Relegation could be blessing for Sunderland, says former winger Matt Piper

Former Sunderland winger Matt Piper believes relegation could turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the Black Cats.

Friday, 10th March 2017, 8:00 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:10 am
Didier Ndong comes under pressure in Sunderlands recent defeat at Everton. The Black Cats sit at the bottom of the Premier League table. Picture by Frank Reid

Piper, who signed for the Red and Whites in the summer of 2002, when Peter Reid was manager, has echoed former team-mate Michael Gray’s call that Sunderland may be better off rebuilding outside of the pressure of the Premier League.

The 35-year-old also believes that it is time for Sunderland to stick with a manager for a period of time, having dispensed with their boss in each of the last five seasons.

David Moyes has struggled to convince in the role since taking charge back in July, but Piper believes he needs time to build.

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Asked about whether clubs could benefit from dropping down and potentially coming back up re-energised, Piper said: “Yes, definitely – especially in a case like Sunderland’s – it’s the same story every year.

“They get to this time of year, the results aren’t going well and the board decide they need a change.

“Someone else comes in and they go into that cycle and the new manager doesn’t get the time to build.”

Reid had high hopes for Piper after signing him from Leicester City in a deal with worth £3.5million, but injuries ravaged his time on Wearside, meaning he could make just 29 appearances and 15 starts in three and a half years at the club.

He has now been retired for more than 10 years and is set to begin his own football academy, partnered with education, for 16-18 year olds in his home city of Leicester.

He feels his hometown club are a fine example for the Black Cats.

The Foxes dropped into League One as recently as 2009, but the appointment of Nigel Pearson began a process that saw them climb through the leagues and win the top tier title for the first time in memorable fashion last season.

Piper does obviously not believe a double drop is in Sunderland’s interests, but he says that Leicester’s journey shows that relegation is an opportunity to rebuild a club for the better.

EFL Cup runners-up Southampton have also returned much stronger from a recent stint in League One, while Burnley have looked stronger in the Premier League this term, after their relegation two seasons ago, and they look set to comfortably survive this time around.

Piper added: “Rebuilding is needed. Leicester are a stronger outfit because of it.”