Gary Rowell: Jan Kirchhoff's alarming 'toxic' dressing room comments help shine light on Sunderland struggles
Two former Sunderland players, Patrick van Aanholt and Jan Kirchhoff have been talking about their time on Wearside over the last couple of weeks and one person who didn’t come out of it well was former boss David Moyes.
Both van Aanholt and Kirchhoff were complimentary to Moyes’ predecessor Sam Allardyce, his man management style and tactical decisions met with their approval. Unfortunately the same wasn’t said about Moyes.
Van Aanholt admitted he didn’t click with Moyes but that I can live with – players are always falling out with their managers, arguments and bust-ups are part of dressing room culture.
Some managers would even provoke players to spark a reaction because a complacent dressing room with players in a comfort zone won’t work, you need an edge.
Kirchhoff’s comments, though, were far more alarming to me, calling the atmosphere in the dressing room toxic and that there were lots of fights.
If that was the case, then things had got way out of hand and no wonder results were so bad, as you can’t have any sort of team spirit if the dressing room is so fractured.
The manager doesn’t have to be liked, but if he isn’t respected by the majority of his players, that makes his job virtually impossible but players also have responsibility too.
Just because you don’t get on with your boss doesn’t mean you should down tools, instead prove him wrong and use it as motivation.
However, it wasn’t all bad news. Van Aanholt recalled his favourite game, a 3-2 win over Chelsea under Allardyce and that is one of my favourite games ever at the Stadium of Light.
In fact it gave me goosebumps just watching the goals again. What a match, what an atmosphere. You can’t tell me Sam Allardyce’s teams are always boring, especially as just four days
later Sunderland scored another three against Everton in an even more convincing display.
That Chelsea win couldn’t have happened without total commitment and team spirit, to come back twice from behind and score three goals that were all technically excellent, especially the
opener from Wahbi Khazri, while Fabio Borini’s and Jermain Defoe’s weren’t too shabby either.
How could such a promising time for Sunderland football club – that should have been the start of something good – end up with arguably the worst two years in its history.
Van Aanholt and Kirchhoff’s comments explains some of it but it is beyond belief really and as usually happens, it is the fans that suffer the most and are left to pick up the pieces.