I guess that, back in early autumn when it first became clear that we would not be progressing from the third tier, the Chairman was faced with a key decision. Either the squad was good enough, but the manager was not getting the best out of them, or the manager was indeed getting the best out of an inadequate squad, therefore he needed to invest.
As we know now he decided for the first explanation. Now that we have experienced a decidedly average manager for a few months we can see that the issue was actually the quality of the squad and not Jack Ross after all.
Put at its simplest the way to detect a promotion capable squad is that it will be largely composed of players who could be expected to perform adequately one level higher. I think if we apply that test to the current Sunderland squad then very few would make the grade.
For many of us last season was a welcome respite from the dreary routine of defeats. We could go to the SOL confident of the win and looking forward to a few goals. On our travels we could enjoy the novelty of visiting "real" football stadiums often for the first time. Thus we turned up in our droves breaking attendance records along the way.
This year has been a very different story. We sold the last of the Prem players and replaced them with free transfers such that we have clearly become a mid-table Third Division club.
Now the Chairman is faced with a very different dilemma. If he truly seeks promotion, then it is clear that he must invest heavily in the squad during the January window. However, is Phil Parkinson really the man to guide the squad rebuild and the club thereafter or do we need to change manager once again?