Chris Young column: Sunderland fans need hope from the big derby

DEJECTED: Sunderland's John O'Shea and Kieran Westwood at the end of Satuiday's drubbing at Swansea.
DEJECTED: Sunderland's John O'Shea and Kieran Westwood at the end of Satuiday's drubbing at Swansea.
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THE SUNDERLAND branch of the Samaritans started following me on Twitter this week.

Yes, it’s got that bad.

Setting Premier League records for the worst ever start to a season tends to dim the brightness of the rose-tinted spectacles.

But depression isn’t the prevailing emotion on Wearside; it’s anger.

Anger at a woeful return of one point from eight games.

Anger at players who have been battling relegation for the last two-and-a-bit years.

Anger at the sale of the club’s prize assets.

Anger at the meagre impact of 14 new signings.

Anger at the merry-go-round of managers.

And even anger directed this way, at interviews perceived as “rally calls” when there is precious little evidence of improvement on the pitch.

There is plenty of anger internally in the dressing room too.

Furrowed brows covered the faces of fuming players as they trudged to the team bus at Swansea.

And one tabloid’s labelling of Sunderland’s XI as “gutless” after the Swansea debacle has caused several words unsuitable for a family audience to be uttered in the corridors of the Academy of Light this week.

In fairness, a lack of quality, rather than effort, is surely the problem for Gus Poyet.

But should Sunderland take their tally of successive defeats to a not so magnificent seven on Sunday, then the vitriol bubbling away in the cauldron will boil over.

Anger is not the emotion which should be the big worry for Sunderland’s hierarchy though; it’s apathy.

The turmoil at the Stadium of Light this season has already prompted disillusion to begin on the terraces.

Tellingly, tickets were still on sale for the derby this week.

Defeat against the Magpies could be the final straw.

Interest waned dramatically in 2005-06 when supporters realised the club was plummeting into the Championship without a hope of survival.

It was only the promise of a new era under Niall Quinn’s stewardship and the swift impact of Roy Keane’s management that brought a full quota back through the turnstiles.

In 2006, though, there was at least empathy among supporters to a the team Mick McCarthy had assembled on a budget.

They were bargain basement buys who simply weren’t good enough and fell drastically short as a result.

This time around, though, big money and big wages has been splashed by Ellis Short and look at the return!

The continual struggles of the same players and the same narrative season after season has led to a breakdown in the relationship between team and supporters.

When the dressing room delegation took the brave step of approaching chief executive Margaret Byrne over Paolo Di Canio’s conduct, they needed to justify that protest on the pitch; from a PR stance at least.

But the defeats have continued and the groans over “player-power” have grown louder.

Wolves boss Kenny Jackett realised something similar had happened at Molineux when he arrived at the club during the summer.

Jackett knew he had to restore the bond with the terraces before the club could begin to recover from two successive relegations.

Gradually, he has managed to do that by turning to younger players and more importantly, putting results on the board, with Wolves perched third in the League One table.

Wins don’t come so easily in the Premier League, though, and Poyet will need to produce a remarkable turnaround to put consecutive victories on the board.

But there is another way.

Victory on Sunday would only put a band-aid over Sunderland’s wounds.

Yet a derby success produces a massive upsurge in the approval ratings.

Just look at what winning at St James’s Park did for Di Canio last April.

Here was an unproven Premier League manager who won just two of his 12 top-flight outings.

But that victory on Tyneside bought him so much good will that a portion of supporters continue to argue that he should still be in the dug-out.

That is why the derby counts for so much, and this one more than most.

Newcastle will rightly scent blood and the chance to accelerate Sunderland’s journey towards the Championship.

But Sunderland need to produce a reaction from Swansea.

They need to inject some enthusiasm back into supporters subjected to a deluge of body blows.

They need to provide some hope.

They need to be the Good Samaritans.