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Sunderland AFC, AKA “The Premier League Lad’s Club for Millionaires”

We know what you’re thinking – how the hell can anybody who isn’t a player, on the staff, or in some way involved with SAFC know what’s going on inside the football club, and you’d be right!

Article by Ben Mummery

Dissecting what could possibly be wrong on Wearside?

Furthermore, how can anybody in one article possibly have the time to pick apart the plethora of problems that seem to be blighting our great club at the moment? There simply isn’t time, and anybody would lose the will to live whilst trying to read such a laundry list of dissatisfaction!

However we must as fans, take a second and try to make sense of the chaos that’s currently engulfing our club, after all – we’re the ones turning up to watch disaster after disaster on the field, while behind the scenes the powers that be do their best possible “Newcastle United” impression, trying to crash the club off every cliff they come across!

Where to start? Well it would make sense to first say, what is the problem? Simple – the performances.

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A 4-2 away thrashing to Leicester, and a 3-1 home humiliation to newly promoted Norwich City. 2 showings demonstrating nothing but a complete lack of passion and interest from many of the players, highlighting an alarming lack of quality in the playing staff on the whole. In neither game had the players any urgency, any fight, any determination or any guts, it really is as simple as that. Any one of us could wander down to our local school or park on a Sunday morning and watch a Sunday League game featuring slightly over-weight, ever so slightly half cut local lads paying £3 each, who show more desire and more grit than 9 of the eleven who’ve started both Sunderland games so far this season!

So where or what is the cause of this rot? Let’s start at the top and work downwards:

The owner?

Ellis Short, Texas billionaire with his finger in more pies than Mike Ashley and George Reynolds have ever eaten between them. Has more money than sense – we can presume this from the fact he bought and paid for Sunderland AFC in the first place!

Personally I believe it’s difficult to lay too much blame at his door. After all, he wasn’t brought up with football, he isn’t as acquainted with the game as many of us who were raised with it. To boot, he’s put a ridiculous amount of his own money into the club so far, figures that us mere mortals will never see in the flesh, let alone be able to imagine owning! However, he is the lightning rod, the owner, with whom the buck ultimately stops. But what about those around him? Advising him, helping him out?

Is Margaret Byrne avoiding huge amounts of critique here? After all, she is the chief executive, responsible for the day to day running of the club, it’s spending, and it’s all round wellbeing. Could our CE and her staff be held to more account for our current state of affairs?

Lee Congerton, the “director of football”, questions still linger as to whether or not this business model even works at all, let alone whether or not Lee Congerton is fit for purpose?

The 1st Team Manager – Dick Advocaat. The “little general”, Dutch master and chief who commands respect wherever he travels. The oldest manager in the premier league, with arguably some of the highest levels of experience, and a resume that reads as impressively as any.

A head coach can only work with what he’s got, he can’t put his boots on and run on the pitch (sadly!), as much as I’m sure he’d like to at times. After steering us to safety in 2014-2015, Advocaat decided to stay on at the club, and we’re to believe he’d highlighted some areas to the management that he required work on, AKA, improving the squad. If reports are to be believed, he’d highlighted six players he required, although in reality he’d more likely highlighted six areas of the squad he required strengthening in the hope that Lee Congerton, our director of football, could bring in the firepower he required.

In a transfer window so void of interest so far, we’ve seen Sunderland land a 29 year old center half in Younes Kaboul, a 25 year old bomb scare of a central midfielder who it seems no other club would have, Yann M'Vila – managing to get himself sent off for a headbutt in his U21’s debut for the club (fair play he did quite well on Saturday I thought!). Seb Coates who frankly, I do not see a footballer in at all, Celtic right back Adam Matthews, upon whom I’ll reserve judgement until we’ve seen some more of him, and the one player I think has been a good signing, Jeremain Lens. A left sided attacking forward with pace, silky feet, and a trick or two up his sleeve. The Dutchman aside, I see nothing short of a hugely underwhelming window so far, showing an alarming lack of ambition and desire to strengthen the squad!

Furthermore, we’re persisting with Poyet’s dross in Buckley, Bridcutt et al.

It’s difficult to say anything is Advocaat’s fault when the squad he has to work with is so poor for the level at which it is expected to perform.

What makes the transfer window so much harder to be satisfied with is the fact that we just have to look at other clubs, clubs who’ve been in the top flight for less time than us, who’re showing real ambition, real forward thinking in their spending. Swansea, West Ham, Southampton, Stoke, STOKE!!!!!

These clubs are investing, spending money, buying great players, improving their squads, making the effort to push themselves on, and we’re being tragically left in their wake!

So I suppose with all this being said, we must then cast the spotlight on the players themselves!

Many individuals have come and gone through Sunderland’s doors in recent years, and left with the suggestion that the club has a “rotten” feeling to it. That there’s an atmosphere of unprofessionalism about the place, that there’s a clique, a way in which the club is run that just isn’t right, and nobody’s been able to put their finger on it!

It’s no secret that in the last ten years or so, Sunderland has been notorious, particularly among players, for being a bit of a “joke”. There’s a drinking and going out culture, a sense that the club is a pay-day, a lad’s club where millionaires can come to persist with their careers as professional footballers while earning a packet, buying flash cars and living the highlife knowing all too well that they’ll be able to turn out in Newcastle any given Saturday night and flash the cash, girls everywhere, attention left right and center – the real young lad’s dream!

Football really has seemed to come second to many players in recent years. Cast your mind back to messes Cattermole and Bendtner, being arrested for smashing up cars in Newcastle. Phil Bardsley and “casino-gate”, Connor Wickham’s TOWIE and Champagne incidents, and of course, the current Adam Johnson debacle! We’ve read articles from ex players, pundits, and forums like “Secret Footballer” who say quite rightly, that other clubs look forward to playing Sunderland because they know the players aren’t taking it seriously.

This is pathetic, regardless of how much accuracy there is to any of it, the fact our club is tarnished with this brush in the first place is simply not good enough, and something has to change!

The window isn’t closed yet, but things seem to have ground to a halt after Saturday’s defeat, and with reports in the Sun this week that the club has ran out of money, frankly - fans aren’t looking up!

This next fortnight will be massive for Sunderland, and we’ll have to wait and see what happens, but one thing is for sure – if we don’t make some serious changes as fast, it’s going to be a LONG season!

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1 comment:

  1. You're right other than...
    1. The score on Saturday was1-3, perhaps you left before we scored like many thousands who have a right to do so BUT don't help matters, especially our reputation across the country.
    2. It is NOT difficult to lay too much blame at the door of Ellis Short. He is the owner and club Chairman. He sets the direction and strategy of the club and is the man responsible for recruitment and achieving his targets. If his target is to avoid relegation every year whilst making a profit/minimum losses, then up to now he's been successful! However, his luck is going to run out. He is ultimately responsible as the club belongs to him. It is not ours, or some local philanthropist's as most clubs used to be. It belongs to a hard nosed American businessman. It's about time he brought some of his undoubted business qualities and successes to the club, starting with recruitment and organisation because up to now he and HIS appointed staff have got everything he has tried to do so very wrong... Wrong choice as CEO, board members, 4 x managers, 2 x DOF, countless coaches and scouts and of course the players, many of whom are substandard but somehow manage to negotiate (against a business billionaire!!) salaries that are so high above their ability, that we can't sell them on blocking the path for other signings because of FFP... YES Ellis Short is to blame, the buck stops with him because almost every player in the squad has been bought under his watch regardless of DOF and Manager. He is the constant and it is up to him (and let's not forget in his control and power) to put it right...


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