This season was supposed to be different for Sunderland AFC.
Buoyed by last year’s dramatic survival, which saw the Black Cats maintain their status at the top table in the penultimate match against Everton, Wearside was bouncing that balmy May evening with genuine hope of a brighter future, especially with the bumper new TV deal.
Fast forward four-and-a-half-months and Sunderland find themselves again in trouble, propping up the rest of the Premier League.
With frustrated and increasingly fed-up fans having to contend with another season of strife, a season-long battle just to survive again is on the cards.
Manager David Moyes, owner Ellis Short and the players themselves have all been on the receiving end of fan fury.
Moyes has only been in the job just over two months after England came calling for Sam Allardyce.
Allardyce’s England tenure lasted all of one game. Some fans have even called for his return to Wearside.
But former Everton, Manchester United and Real Sociedad boss Moyes remains the right man to turn Sunderland around – and here’s why:
Moyes needs time to stamp his mark:
When the 53-year-old was appointed Sunderland boss in late July, he became the sixth manager to take charge since Steve Bruce was sacked in November 2011.
Indeed, Bruce was the last Sunderland manager to complete a full season. That is an incredible stat.
The managerial merry-go-round has harmed Sunderland considerably, with constant changes in the dugout leading to constant changes in personnel and styles of play.
Not to mention the financial impact and the constraints that has resulted in.
Moyes has only been in charge for two months, no time at all to build a team.
Moyes’ late appointment meant Sunderland’s summer transfer business plans were delayed. Moyes had to contend with shipping players out and bringing players in at a rate of knots, while also dealing with the start of the season.
With money tight, Moyes has been working with one hand behind his back since arriving at the Stadium of Light.
Moyes doesn’t take any prisoners:
Moyes, like every manager, has his faults and perhaps he can work on instilling more confidence in the players publicly.
Who knows what is said behind closed doors.
But publicly, Moyes has, at times, come across as defeatist to supporters. Mind, the stats speak for themselves. Perhaps he is too honest.
His press conferences are always entertaining, with the Scot never dodging any questions and giving his honest, forthright view.
One thing is for sure, though, he doesn’t take any prisoners. Lamine Kone found that out this summer. Moyes stood firm over the contract saga and Sunderland eventually secured their man, with clauses in place to protect the club.
Sunderland fans should welcome a manager who stands firm and means it when he says the club will always come first.
Building for the future:
Sunderland’s start has been dismal. There is no getting away from that.
Just one point from their opening six matches, with the side again heavily relying on Jermain Defoe’s goals just to give them a fighting chance.
Just five goals have been scored, four of which have come from the boot of Defoe.
Short-term results clearly must improve, starting with the visit of West Bromwich Albion this weekend. One of the few positives, though, has been the emergence of some of the younger players.
Lynden Gooch has impressed, while young strikers Joel Asoro and Josh Maja have been involved in the first-team picture.
Players for the future, with Moyes relying on experience in recent games, but there is clearly talent coming through and Moyes has given them the opportunity.
Sunderland need managerial stability:
When Moyes was appointed, Short said: “He was my number one managerial target for the last five appointments, but his desire to honour existing contracts meant we were not able to bring him to Sunderland previously.”
Short claimed he wanted Moyes ever since Bruce departed, but instead had to settle for Martin O’Neill, Paolo Di Canio, Gus Poyet, Dick Advocaat and Sam Allardyce as the Scot was unavailable.
He finally got his man on a four-year contract. Sunderland need a period of managerial stability.
Moyes was under no illusions how tough the Sunderland job would be when he took charge and the former Celtic defender remains the right man to take the club forward.
It may just take longer than everyone had hoped.