Remember when you were a kid and you came in from school and for no apparent reason your parents were in a foul mood? Even if you had done nothing wrong, suddenly everything from how many breaths you took a minute to wanting to watch something on the telly was suddenly crime of the century? But it wasn’t just you that was on the receiving end of their misdirected anger. Your siblings, the goldfish, the kettle, everyone in the house were at fault. They had a bad day at work and they were desperately casting around for someone to blame and vent their frustrations towards, even if they didn’t really know where to direct their emotions, themselves.
Over the years, supporting Sunderland has very much been like this, so much has been wrong at the club that it’s impossible to discern just who deserves the most blame. Since taking over as chairman, the one constant at the football club has been Ellis Short, even if you have a positive view of the American owner and believe that he has acted with the club’s best intentions at heart, it cannot be denied that he is a huge part of the problem. Under his ownership a series of bad appointments have been made, an inordinate amount of money has been wasted and he has trusted the wrong people time and time again. Under his stewardship there have been scandals ranging from the political uproar over the appointment of Paolo Di Canio to the handling of the Adam Johnson case. From a purely football perspective, the statistics make grim reading of the 54 players we have signed since 2011 we have made a profit on just three players. From both a football and business point of view things have gone from bad to worse as time has gone on.
However, as much as we can criticise Short for his managerial appointments, nobody was particularly against them at the time. Martin O’Neil was universally welcomed on Wearside, indeed most fans had wanted O’Neil in charge ever since the dismissal of Peter Reid in 2002. Paolo Di Canio faced opposition from some quarters but after keeping us up, beating the Mags and showing a huge amount of passion for the club his fan approval rating was high. Many were pleased to see a progressive, forward thinking coach arrive in the shape of Gus Poyet, there was much rejoicing as Dick Advocaat made a u-turn and decided to take control of the lads for a second season. Allardyce proved to be a match made in heaven and even David Moyes was initially seen as a bit of a coup. There was a bit more reservation about Simon Grayson but the general consensus was that he was a safe pair of hands. Of course it is fair to criticise our investment choices over the years but Short has trusted a number of managers and Directors of Football with plentiful sums of money over the years, it has been more a case of trusting the wrong people than anything else.
So, much of the anger has been channelled in the direction of managers who have spent poorly, proven themselves to be tactically inept or simply weren’t up to the job. But then last but not least we have the players, ah the players. It’s so much easier to name a list of players who you have held genuine affection for rather than those who have spoilt your Saturday afternoon on an almost weekly basis. We’ve had it all from loan signings who felt that playing for Sunderland was almost an indignity, to over the hill seasoned pros who fancied one last payday. There are so many different people we can demonstrate our negativity and anger towards, but thankfully we may have found someone to really get behind and show positivity towards.
Despite sitting bottom of the Championship, Chris Coleman has certainly brought a bit of belief back and restored some fire in the belly of our fan base. Defeats now hurt again rather than the inevitable numbness felt under Moyes and Grayson. The fact he actually came to the club in the first place proved a lot of sceptics wrong, but it is not this that makes me want to get rid behind the Welshman, it is his attitude to the job.
Rather than seeing us as step down, he is relishing the job at hand and has talked the club up both on and off the field. There have been no excuses or blaming a lack of finances. His decision making has already restored a certain amount of pride to the club and the city. In the summer, Simon Grayson talked about only having players that wanted to be at the club but ultimately his actions didn’t replicate his words.
Today, Coleman acknowledged that James Vaughan no longer wants to be at the club and immediately got rid of him. Goalkeeper, Mika has long since been a drain on the club’s resources and his contract was mutually terminated. Even though Ndong has spoke of a desire to leave, the gaffer has insisted that he will go nowhere unless the deal is right for the club. This fighting spirit and determination has not been seen for a long time. In terms of incomings he has repeatedly spoke of the need to bring in the right characters and refuses to entertain a player with the wrong attitude.
For the first time in a long time, I feel as though we have a manager with standards. Standards off the pitch, standards on the pitch and the feel of a big club once more. Seeing him talk the club up, getting rid of players that don’t want to be here and identifying a clear policy with regards to incomings makes me want to really believe in him. There are many striking similarities to Roy Keane in his early managerial days. Hopefully he will be able to keep us up this season then we can kick on. For too long now there has been a culture of mediocrity at the club but Coleman looks as though he’s addressing that.
Therefore, no matter what the short term results we have to get behind the manager and hopefully we can see some much needed unity on Wearside.