What is a Sunderland supporter to do in the face of the following facts?
There’s been one win from 11 league games this season with no clean sheets. None of the six defeats was against particularly good opposition (so what does that make Sunderland?). No home win in 10 months. The club has just been relegated for the ninth time.
True, they spent 16 of the past 21 seasons in the Premier League, but did little to interest the rest of the country while they were there. They’ve finished in the upper half of the top league just three times in the last half-century.
Now the fans have to look at the likes of Bournemouth, Huddersfield, Newcastle and Swansea in the top flight.
Sunderland have not won a trophy in 44 years (we are controversially discounting the 1980 Daily Express five-a-side tournament) and only one in the last 80.
I could expand this gruesome list; but won’t. I want to remain a teetotaller.
Happily there are more palatable statistics. SAFC had a 3,000-strong following at Preston on Saturday. The garbage at Barnsley was watched by 4,249 visitors. Remarkable.
The reason I dredge up all this jollity is because before the Preston game, the BBC’s chief football reporter had the following advice for Sunderland supporters.
Ian Dennis reckons: “The fans, I think, need to be patient.”
It’s just possible that he didn’t think this through.
The expression about having “the patience of Job” doesn’t really cover it. Have a shufti at the Book of Job in the Old Testament. While it’s clear that the bloke had a lot on his plate, there is no mention of him travelling to Ipswich in the fog last Tuesday to pay to see that rubbish. He got off lightly.
Patience? For some it has snapped. Obvious reasons dictate that Sunderland’s home attendances have plummeted recently – and no one blames anyone for staying away. The club has sold an average of just 28,430 tickets for each of this season’s home games thus far.
However, Leeds United for example, top of the league after their last home game and the only team in a city with a population three times that of Sunderland, currently average only 32,142 – well below capacity. And if they swap form with Sunderland they’ll be lucky to get 20,000.
All this suggests copious stocks of patience on Wearside; although that doesn’t mean it isn’t accompanied by considerable anger.
One thing guaranteed to obliterate the patience of Sunderland fans is being told that they should be patient.
Mr Dennis went on to say of Simon Grayson: “He’s not struggling. He’s relishing the challenge.”
The Echo is offering a prize to anyone who can explain what in the name of all that breathes he meant by that, because we don’t have a clue.
We can’t say what the prize is or when we will send it. You’ll have to be patient.
In the meantime, Sunderland supporters can take a bow. They’re about the only ones connected to the club entitled to do so.