Only At Sunderland

If there’s one positive to be gained from our current parlous predicament, it’s that the quality of writing on the subject has been quite high. It’s easy to find the words when describing why Pep Guardiola is getting things right at Man City, and why their weekend game with Liverpool was a cracker. It’s easy because you’re in a good mood, you’ve been entertained, and the words just flow. As I was reminded near the end of that particular game, it’s a different matter when you’re struggling for form and results – our Ian sent a Facebook notification to the effect that he was watching that game, and it came with the caption “is this the same sport Sunderland play?”

There may be much evidence to the contrary, but it is. There was a decent piece available recently, which compared the progress of ourselves and City since Kevin Phillips scored against the Sky Blues twenty years ago (yes, it really is that long). Since then, they’ve dropped to the third tier, and risen from the virtual dead to become one of the richest clubs in the world. We’ll leave the matter of being 13% owned by the Chinese Government to one side, but the other 87% belongs to the Mansour family, who have more noughts on their bank statements than grains of sand on Roker Beach. We, on the other hand, have gone up and down a ridiculous number of times, and are currently owned by an absentee American who wants to sell but doesn’t seem to be doing much to make it happen. Micky Gray, after the capitulation at Cardiff, claimed that the club has “a manager from Waitrose and players from Aldi” and he’s about right (although you can get some decent stuff at Aldi, but I get his point).

Back in September Martin Bain claimed that we’d had a good transfer window in the summer, despite the legacy of still having to pay for some of the muppetry brought in under previous regimes for stupid money and on ridiculous contracts. Perhaps he’s like to rethink that statement in the light of our current situation. The two forwards we acquired have gone – Grabban decided that he’d rather go back to Bournemouth and be sold than finish the season as our leading scorer (let’s be honest, he probably still will achieve that dubious honour) and Vaughan, despite his unquestioned “never say die” attitude, was never going to score enough goals and was sold to Wigan. McGeady’s early promise, and goals, have sort of fizzled out, and injuries have become more regular. McManaman just hasn’t put together anything like a decent string of performances, Williams remains injured, and Wilson has failed to impress either in defence or as a sweeper. The less said about the goalkeeping situation the better, as I fail to see how selling Manonne to bring in two replacements can make financial sense – especially when we’ve been paying Mika to do bugger all for a year and a half.

Perhaps the icing on the cake of ridiculousness is the latest in the Rodwell saga – apparently, we’re trying to agree terms for the tearing up of his contract. While it’s hardly his fault that we agreed to pay him £70k or whatever a week, the situation has spiralled out of hand to the extent that we’d rather just let him walk away than wait for something positive to happen. Consistently injured, and looking as unlike a footballer as it’s possible to be when turning out for the reserves, the biggest injury seems to be between his ears. All semblance of confidence has gone, and a player who was, not that many years ago, being touted as the future of the English national team just doesn’t look like a footballer any more – which brings us back to Man City, and my perceptive son. On Rodwell’s move from Everton, Ian commented “I see Rodwell has given up on first team football” and he was right. Two years wasted at a place where he was merely making up the required quota of English players (think Ross Barkley or Danny Drinkwater to Chelsea) effectively killed any passion for the game that he certainly had at Goodison. We’re now willing to write off the £10 million transfer fee and the subsequent £9 million or so in wages that we’ve already shelled out just to get rid. What a waste. Just to add the necessary statistics, he’s turned out 76 times for us, including 23 as a substitute and being substituted 16 times. We’ve only managed one league win that he’s featured in, which he didn’t start, and he’s racked up 18 bookings and a solitary red card. What it boils down to is £250,000 per game, which is something we just can’t afford, and which leaves us in a Catch 22 situation – we can’t afford to keep him, but we can’t afford to write off that amount of money. Having said that, who in their right mind would take a chance of Rodders? Will he do the decent thing and walk away, knowing that nobody will pay him anything like his current wage? Will he quietly melt into the sunset and live a comfortable life on the money he’s accumulated in his time as a professional footballer?

I guess we’ll find out in the next few days, but, whatever happens, he’s the winner and we’re the losers. I was going to say that this has to be the lowest point in the long line of on and off-field nonsense, but it isn’t. It isn’t even the worst financial deal – not taking into account his wages, Ricky Alvarez’s 17 appearances will have cost us £588,000 each if and when we fork out the £10 million that the botched deal was worth.

I can hardly wait for the next catastrophic occurrence, as there’ll surely be at least one other before this car-crash of a season reaches its almost inevitable sad conclusion. As they’ll surely be saying in the future: only at Sunderland.