WISE MEN SAY: Finally driven to leaving a Sunderland game early!
During my years of covering North East football I vowed never to criticise supporters for leaving early.
After all, the fans paid their money and they are well within their rights to do as they please. Journalists get in for free and are paid to be there.
As a fan, I can count with one hand the amount of games I have left early. But at around 79 minutes yesterday, as Fabio Borini ballooned a shot high into the North Stand, I’d had enough, and I joined the swathes of supporters making good their escape from the Stadium of Light.
I decided that there were better things I could be doing with my Sunday afternoon.
It was hardly a lightbulb moment – there have been countless times where, as a Sunderland fan, I would question why I chose to watch them on any given day.
Over the last five years of miraculous escapes from relegation, there has always been hope. It may only have been a glimmer; a tiny chink of light, but it was enough to keep us there.
It’s a two-way thing. If we can see what they’re trying to achieve and they’re throwing everything at that goal, then we’re on board, noquestions.
But there is inertia on Wearside this season. The inertia has transmitted to the players, and in turn to the fans. There’s inevitability in defeat. And it’s very clear where that is coming from.
It comes from the man who said, two minutes into his job, that Sunderland were going to be fighting another relegation battle. The man who constantly tells his players through the media that they are not good enough. The man who chose to drop one of his better-performing midfielders in Didier Ndong against Watford because he believed he couldn’t cope with their ‘stature’.
David Moyes may say that Sunderland are doing everything they can to avoid relegation, but the reality is that his side are hurtling towards the Championship.
I previously thought that Moyes was the man to bring us back up and, given time, he would build a team to be proud of. But over the course of the season I have harboured serious reservations.
They play with fear. A fear nurtured from a manager who worries more about the opposition rather than working on what his own team are best at.
If they feared Watford, god knows what they thought of Manchester United, who barely had to move out of second gear yesterday.
Of course, there were mitigating circumstances in defeat – Seb Larsson’s dismissal was harsh, from a referee who struggled to control the game from the first whistle.
Moyes’ pre-match thoughts could be paraphrased as he thought they were going to lose so let’s surprise everyone. Not exactly Churchillian.
He may still think we have a chance of staying up, but everyone else knows that Sunderland will start next season in the Championship. If Moyes is still at the helm in August, we will be all the poorer for it.