It might be a handful of words first shouted by a troubled lad from Manchester thirty-odd years ago, as part of the soundscape of my life at the time, but it surely applies to us, Sunderland, in 2015. We don’t take enough chances, and there are a few folks out on the field that you could (perhaps a bit unfairly) say hadn’t tried, but look at us watching the stuff being played out on the green, green grass of our home ground in front of us. We didn’t really take a chance on Advocaat the first time around, as we had little or no choice because of the situation we were in. We didn’t really take a chance on him second time around, because….well, nobody else seemed to want the job. The chance we should have taken would have been to get his replacement in as soon as he came back, and let the two work together for the whole season, or at the very least until Dick was happy the the new man/woman/sentient being was ready to take the reins on his/her/its own.
Another managerial departure no longer shocks, or even surprises us. I can tell you exactly where I was when Mick McCarthy was sacked, when Roy Keane walked, and when Dick came back. (Ambleside, Brough, and Pagebank, if that makes any difference. This time it was West Auckland)
We’re used to it, because it’s become part of what the club now is. Lack of consistency at managerial level inevitably leads to the same on the pitch. It’s us, it’s what we’ve grown up watching, and it’s therefore the stuff that we, perhaps more than the supporters of any other club, have come to accept as our lot in life. Man City might claim that they had their days in the doldrums, but whatever currency the Middle East has hoyed at them over the last few years has quite firmly hoofed that perception of them as the hard-done-by neighbour well into touch. As mires go, the one we’re in is both familiar and unacceptable. Simple mathematics tells us that somebody has to be last, to be bottom (or next to bottom – cheers, you barcoded beauties), to be the crappest – but does it, every season, have to be us, for so long?
When you look at the season so far, there have been a lot of moments when we’ve thought, said, shouted, that we were only a thou out, only a breath away, from actually achieving something positive. And by positive I mean a point, or two (oh that such a thing were possible, because we’d be the best at achieving it) or even, being ridiculously typically football fan-like and optimistic, even three.
Take a chance and say you tried, please. The Prem is full of millionaire footballers who can get away with going through the motions because they have enough fizzy bits of magic in their pockets to promote discussion on MOTD – and these days, that’s enough (apart from one of those man-buns, that is, and a series of tattoos that require constant explanation). They provide great technical entertainment, but it’s completely and utterly bereft of any sort of passion. Pulling the front of your shirt out to stretch the club badge doesn’t count, biffing your chest is irritating, and kissing “your” badge is just plain…well, come to the pub after the game and explain it to the fans. Not those who are now the lifeblood (financially, and, let’s face it, they’re the only ones that count, as they sit on their barstools with their replica kits and scream “support” at a team located a hundred miles from home), but those who actually go to games. Those who, like the daftest people on Earth, still pay stupid amounts of money to sit and watch from a seat that has been sponsored by the TV money to the tune of £40. Per seat, per game, for the duration of the contract. That means that when we take our seat at Chelsea, we are in effect paying £100 for the privilege of being part of the Premtomine.
Having said all of that, don’t walk away. If we do that, Murdoch and Sky have won. They will have driven out the very people who created the monster that they have harnessed, whipped into submission, and turned into the cash cows that threaten to make the Bond villains of fantasy a very possible reality. Well, at the very least, make a certain Antipodean megalomaniac, quite wrongly, the most powerful man in sport. Forget Blatter and his delusionary world of innocence, Murdoch is the most powerful man in sport, and shamefully, football. He’s Mike Ashley times several hundred, and ultimately that’s all that matters, because that’s where the money goes.
Sunderland? Take a chance and say you tried. What has been tried is the acquisition of literally dozens of players since the inception of the Prem who quite simply see their contracts as more important than actually playing football. We’ve got a squad that is undeniably packed with technical ability, but what we need is a big injection of heart. We pay people to identify young talent and bring them to the club, so why not make all that effort worthwhile and give the kids a chance? Elliott, Rowell, Arnott?
Dick’s reasons for leaving so soon are probably that he didn’t get what he wanted in the summer, and that he felt he was working with the wrong tools. Imagine giving an electrician a box of chisels and telling him to get on with it, which is effectively what the Director of Football “model” brings. Or perhaps he struggled to come to terms with Poyet’s team selection for “that” FA Cup game at Hull.
Whatever the reason(s), he’s gone, and we have to face up to life without him. Who next? Who knows? There’s not one stand-out candidate. The names that have been bandied about in the last few days as rumours of Dick’s imminent departure grew have ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous. Nigel Pearson undoubtedly has survival ability, as proved by his achievement at Leicester, but he’s completely mad, as proved by his outbursts and increasingly weird interviews. Allardyce doesn’t need the job or the money, and while he has affiliations with the club, he’s been rumoured that he won’t work with a Director of Football. Sounds promising, and I think we’d put up with his style of play if it keeps us up. Any other manager/coach out of work? They’ll be on the list, and whoever it is has the now usual one game to prepare for the Derby game. So the circle of life goes on at SAFC. Get poor results, part company with the manager repeat ad infinitum.
As a club, it boils down to the fact that we don’t appear to know what we’re doing, and when you have the relatively restricted spending power when compared to Chelsea, City, and a host of other clubs, that spells failure.
Open and shut and slammed in our face.
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