David Jones column: Others would much rather be in Sunderland’s shoes

Connor Wickham in action for Sunderland during their 4-1 loss at the hand of Crystal Palace.
Connor Wickham in action for Sunderland during their 4-1 loss at the hand of Crystal Palace.
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“NO pace and no physicality”, in the words of Dick Advocaat, and we can add to that an alarming lack of creativity, questionable character and confidence that must have been shredded by a third abject surrender this season.

Yet still, somehow, Sunderland float above the relegation zone while we scramble through record books to search for the lowest points totals for teams surviving in Premier League history.

It’s 34 for the record.

“Sunderland are gone,” I heard someone say on the radio this weekend; just as Leicester were about a month ago and QPR a month before that.

The truth is, it could be any three of the five clubs who now seem marooned at the foot of the table and I can’t make a really solid case for any of them staying up.

It could come down to a single point, it might even boil down to goal difference, but I know for sure that every other team down there would rather be in Sunderland’s position right now than their own.

Why? Because Sunderland have the points on the board. Not many I grant you, but one more than Hull, three more than QPR and Burnley, four more than Leicester and every point right now is like gold dust.

That’s why I’d have snapped your hand off for a draw on Saturday against Crystal Palace, that’s why I’d happily take a point at Stoke in 10 days and against Southampton a week after that.

One win and a couple of draws is all it will take at this stage because I can’t see three of the four teams below us getting to 34 points.

It’s just that right now, that a win for Sunderland seems so implausible, even the home game against Leicester that I’m sure everyone will be looking at as the one which will decide Sunderland’s fate.

If he wasn’t already, Advocaat is now blindingly aware of the severity of his challenge.

Some might say he was unlucky to come up against a Crystal Palace team in such good form. I’d counter that by arguing the other two games against West Ham and Newcastle were against two of the worst teams right now in the Premier League and we lost one of those as well.

After this latest capitulation, Sunderland have to go back to being hard to beat.

Gus Poyet was no fool, and neither am I hankering for his return, but in away games this season – Southampton apart – Sunderland have only once (at Old Trafford) been beaten by more than a goal.

QPR are the only team in the bottom half to have beaten us on their own patch.

It will take a different approach at Stoke next time out than we’ve seen so far under the Dutchman, but more on that next week.

This though is the argument I’m having with my family at the moment: stop for a minute and consider what it is we are fighting for?

I’m not convinced anything is going to be any different next season unless the new coach flies in on a broomstick clutching a magic wand.

Honestly, I’m not sure even Harry Potter could transform this group of players, who I keep hearing are under performing: I don’t think they are, I don’t think they’re good enough.

Are this group of players suddenly going to find the physical requirements of Premier League football which even the most casual observer can see are missing?

As I’ve said before, it’s going to take a major overhaul of the squad, but I don’t know if the recruitment team, who thus far have been unable to replace the core of British players introduced by Steve Bruce, are suddenly going to unearth half a dozen players to raise the bar: it will take at least that many.

Are we just going to be delaying the inevitable?

Consider this. Relegation, which on the face of it would represent a huge step backwards, might actually present our club an opportunity to move forward.

A chance to shed the mediocrity which has plagued us for too long, a chance to blood the youngsters, who could become the cornerstone of our development, a chance for our team to discover an identity which it’s so badly lacking, a chance for us to regain some momentum and rediscover some pride.

In no way am I saying Sunderland should surrender. It’s not in our nature as a football club and it’s not in our make up as fans.

But if we do find a way to crawl over the line, don’t celebrate for too long .... the hard work will only just be beginning.