View from Down Under: how Sunderland dun ‘ed in for Dunedin fan

Jake's jigsaw
Jake’s jigsaw

As yet another Sunderland season crumbles, leaving us our now-customary last few games for a desperate attempt to pull back from the abyss, Julian Smith* is a supporter watching – and now writing – from afar. He’s out in Dunedin, on NZ’s South Island and home to reputedly the world’s steepest street, Baldwin St, whose gradient may replicate the uphill task facing Dick Advocaat. Monsieur Salut is preparing an apology for the appalling headline pun and this will appear in Fenwick’s window alongside the bare backsides of anyone who predicted a comfortable season …

After the Crystal Palace calamity
I now think there’s probably a two-thirds chance of being relegated. Six points will give us a shot, but I cannot now see Sunderland getting them.

The explanation for our predicament lies in a combination of frequently cited reasons.

I do strongly think that, in the last year alone, replacements have been lesser players than those leaving, with the sole exception of Defoe.

For this reason I cannot see another “great escape” – not enough going forward and too frail (and aging?) at the back. In more big-picture terms, I believe there is something in the “gremlins” theory, that there is something fundamentally rotten about the culture of the changing room.

Hard to pinpoint without inside knowledge, but I have suspicions – groundless, of course, without that knowledge – that certain individuals may have a negative influence, especially concerning attitudes to coaches.

Also, I don’t think this whole “director of football” structure is working at Sunderland, and I think further pain lies ahead in the Championship if we don’t change to a more traditional “manager” asap.

On the field, the lack of pace has obviouslynot been addressed. And Sunderland is simply unfashionable now (albeit less unfashionable than where I live!): it can’t compete with trendy West End haircuts and “shopping” (remember Roy Keane banging on about players or their wags who wouldn’t move to the North East?). We also seem to attract a type of player who act as if on a pension or in a sinecure. Why exactly this has happened to us (as opposed to Swansea or Southampton), is difficult to gauge. Sunderland the club just aren’t in a position to be too picky. What I do not think it is, this malaise of ours, is bad coaches.

As someone – [Nic Wiseman to name but one! – Ed] – once said: “It’s the hope I can’t stand.” That says it all really. And the endless sense of “false dawns”. Midtable mediocrity would feel like paradise.

Relegation is, as people say, a double-edged sword. It could be good if we emulated Newcastle and came back stronger. The risk is in becoming more like Wigan.

Relegation would at least enable a complete rebuild. The worry is that it might take years and in the Championship; relegated teams in recent years seem to either sink or swim, with few teams in the middle ground.

I suspect there are quite a lot of players who consider themselves Premiership players by divine right, and will demand a release (probably to play for Bournemouth or Watford!). It’s easier to say who might stay to mount a promising challenge in the Championship. Hopefully keep one of the goalkeepers. I can see van Aanholt being useful long-term and we should keep Larson if he will stay.

But I can see many of our stars moving to next season’s relegated clubs. And frivolity aside, I bet you anything that if relegated, Danny Graham will lead the line in opening match of next season!!

I am 100 per cent in the Sam Allardyce camp and cannot believe we didn’t appoint him when he was putting his hand up and they gave the job to Bruce. I hate the Sunderland (and Newcastle) claptrap that we (by divine right) need a “big name manager” who will have us playing like Brazil. Grinding out results, especially against your key opponents (like Palace, Hull, and Villa!!) is what is required.

Julian Smith
Julian Smith
* Julian Smith is exiled in New Zealand but is a passionate Sunderland supporter. He writes: ‘I am a Rare Books Librarian from Dunedin, New Zealand. I emigrated from Wiltshire at a very young age and, with no knowledge of English geography, began supporting Sunderland more than 35 years ago. Sunderland have become a lifetime obsession from afar, experiencing the eras of Rowell, Gabbiadini and Phillips, amidst certain more sobering times’. …

5 thoughts on “View from Down Under: how Sunderland dun ‘ed in for Dunedin fan”

  1. I think that they should give Congerton the power to direct the football club, in consultation with a coach. Congerton should, of course, decide who his coach will be. Sunderland is crying out for stability and continuity, the problem is that the PL is not the most patient of places, a period in the Championship would not be a disaster, far from it.

  2. Allardyce was my choice at the time we gave Bruce the job and he made it clear that he wanted to come here .We may well have being comfortable in mid table had Big Sam got the job, but then again this is Sunderland so we wouldn’t have ! Would I want Allardyce for next season, im not sure to be honest . I think given the right backing he would be perfect to rebuild the club and either compete for promotion or avoid a relegation fight . The problems are ,would he work with a DOF , would he fit into Congerton’s game plan and would the pair of them get anything to spend ? We’d have to take the Sunderland effect into consideration also , where respected managers like Macmenemy , O’Neil and Wilkinson suddenly become powerless when confronted with the kryptonite that is SAFC . Hopefully Advoocat is made of sterner stuff , but I fear the damage is already beyond repair .

  3. If the North East’s big three had the same track record as Everton or Spurs over the last ten years the area would suddenly become a very desirable place to live in. Success breeds success.

  4. There’s no reason why the DoF structure shouldn’t work at Sunderland at all. I had to laugh at the comment about Southampton and Swansea. These were clubs that were in the lower leagues just a few years ago, and in Swansea’s case were about 90 minutes from going out of the league altogether. When you point to examples such as this you need to be critically aware of the history of these clubs. Both are on a run at the moment because they’ve made shrewd managerial appointments who have signed good players. Southampton is a more attractive place to live than the NE, I will concede that, and there are some attractive aspects to South Wales aswell, but that doesn’t tell the whole story by any means.

  5. I cannot see why the DOF won’t work at Sunderland.To me it’s simple…..manager and DOF get together to identify targets…..DOF does the leg work and gets the targets in ….DOF also keeps an eye on players he thinks manager might like and keeps manager informed.It’ s all about the two of them working together for the greater good of the club.

    No pace in the side,too may older players. This could be remedied if our Academy would start producing players who could play in the first team rather than producing those only good enough for league on and leagu two.

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