I remember listening to the breaking news on the radio, Metro were outside the SOL asking people for their reaction. Some very sad that it was the end, some pleased the decision had finally been made. I listened, sat in the back of the car thinking what could possibly be next. Peter Reid was the only manager I’d ever known. I was too young to remember anything before his time. I looked at my dad for guidance as if my world had just fell in. It was water off a duck’s back to him, he’d seen it all before. The ups and downs of being a Sunderland fan.
Little did I know that disappointment and heartache would go hand in hand with following the lads. 23 different managers have led Sunderland in the 18 years since Reid left. Take away the numerous caretakers and Niall Quinn’s cameo role. That number becomes 16. 16 managers in 18 years, Mick McCarthy had 3 of them 18 years. 15 in 15 years then. No matter which way you say it. Those facts will always be a stark reminder of the turmoil that has ensued at our beloved club. New dawns, new regimes and new players. One constant has remained. The ability to do a Sunderland at the drop of a hat and grasp defeat from the jaws of victory.
Yet still this job has a big pull, international managers have come on board, a man deemed good enough to lead England. A man deemed good enough to replace Sir Alex Ferguson at the biggest club in the world. Even now managers find it hard to say no to Sunderland. Regardless of what Lee Johnson says, he must have had doubts when the phone rang. You only have to look at where the last 4/5 managers are now to see that failure here can be disastrous to someone’s reputation.
Taking charge of the team a matter of hours after being confirmed as the new head coach took some balls, he could have sat it out and dodged a potential banana skin at home to the league’s basement boys. He didn’t though, his confidence in his own ability to take the reins and try to implement his desire into the players is impressive. For me these players should have it drilled into them that this is a change. A change in mentality, and that Johnson is here for the long term. If they don’t give everything for him, then he like the others will join the long list of men who came and tried but ultimately failed to deliver. The players need to understand the manager is the constant. Not that they can down tools when they don’t get their own way and that the manager will be gone soon and they can start again.
This squad should be good enough to compete with the top six of this league and should certainly be above the likes of Accrington Stanley and Fleetwood Town. If Johnson can get them going, the fans can get back in the ground and we manage to score more than one goal a game we may still have a successful season despite a stuttering start. One thing is for sure is Lee Johnson will need every ounce of his managerial skill to make this work. This will not be an easy fix. He needs to convince Will Grigg he can score goals. Find a system that can do something with all this possession and cut out the sloppy mistakes at the back which always seem to result in a goal. Once he figures the system to get the best out of these players it won’t take long for us to close the gap on the top of the league. The sooner the better for all concerned.
Keep the Faith