Once again, The Observer called on Pete Sixsmith to sum up a week in the life of Sunderland AFC. This was written and, of course, appeared before the Chelsea game but remains a valid assessment of extraordinary events in the life of our club …
Well that was a nice quiet week… It reached its surreal peak when I opened the Guardian on Thursday to find Suzanne Moore writing about the new Sunderland manager. It has all been a bit bewildering, to say the least.
The surprises began last Saturday. It was clear enough that Martin O’Neill’s time in the job was limited: the football was poor and everything about his body language and demeanour suggested he had little idea what to do about it. But I expected him to go in the summer. The fact that he was sacked so late on a Saturday made us assume a sensible successor was already in place, with Gus Poyet the obvious choice.
But if the sacking was a shock, the identity of the new arrival was something else.
Dealing first with the football angle, it was clearly a very left-field appointment, and a real shift from the last two appointments. Both of those, Steve Bruce and O’Neill, were traditional British managers, but maybe it was the fact that they spent so much of owner Ellis Short’s money taking us nowhere that made him change course.
Something different was called for – and you don’t get any more different than Paolo Di Canio.
What has been more hard to handle, of course, is his background. I did feel the media frenzy tended towards the hysterical, especially as he has been at Swindon all this time – but you cannot get excuse his views on fascism.
And those views cannot be airbrushed away by a statement put out via the club. Refuting a general philosophy that he has followed all his adult life, just for PR reasons, hardly rings true.
So how do we deal with it? David Miliband did what he thought was right, and he would have been a hypocrite not to resign.
As for the rest of us: I’ve had to wrestle with my conscience about renewing my season ticket. A number of friends have seen this as the last straw and I quite understand what they have done.
I am going to focus on the football. In the short term we need nine points out of the 21 on offer, and that should not be beyond us if Di Canio makes the sort of impact he has suggested he can. It will be interesting to see which players respond to him and which decide his style is not for them.
Long term, who knows what comes next. Short has attempted to protect his investment in a bold, radical way. But at what cost to the good name of the club?