Around this time of every year, there are certainties we take for granted. The calendar will tell us it is October, trees shed leaves, shops advertise Christmas as if it’s only next week and Sunderland supporters still await a first win of the season.
We generally don’t draw too much comfort for we have actually won twice, because there is something distinctly hollow about beating lower league opposition in the League Cup when you can barely pick up a draw in the Premier League.
There is generally another feature of October and thereabouts. Sunderland supporters, or large numbers of them, begin to resign themselves to relegation.
This has an element of fearing the worst, hoping for the best. But the best has come to mean escaping the drop by the skin of our teeth, certainly since the curious reign of Steve Bruce. I say curious because he gave us our only top 10 finish since Peter Reid before setting about turning himself into an incorrigible hate figure.
The escapes have come, invariably in a late flourish in which unlikely points are gained against teams that expect and are frankly expected by us, to beat SAFC. The pattern continues, with the manager of the day hailed as a saviour only to fail dismally at the start of the ensuing season and end up leaving.
At least David Moyes has reached the failure part of that traditional sequence without having had to serve as saviour and without, so far, taking a call from Ellis Short to see him on his way.
I was beginning to think that this time, the one difference from previous seasons is the absence of any grounds for hope. Then I realised with was an exercise in self-delusion; hope was in similarly short supply when each manager since Bruce took over an ailing side.
What is a departure is the factor already mentioned, that Moyes did not survive a relegation battle. He started from afresh, albeit handicapped by the disgraceful FA dithering over Big Sam that delayed his own appointment at the SoL and hampered serious team-building.
Even so, with spectacularly misplaced optimism, some of us thought he finally did a decent job of assembling a viable outfit. I went so far as to hazard a guess at another 10th top finish, a prediction that now seems so laughable that I am left feeling somewhat embarrassed. Maybe it was 12th I predicted; still wildly optimistic.
The gaps in the squad would be obvious even without the unfortunate run of injuries, some of them long or longish term. Sunderland are simply not good enough and to read, as I did today, a Sunderland Echo report about the possibility of Victor Anichebe helping to turn things around, simply deepens the sense of gloom.
I am spared the anguish suffered week after week by Pete Sixsmith and Malcolm Dawson. My return from France is not until later this month and my first stadium visit will be for Arsenal at home. Stoke and West Ham away happen first, plus Southampton away in the League Cup
Will we have more than two points by then? If we haven’t, I do not want to be consoled by news of another cup win. But maybe the Salut! Sunderland jury can tell me I am wrong to despair – and why. Over to you …
leaves the season