AS we near the end of yet another season, a familiar question rears its ugly head once again: “Where do we go from here?”
It’s the question that comes up when our football club – if we can call it ours any more – lurches into crisis mode, something that has occurred with alarming frequency in recent years.
Since the highs of last season’s great escape and the run to the League Cup final that preceded it, he’s slowly but surely lost his wayCraig Clark
Once again, fingers are pointed at the manager, with current hot-seat incumbent Gus Poyet left to take the flak of the Stadium of Light crowd.
He’s played his part in our current descent, but to focus solely on him would be to miss the bigger, more worrying picture that’s being painted on Wearside.
That said, Poyet’s role in our latest disaster piece cannot go unmentioned.
Since the highs of last season’s great escape and the run to the League Cup final that preceded it, he’s slowly but surely lost his way.
He stuck to his philosophical blueprint for much of the first half of the season, before ripping it up not long into the New Year.
Since then, error after error has been made, highlighted by the signing of Jermain Defoe.
Amid the excitement of signing a “proven goal scorer”, there were some obvious issues with the acquisition of a 32-year-old who had spent the last year in the MLS.
His age exemplifies the short termism that has blighted this club for far too long and, like the majority of our recent managerial changes,
Defoe was effectively signed as an Elastoplast for a wound requiring surgery.
Aside from that, his capture also didn’t address a chronic lack of creativity and pace in the squad.
Without them, his team-mates have barely been able to fashion the sort of chances Defoe thrives on.
There have been huge mistakes in the transfer market in recent years and it’s now reaching the point where a “safe bet” is a huge gamble.
The introduction of the role of Director of Football has done little to change that.
With Defoe in as the only January signing, a marquee one at that, Poyet has abandoned any sort of long-term game plan; his team has lost any semblance of shape and coherence in the process.
That’s not to say a better manager wouldn’t have solved this conundrum, but there is such a lack of balance in the squad, it’s looking increasingly difficult to see how they would.
For starters, whoever takes charge of the next game might want to shore up the leakiest of left-hand sides, preferably by either dropping Patrick van Aanholt or offering him some form of protection.
Note to Poyet: playing a centre-forward in front of him doesn’t work, no matter how many times you try it.
Seeing Steven Fletcher provide cover for the left-back position was as surreal as it was concerning.
The chances are Poyet will still be here for the almost inevitable defeat we’re likely to suffer at West Ham this coming weekend.
Even if he isn’t, many problems will remain with this squad and the club as a whole.
Without even considering whether the next appointment will be the right one – who has any faith left in the club to get it right? – there are other, deeper questions to be answered.
With little hope left to cling to, Sunderland might find that the Stadium of Light is half empty at kick-off, never mind just at half-time.
The Wise Men Say podcast is available every Monday, with SAFC debate from a variety of guests and post-match reaction from Gus Poyet. You can stream it direct from wisemensay.co.uk or subscribe to it on iTunes.