As Sunderland’s on pitch problems continue to deepen, Lee Johnson has perhaps inevitably come under fire from some quarters. Even if it is not yet white hot, the metaphorical heat around him has certainly raised a notch.
Whatever your own thoughts here, results and indeed performances have not been good enough of late.
The evidence is clear and cannot be disputed.
Sunderland have won one in six in all competitions (via penalties against QPR), scoring two goals and conceding eleven. And, after a disappointing result against Bradford City in the Papa John’s Trophy it is a slide which remains concerning.
As the manner with which this current slump intensifies, it is performances that should remain our main focus. Yet, it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore several of Johnson’s recent remarks during interviews.
While the circumstances with which we find ourselves do not feel anything like crisis point, (He enjoys a near 60% win percentage in all comps across his tenure thus far) you could argue it is Johnson himself who appears intent on creating a blaze from the dampest of tinder.
In the midst of this bad run of form the logic behind his comments in recent post and pre match interviews certainly appear questionable at best. We have heard:
‘The Stadium of Light is a difficult place to play.”
“It’s such a big club. Some players are 10-12 games into their league career. They might have had a career path starting in front of 3,000 on loan somewhere. That’s great when it goes well but when it is not….”
There has been reference to “Social Media polls,” “Fan Forums” and players being ‘inboxed’ with the inference this is having a negative impact upon player performance.
On what has gone wrong of late:
“That’s the million dollar question.”
“We came into this season with people not expecting anything, then we started really well and maybe we believe our own hype a little bit, then we have this blip – but I honestly believe it is a blip.”
“Players have to get used to the “oohs and boos”.”
Having first digested the remarks the cynic may argue that this is all designed to divert attention away from Johnson’s own failings. The sceptic may exclaim that some of these statements are the beginnings of the blame game. That some are naïve at best and at worst indicate that he has simply not yet fully grasped the magnitude of the role he is in and the task in hand.
For the avoidance of doubt it is promotion. Nothing more, nothing less.
What should go without saying too is that supporters are passionate. Most of what happens on the terraces is with a view to helping the club succeed. What has also been said many times now is that more matches were won at home in front of fans that the period played without. As such those who attend the Stadium of Light, in numbers that few other sides within the footballing pyramid can rival, only have a positive influence on results.
Who would have thought it?
Therefore, anything, which gives even the subtlest hint to the contrary is always going to land badly especially in this current plight. Even if they have been misinterpreted, nothing can be benefited from even beginning to tread down this path.
We also accept every word from within the club will be forensically analysed in this moment. It is not lost here that this piece adds a small magnifying glass to this particular subject, rightly or wrongly. Yet in fairness, this is the case when things are going well too. It is to be expected at a big club and is certainly not unique to our own.
In short, communication should always be encouraged. This is less about discouraging dialogue from Johnson altogether and more about encouraging more careful expression going forward.
We all want the club to succeed. In order for this to happen Lee Johnson has to succeed. But, clumsy statements will not help his cause only results on the pitch.