For owner to manager, clarity is absolutely essential if Sunderland are to have any chance of successful rebuild

Sunderland were finally relegated on Saturday afternoon
Sunderland were finally relegated on Saturday afternoon
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A damning indictment of what has happened at Sunderland this season, that when it was finally confirmed, so few fans were there to see it.

Hope had long been extinguished.

It is too simplistic too say that those who stayed away did so because of bad results.

The primary factor it may be but the mood at Sunderland this season has been too flat, too meek. Little wonder that fans were left with no expectation of one last great escape.

That so many decided they had no desire or cause to come is alarming. The mood must change, and it must come from those who have lowered expectations so dramatically this season.

The Championship does not have to be the end for Sunderland, far from it.

So many of the defining moments in the modern history of this club have come from the second tier. Edwards from the banks of the River Wear, Poom rising at Derby County, Sunderland 7, Oxford 0.

Finances will be challenging, player overhaul will be dramatic. The Championship will be tough, but it offers a chance of rebirth. Sunderland have a wage bill of £83 million, yet are 13 points adrift and utterly toothless with four games to play. That is a severe failure, and the turnover this summer offers a rare chance to break that cycle.

The key will be exploiting it, and the key to that is clarity.

Many Sunderland fans will struggled to look to next season with much optimism unless there is a managerial change, and after such a wretched season, that is understandable.

Sunderland have been damaged by past mistakes this season but many, many more have been made, and not enough responsibility taken for those. Signings, selections, have only compounded and accelerated a long-term decline.

But if the Black Cats are minded to carry on regardless, then they must be decisive.

There can be no uncertainty over the future of the club's ownership, or the man in the dug-out. Sunderland have been hamstrung in the Premier League by entering the start of the season utterly unprepared. Do that again next season and the results will be even more brutal.

Sunderland's recruitment must be swift, and uncertainty will not allow for that.

Those who saw the final act of this galling season were in truth, remarkably measured and patient. The Black Cats performance was improved to an extent but the sense of drift, of something unavoidably broken, was inescapable.

Stability has been the word most used at Sunderland this year, the reason put forward for keeping faith in a failing project.

Yet there has been silence from the boardroom for much of 2017 as the season unraveled, relatively evasive responses from the manager on his future in the last few days.

Taking stock is all well and good, but it cannot last long. Drift and apathy are the biggest dangers as Sunderland prepare to return to the Championship. Short had promised to share plans at the end of the season and must make good on that.

They will find a league much improved, much tougher than when they last swept through ten years ago.

It is time for Sunderland fans to see that 'stability' will see them make a fight of it this time around. Recruiting decisively and effectively is the only way out of this mess.

Uncertainty will not allow that to happen.