Sunderland’s horrendous start to the season has sent shock-waves through supporters and while it’s clear the team aren’t good enough, another worrying aspect is how heavy-legged and lethargic the players have looked.
No team has a divine right to win their opening games, but what you do expect at the very least is energy and enthusiasm.
It wasn’t quality football that kept Sunderland up last season, it was old-fashioned hard work, spirit and desire, so why are the very things that saved us in May, so lacking now?
I know a lot of people have questioned the gruelling pre-season itinerary, with long-haul flights to California and then Canada, before coming home for a game, and then heading back out of the country for another friendly in Germany.
I know it was a different era, but the furthest we travelled in pre-season would be Scandinavia, or a tour of Scotland.
Results in pre-season mean nothing, it’s all about building fitness levels up to a peak for the opening game, where the players should be knocking the dressing room door down to get out on the pitch and give everything for that red and white shirt.
Sadly these days, it’s all about getting brand recognition out all over the globe, but if by doing so the huge distances travelled compromises the start of the season, it’s self-destructive.
It’s staggering these days when preparation is so thorough, and the tiniest details are catered for, that a lot of clubs – not just Sunderland, and their owner Ellis Short (above) – are prepared to travel all around the world to play in games for cash, when the better preparation would be much closer to home.