After our glimmer of faint survival hope appeared to be extinguished against Sheffield Wednesday last Monday, it seemed the right time to reflect on a catastrophic series of events that have lead us to where we are today.
We began a thread on our Twitter profile requesting suggestions for the most ludicrous occurrences at Sunderland this season. The list was, unsurprisingly, quite long. It was also quite funny.
If you don’t laugh then you’ll cry. We’re deep into a period of change at the club, on and off the pitch, with a takeover seemingly imminent and a team readying itself for its second third tier season in our 128-year history.
On Wednesday I took in the Liverpool v Manchester City game. The realisation that City, favourites for the European Cup, we’re in the third division less than 20 years ago was come scant consolation.
I’m not saying we’re going to get taken over by some of the richest people in the world and go on to have our most successful period ever, but it goes to prove that football is cyclical.
Five years ago we were kind of middling out in England’s top flight, now we’re watching the worst Sunderland side anyone has ever seen. Nobody would have predicted that would be the case during the Martin O’Neill era.
It was during that time people used to suggest we should be more like Southampton and Swansea. Although they are struggling in the Premier League at the moment, there’s probably something to be said for looking at how Southampton recovered after their relegation to League One.
We do have some good young players to build a team around. I’m not saying Gooch, Asoro and Maja with hit the same heights as Adam Lallana and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but if we surround our young talent with good experienced pros then we might have a decent season.
There’s no doubt we’ve been lacking in talent and ability at times this season, but I do feel our biggest failing has been the mentality of this team. Millwall and Sheffield United have carried the momentum from their promotions last year and are competing for a play-off place.
They don’t have the best players in the division, but they’re effective. They know their strengths and weaknesses. They know how to win and how not to lose. On the other hand, we aren’t mentally capable of understanding and delivering these things.
I didn’t subscribe to the idea that relegation from the Premier League was a good thing, nor is going down to League One. Unfortunately though, it is happening.
The club has to assess and capitalise on this opportunity (oxymoron, I know) and best utilise it as a catalyst for change.
Chris Coleman has said many times that if we get some momentum as a club then we’ll be difficult to stop and I agree with this sentiment. This season we made a ham-fisted attempt at life in the Championship. Take the same approach in League One and I fear the only momentum will be downward.