result would always matter for little, this season was buried weeks, perhaps even months ago.

Now the biggest challenge is to find a way to start next season with a sense of hope and optimism.

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The question will hang in the air over the coming months: What will await fans who come to the Stadium of Light in the early weeks of the summer? More to the point, how many will be there?

Big changes will be promised this summer, and the noises will be of starting again, building something better.

The squad will be ripped apart, the change will be dramatic. Few will feel a sense of loss, as the manager himself said, it is clear that better is needed.

Yet will it be enough?

Will it be enough to placate fans to change those on the pitch?

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The mood has reached such a nadir that the fear is it will not. There has been much talk of shared responsibility, but in truth that has not been backed up much by words. Ellis Short has acknowledged shortcomings in recruitment, and promised to share plans at the end of the season.

Will that simply point again to failures of the past, or it will it confront this directionless season properly, the draining confidence and the sense that the current incumbents are simply not the right fit for the club?

David Moyes knows winning games is the only way to turn things around.

The point has perhaps been reached, however, when not even that will be enough. The scars of this season, one of the most abject in memory, will not heal easily.

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Many of the players will go, their performances not good enough.

That will be welcomed, but it seems unlikely to be enough to get this great Stadium rocking as it can come the opening day of next season.