The story of Sunderland's relegation in the words of those at the heart of it

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A 2-1 defeat to Burton Albion leaves Sunderland facing only their second ever stint in the third tier of British football.

It has been a truly wretched season that has left morale on Wearside lower than it has been for many generations.

Sunderland won just six games before relegation was confirmed

Sunderland won just six games before relegation was confirmed

Here, we track the tale of the campaign in the words of those central to it...

Derek McInnes, June 15

“I have ambitions in the game and while there was interest from elsewhere, and I did talk to Sunderland, I feel there is so much still to be done here at Aberdeen.”

The protracted search for a new manager continued after Martin Bain misses out on his top target. McInnes looked certain to take the job on but backed out over doubts regarding a potential takeover and Sunderland’s various difficulties.

Club statement, June 29

“We have concluded these talks and have determined that this proposed sale would not be in the best interests of Sunderland AFC.

“Ellis Short will continue his commitment to the club, both financially and personally, moving forward.

“We would like to thank our supporters for their patience during what we know has been a period of uncertainty and frustration for them.

“Preston North End have granted us permission to speak with Simon Grayson regarding the manager’s position.”

Ellis Short decided that a German consortium were not fit to take Sunderland forward. Eager to draw a line under a fevered summer of speculation, he ended all talks as Bain moved to bring in Simon Grayson. He put pen to paper before the day was out.

Simon Grayson, June 30

"I have had conversations with Martin and Ellis. We have a realistic budget. I'm a Yorkshireman so don't spend money unwisely.

“My phone was going crazy as soon as it was announced I was going for talks with Sunderland.

“Agents have come out of the woodwork. I have players in mind and hopefully we can move quickly."

At his Stadium of Light unveiling Grayson quipped that with pre-season just days away, he will have to play five-a-side time unless signings are made quickly. His ‘realistic’ budget proves to be one of the smallest in the division, though on wages he commits plenty of funds.

Simon Grayson, August 3

"It didn’t need Darron to come out and make these points, I’m aware of situations of certain players that maybe don’t want to be here anyway.”

Grayson admitted that Darron Gibson was ‘bang out of order’ when he was filmed crashing a wedding, telling guests that certain players didn’t care and attacking the squad in an expletive-ridden rant. Coming off the back of a humiliating thumping against Celtic in what was supposed to be a showpiece friendly, it highlighted a difficult pre-season in which Sunderland were also heavily beaten by St Johnstone.

Simon Grayson, August 26

“Too many players wanted to do their own individual stuff rather than play for the shape of the team and for each other, and Barnsley found it quite easy after they scored the first goal.

“It’s not been good for us, but it’s a learning curve.

“One or two people need to accept responsibility and accept that they need to work harder for the team.”

Sunderland’s promising start to the season unravelled and Grayson was utterly irate on the touchline, substitute Wahbi Khazri drawing the brunt of his anger. Within a few weeks they would lose 5-2 to Ipswich and for manager and squad, the writing was quickly beginning to appear on the wall.

Jonny Williams, September 3

“Getting a run of games is the most important thing.

“I managed to do something special with Palace and go up through the play-offs. I hope to do the same here.”

Grayson bolstered his squad with three deadline day signings but all saw their season disrupted by regular injuries. It was the story of the window, with few making a consistent impression over the season. Cost-cutting had obvious consequences.

Martin Bain, September 18

“The right thing was, and this is regardless of the other circumstances, to ensure that the club protected its investment and got some money for Vito. That’s what I mean about efficiency.”

Words that would be shared on social media every time a mistake was made by one of Sunderland’s goalkeepers. There were plenty. The failure to replace Vito Mannone and Jordan Pickford was one of the key reasons for Sunderland’s demise and raised serious questions about the club’s recruitment once more.

Martin Bain, October 23

“From Simon’s perspective, he is looking at things exactly the same way I am, we both have a job to do and a responsibility to the fans. Every day we come here, we work extremely hard to make sure we do the best for everybody.”

Bain spoke at the FanFest event but when asked repeatedly about Simon Grayson’s future, he was vague. The Chief Executive added that ‘relegation had not even been mentioned internally’, but within minutes of a 3-3 draw with Bolton he told Grayson he was being relieved of his duties. Grayson had one win in 17 league games.

Ellis Short, November 3

"The first order of business is to get ourselves out of this problem, improve the performances and move up the table.

“After that, we need to continue to get stronger and get back into the Premier League as quickly as we can. This club belongs in the Premier League and that’s where we want to be.”

Short raised many an eyebrow as he broke his silence, vowing to end the ‘crisis’ at the club and insisting he wanted the club pushing for a place in the top seven. He appointed Chris Coleman but the words seemed hollow when no investment followed in January. Short seemed to stand by his misguided belief that this squad was capable of escaping trouble.

Robbie Stockdale, November 18

“Duncan was keen to stay on but it was taken out of his hands in the end and the second time he went back on the ball it never went out of play. I was just telling him to sit down.”

Kit Symons watched on in horror. First Robbin Ruiter conceded two woeful goals from Millwall free-kicks, then Jonny Williams and Duncan Watmore picked up serious injuries. Coleman arrived the next day to what by his own admission was a flat club. Watmore’s pace and energy was never replaced in a squad that has too often been too pedestrian.

Chris Coleman, November 20

“If I wasn’t committed, if it was a stop gap I wouldn’t have moved my wife and family here. I am fully committed to the area. Everyone wants this club back in the Premier League.

“First of all I have to deliver, pushing it in a different direction, nudging it further forward, it’s not easy but that’s the first building block.

“After that we have to build on that. I am excited by that. It’s a great club, always will be a great club. I have the duty of trying to take it forward."

Chris Coleman raised spirits immeasurably at his Sunderland unveiling, particularly after beating Burton in his second game at the helm. That belief and commitment has been unwavering even as reality hit home. Later in the season, he insisted he would stay even if the club went down.

Chris Coleman, January 8

“Once we found out that clause could be exercised, we’ve been working on a replacement or replacements.

“Obviously, now it’s actually happened, there’s a red light flashing now, so that’s something we’ve got to do.”

Coleman was desperate to secure striking reinforcements after Lewis Grabban and James Vaughan left. The last chance to truly turn the season around passed with the purse strings kept tight shut and key positions left weak. He described the window as ‘absolutely brutal’ after missing out on the likes of Jon Walters and Chris Martin. A long winless run followed that just about cut the club adrift.

Chris Coleman, February 19

“If the people here who do love the club don’t think you feel the same way, then there’s a problem. We know about all that and the anger and frustration from everybody.

“Myself, Martin and the players have to accept that. We’ll take that on the chin. But until we have a new owner with new ideas, we are where we are.”

Coleman made no secret of his thoughts regarding Ellis Short’s ownership and this would be the first of many comments that sets the battleground for the club’s future. Coleman is absolutely insistent that unless Short sells or re-engages, he cannot take Sunderland anywhere. Most fans agree.

Damningly, Coleman admitted in the same press conference that other teams at the bottom had more fight than Sunderland. By the time they found it around Easter, it was too late.

Chris Coleman, March 2

"At the minute I don't even know whether he is fit or he's back training.”

Coleman’s blunt response ended any faint chance of Jack Rodwell playing a part in the fight against relegation. A brief spell at centre-back in the U23 side was ended by injury and from there he completely disappeared, rejecting the chance to walk away from his contract and insisting he could still be an international in a newspaper interview. Coleman was left utterly exasperated.

Martin Bain, March 18

“We expect the highest standard of behaviour from our players and should any individual fall short of those standards then robust action must be taken.”

A key player in Coleman’s plans, a long injury hampered Darron Gibson before he was charged with driving with excess alcohol. The incident occurred the same day as Sunderland lost 2-0 to Preston North End.

John O’Shea, March 28

“It's looking like something needs to change on and off the pitch. Hopefully whatever does happen, happens quickly. With things like that, they can fester on.

“It (selling the club) is not an easy thing to bring about quickly but it will be better for everyone involved if something happens. The worst thing is not being sure.

“If someone were to buy the club, they would soon know when they get in here and witness the stuff behind the scenes and what could be going on the potential it has. Some of the figures I see bandied around for others clubs, I'm thinking someone will be getting a good buy, that's for sure.”

One of Sunderland’s longest-serving players echoing the sentiment of many a supporter. The anxious wait for positive news goes on.

Chris Coleman, April 14

“Three games running we have dropped points. We have done enough in games to earn all three points but given it up.

"Obviously it is critical for us at this stage of the season.

“The performance and the mentality was spot on, brilliant, but it is those fine details we haven't taken care of, all season really.”

Performances improved but defensive errors were not eradicated. Coleman all but admitted defeat in the battle to beat the drop after a 2-2 draw with Reading.

Chris Coleman, April 21

"I apologise to our supporters who have stuck with us every week and followed us away from home. "We haven't been enough and we have fallen short."

A lead over Burton Albion was thrown away and Sunderland's relegation was finally confirmed.