Malcolm Dawson writes….each year is the same or at least it seems to be. We end one season and I am convinced we will improve the next. Over the past few years new signings have created a feeling of optimism which has quickly dissipated as early season results brought home the reality that things weren’t really any better. This year has been even worse because that optimism was even greater in May but from the events off the training ground this close season it would seem the club is in freefall. There’s still time of course but with every hour that passes the outlook seems bleaker.
(What follows is my personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of Salut! Sunderland.)
I can’t help but feel (not for the first time) that I have been conned somewhat by those who run the football club I support. I don’t know if you noticed, but this year the date to get a discount on season cards was about six weeks earlier than last year. I still renewed mine, even though economically it didn’t make sense, as there are generally two or three games moved for TV which I can’t get to because of other prearranged commitments and last year I didn’t make the Watford game because a heavy fall of snow around midday caused chaos on the roads around Crook.
Viewed objectively over the whole year, I questioned the wisdom of forking out the best part of four hundred quid when after at least half of those games I left frustrated, disappointed and thinking there were more entertaining ways of spending my cash. Look back at all the Sixer’s Soapbox columns for 2012/13, 2013/14 2014/15 and 2015/16 if you need persuading.
But the way the team played in the second half of the season convinced me that better things lay ahead. I would have renewed anyway (well you just do don’t you and I like my seat) but here was a team on the up. We may not have been title contenders but we were set fair for entertaining football and a steady rise up the table.
We had seen the influence of Big Sam in the fitness levels, the organisation and the fighting spirit of the team. The January signings obviously had a massive effect, but the improvements in the performances of Yedlin and van Aanholt were as a result of defensive drills which Allardyce clearly insisted upon and eventually he found a way to get the best out of the players he had at his disposal. Rather than try and mould the players to his predetermined system he found a system which got the best out of his players.
I was hopeful that M’Vila would be signed quickly and that Yedlin or a similar wing back would be brought in and we would begin this campaign with a settled side, full of players who had bought into Sunderland AFC.
The inept performance of England at the Euros and the subsequent managerial turmoil at Sunderland which resulted from that, has distracted somewhat from a fundamental failure to build on the momentum that was generated as relegation was avoided and the team and its supporters ended on a high. The fact is that with less than four days to go until the start of the new season we are in a far worse position now than we were three months ago.
No M’Vila, no Yedlin and reports that Kone is on Merseyside for talks and pictures of him posing with an Everton fan. As I write there are 104 hours until kick off at The Etihad and so far we have brought in one untried player who managed less than two minutes playing time for Chelsea in a League Cup tie. He may prove to be as an astute a signing as the three Ks were in January, but not having seen him in action I’ll wait and see.
And so it seems that the clubs with the biggest financial clout are impacting on the rest of us. Manchester City offering a ludicrous £50 million for John Stones gives Everton the resources to offer Ellis Short the chance of a massive profit on one of our top performers and though he hasn’t gone yet the fact he has travelled for talks does not bode well.
I’m happy Moyes was appointed in the aftermath of Allardyce’s departure who I don’t think will prove to be England’s saviour. Not because he couldn’t be, but the players at his disposal just aren’t good enough and he will only have limited time to work with them.
But like the majority of Sunderland fans I am bitterly disappointed in the way this summer has panned out so far. I understand the need to balance the books and we keep hearing positive statements from Martin Bain and David Moyes but they are working to a remit. Despite their fine words we have seen precious little evidence that this is a club that is building for the future on the pitch and plenty that priorities lie elsewhere.
I just hope I’m wrong.