Those in the Sunderland boardroom currently face one the most important managerial appointments in the club’s history. Joe Owens describes the importance of the hierarchy getting it right this time.
There is, of course, the need for promotion – and it really is a need now. Currently languishing nine points off top-spot Hull City after just 14 games, Phil Parkinson’s tenure was rightly ended after never really getting going.
It’s not an unsalvageable position. But confidence within the team and around the club seems rock bottom. Apathy and acceptance of below par performances against mediocre teams has spread throughout the side. Players using sound bites like “there are positives to take” after a 1-1 draw at home to Burton Albion is quite frankly unacceptable.
The new manager – whoever that may turn out to be – has to address that, and fast. But he also has to do it the right way, or risk losing one of the last great things about our football club.
Not only is Sunderland at its lowest point in history on the pitch, it’s also facing the toughest period off it.
And I don’t mean those running the club (I’ll leave that to Chris Weatherspoon), I’m talking about the 49,000 empty seats which have been left dormant since a 2-2 draw with Gillingham back in March.
I’m not necessarily just talking about the finances either, although that obviously plays a big part. But more so the long-term effects this period of cyber football may have.
I’ve watched every match bar two through my iPad this season. That’s not a brag, some will have watched more, some will have watched less.
But it’s becoming increasingly difficult to watch with interest week by week. Some Saturdays, the match has now just become background noise. It gets a little tiresome watching Denver Hume play a low cross across the box to nobody six times in 40 minutes.
And the general consensus seems to be I’m not alone. Wherever you place the blame, the passion is being sucked out of supporting Sunderland.
There are several contributing factors to that, from the current owners, to having to get your football fix from your sofa. But a big one is also the standard of football.
Even when winning, watching Connor McLaughlin launch another aimless ball somewhere towards Charlie Wyke’s head really loses its charm after the ninth attempt.
It’s not just about winning in this league. That’s why Parkinson became an easy target. Because when he used the same dull tactics over and over, as soon as it didn’t result in three points, there was no “well at least we won” cushion to soften the blow.
And this brings me back to my first point. The importance of the upcoming appointment.
It’s crucial they can motivate the players to get the points we need to get out of this league. That’s a given. That’s the priority.
But a close second is reinjecting some life back into the club’s soul.
More and more people are switching off from the club. More and more people are getting tired of watching League One football played at a poor standard. Me included.
As without it, when stadiums are allowed to reopen again, and when fans are allowed back on the road, Sunderland may have lost one of the great things left about this club; the supporters.
There will always be some who turn out no matter what. No matter what division or standard of football is being served up.
But there’s a growing disinterest amongst the fan base. More and more people are switching off from the club. More and more people are getting tired of watching League One football played at a poor standard. Me included.
And that’s why the next person to sit in the Stadium of Light hotseat has to do more than just scrape by. He has to recapture the attention of supporters.
If he doesn’t, the club we last saw in March may not be the same one we see when life returns to normal – and not in a good way.