There were a variety of views about just why the team’s performances and results this season have been less than satisfactory in our mini series MON One Year On. Whilst most of our contributors were still behind the manager, Jeremy Robson was not so sure. Now, after the interview on MOTD when his self belief was questioned, our manager has gone public, telling the world he is the only man for the job. Jeremy wonders just why he felt the need to express his opinion so forcefully.
“I don’t want to sound wildly boastful, but not only am I the best man for the job, I am actually the only man for the job. We will steer it through, we will get calmer waters ahead – it might take us a few months to do that – and then we will see. If we are continuing for the next couple of years to be in this position, then I will certainly question it then.”
This is the direct quotation from the Sunderland Echo’s interview with Martin O’Neill. Sunderland supporters the world over must, like me, be wondering what to make of these comments.
The consensus appears to take the view that anything other than 3 points against fellow strugglers, Reading will cost him his job. However, Sunderland’s tenure in the Premier League is more important than the manager’s job and far more important than just a single game. There are no “6 pointers” at this stage of the season but that is not understating the significance of this game and the opportunity to manage a win.
There are two ways to interpret his comments. The first is that he has the stalwart support of Ellis Short, and has been told in no uncertain terms that his position is secure. The second explanation is that he is trying to convince himself that the corner will be turned.
The very idea that Ellis Short will have made any such assurances to his manager now seems completely absurd. No caveats? No “ifs or buts?” With the team in freefall that is really very difficult to take seriously. If this is the case, will Mr Short be telling Martin the same thing on Christmas Day if we are bottom?
Putting all of the above aside for just a moment, the most puzzling thing is the remark that “it might take us a few months to do that.” Do what exactly?
Does he mean get us relegated? Is he suggesting that we will languish in the bottom 3 ready for the drop until the end of the season, suddenly performing a miraculous escape in the final minutes of the last game of the season, and that we are going to have to simply endure the agonizing torment of another relegation roller coaster?
Relegation dogfights have two possible outcomes. At Sunderland, our dogfights tend to be lost rather than won.
There is a third explanation which is that Martin has just lost any sense of time and the consequences.
We cannot endure another couple of years of this, regardless of what he might be saying here. He seems convinced that he is the best man for the job, despite a string of results that my grandmother, God rest her soul, could have easily achieved with the same group of players. Twelve months ago most of us thought that he was the best man for the job, but how times can change in football.
It doesn’t really matter what I think, or indeed what Martin thinks and he should be in a position to be the better judge. It’s what Ellis Short thinks that is really important. Surely he must have spoken to Niall Quinn about our plight but whether he has or not we may well find out what Ellis is thinking sooner than later.