John O’Shea says Sunderland’s board must admit responsibility for the club’s failures – and stop pointing the finger at managers when things go wrong.
The Black Cats have been involved in relegation battles in the last three seasons, with first Paolo Di Canio, then Gus Poyet, and finally Dick Advocaat leading them to safety in the last few games of the season.
Dutchman Advocaat will lead Sunderland this season after becoming the fourth head coach at the Stadium of Light since owner Ellis Short sacked Steve Bruce in November, 2011.
Neither Martin O’Neill, Di Canio or Poyet managed to complete a full season with the Black Cats before being relieved of their duties, but skipper O’Shea insists rather than blaming the head coach, Sunderland’s hierarchy must take some responsibility.
He said: “It can’t keep being the manager’s fault.
“And we cannot continue to have such a huge turnover of players – 10 or so in, 11 out, season after season. There have to be lessons learned if we’re to move forward.
It can’t keep being the manager’s fault.
“The club has to admit there are a few things they could learn from and change.”
O’Shea is more accustomed to challenging at the top end of the table in his career, having won league titles and cups with Manchester United, where he only ever played under one manager – Sir Alex Ferguson.
And he says Sunderland could take a leaf out of his old club’s book. “Sunderland, without a doubt, has lacked continuity,” he added. “The turnover of players has been too much.
“There was talk of Lee Cattermole going a while ago, which would have left me, Seb Larsson and Wes Brown as the longest-serving players at the club.
“And we had only been here three years at the time, which is crazy.
“After three years’ service, we should not be the longest-serving players at a club like this.”
O’Shea admits he’s not enjoyed the last couple of seasons, but says there’s so much potential at Sunderland to be a force in the Premier League, and catch up with teams who are arguably smaller than them in stature.
“We have to look at the likes of Swansea and Stoke and see if we can catch them,” he added.
“We have played them and beaten them a couple of times and then you see how they are doing in the table and it is frustrating because they are so far ahead of us.
“I am sure the club as a whole and the people at higher levels in the club will be looking at those teams and saying we need to be tweaking a few things to get up there.
“I’m sure the owner and the people on the board would love a season where it is really enjoyable.
“Like when we got to the League Cup Final in 2014 and there was a great buzz around the place.
“But last season we struggled and if you look at the stats – the number of goals we scored, the amount of games we drew – we can consider ourselves lucky not to have been relegated.
“The club are really looking forward to building things because when you look at it – the size of the club, the people who support us, the fans who travel to away games – this is a big club.
“We should be higher up the table. We would like a season where it is seen that we are building.
“I have never been relegated but the last two seasons in particular I’ve been so close to it that it has been a major relief when it did not happen. So we’re hoping to get away from that this season.
“Hopefully, the club can get a few signings in and we can start to look forward to a great season.”