Nigel Clough spoke with genuine affection about the club where his father will forever be a legend.
His hope was that this would prove to be the nadir, a chance to strip everything back and start again.
It is Chris Coleman’s hope, too.
The former Wales boss turned many heads when he left the relative comforts of the national team for Wearside.
Emboldened by his Euro 2016 success, Coleman and assistant Kit Symons ignored the naysayers in the genuine belief that they could be the men to turn it around.
Coleman’s comments after relegation to League One was confirmed were stark: “Whatever was needed here when I arrived, I haven’t brought it.”
Most believed he would at the very least move Sunderland away from trouble.
In the last six months, many things have baffled and disappointed the Sunderland manager. He is still yet to hear from Ellis Short. The Jack Rodwell saga has cast a cloud over a club and frustrated a manager who tried to put unity and resilience at the heart of his message.
Yet he and Symons have fallen for the club, the region and the people associated with it.
Both are close to club stalwart Kevin Ball and have had regular conversations with Peter Reid.
He yearns to oversee a period of similar success and excitement.
There is nothing to say that will prove to be enough.
Martin O’Neill came to the club he loved as a boy but left utterly disillusioned.
Ellis Short’s ownership has left many feeling the same way.
As long as he remains in charge of the club, this fall could continue. All share Clough’s hope that this is the nadir but the experiences of Leeds and Sheffield United tell you it doesn’t always work out that way.
It is for that reason Coleman remains one of Sunderland’s best hopes when it comes to a revival.
Many fans are unimpressed by his work so far and Coleman himself would not quibble with that sentiment. Five wins is a poor record and the same old defensive shortcomings were on show in the collapse to Burton Albion.
There have been frustrations with tactics and substitutions. It will be up to Coleman to answer those questions should he stay for a League One campaign in which only promotion will do.
It is impossible to underline just what a rudderless ship Sunderland had become before his arrival, however.
There were few willing to take this job on after Simon Grayson’s departure and the shambolic recruitment of the summer underlined the fact that despite everything that went wrong in the Premier League era, the club are no closer to establishing a reliable and efficient process for bringing in players.
Coleman’s January business did not shift the needle, but the failure to offer him the resources to bring in proper cover up front and in goal was appalling.
Quite frankly, without his direction it is hard to see exactly where Sunderland go in terms of their planning for next season. Certainly, there is no evidence to suggest those above him have the answers and should this summer replicate last, there is no chance of instant promotion.
When Coleman talks of knowing what needs to be done, he refers to the young talent at the club that he wishes to build around. Creating an athletic, hungry side that reflects the endeavour of its fanbase. Clearing away those associated with years of underperformance and those not in tune with a club where graft is the number one demand from supporters.
On this, he needs backing on a scale that Simon Grayson did not get last summer.
That Coleman has not been able to turn around Sunderland’s fortunes only serves to underline the scale of the malaise and the extent of the mismanagement which has brought a proud club to its knees.
There are no quick fixes, no easy solutions. Certainly, there is no ‘supercoach’ who can turn it around with the click of a finger.
The squad needs a complete overhaul but it can not be ‘make do and mend’ again. There needs to a vision and direction that has been sorely lacking in the past two summers.
Coleman wants to be the man to take control and he deserves a chance to do it.
What he needs is someone to give the go-ahead to do so. Without that, it is hard to see where Sunderland go next.
If we have learned anything from these successive relegations, it is that there has been a vacuum of leadership and vision when it comes to the football side of the club.
It simply cannot be allowed to continue.