Monsieur Salut writes: one saving grace of supporting Sunderland from afar, whether from France or London in my case, is the need to rely on Nick Barnes and Gary Bennett‘s commentary on each game at BBC Radio Newcastle. It’s not free as it used to be but for once, that is not the club’s fault – the Football League insists that commentary via club sites should be paid-for.
Someone I follow at Twitter said last night that Benno’s moaning got him down. In my case, it’s the cause of that moaning that depresses me: the utter dross and incompetence he and Nick are required to assess. But I believe they do it, the commentary and the punditry, in style, Nick’s measured eloquence combining effectively with Benno’s footballing nous and passion for the club he captained.
Here, from a Facebook posting he has given me consent to reproduce, Nick – read more about him here – reflects on the club’s predicament and suggests we will rise again. As for when, he is less sure.
And if you read on, there’s a response from Graeme Anderson, another man who knows the joys and other emotions of reporting on Sunderland …
And so the search begins for another Sunderland manager. The 10th in nine years. The 12th in the 15 years I’ve been covering the club.
Groundhog day. It’s a cliche but it’s true. I made a throwaway remark to a colleague this morning that I wonder what it’s like to cover a “normal” football club?
Sunderland seems to be anything but normal. There is never a dull moment but the moments are generally mired in a miasma of failure and despondency.
Ten years in the Premier League was all well and good but on average Sunderland only won seven games a season.
One travelled the country more in hope than certainty and the only thing to look forward to was the pre-match hospitality.
The extensive menu offered at Stamford Bridge couldn’t be bettered although Manchester City and Arsenal ran them close.
Now it’s an under-heated pie at Griffin Park or a cup of tea at Oakwell and a burger from a van.
Don’t get me wrong I love the Championship. I love its raw untarnished sense of realism. “Real” football again. Proper old grounds like Oakwell and Craven Cottage. No red tape and an endless succession of post-match interviews that by the time the manager reaches you he’s all talked out and just wants to get on the bus.
I’m surprised Simon Grayson failed at Sunderland. He seemed the perfect fit, if there is really such a thing, with his experience at this level with Leeds and Preston, let alone all the other clubs he’s managed in the Football League.
But he too has been sucked into Dante’s cursed inferno of failed managers on Wearside. His CV stood up to scrutiny. So did Steve Bruce’s, Martin O’Neill’s, Dick Advocaat’s and so on. They’re not all bad managers.
The problem is the football club. A decade of mismanagement and now a chief executive trying to remedy the ailing behemoth are contributory factors. It will come good again one day I’m sure.
When that day will be is hard to contemplate, so far has it fallen. Simon Grayson was another victim and he will bounce back.
At the moment it’s hard to see where or when the club is going to bounce back such is the malaise and the disarray, but it will.
Another manager will come in and probably struggle as have all the others.
The Premier League already seems an aeon ago and a return there in all honesty is also probably aeons away but as hard at is, fans in these parts will, as they say, keep the faith. It’s what they do through thick and thin and that passion is what makes Sunderland such an appealing football club to cover.
As I said before, there is never a dull moment.
* Graeme Anderson, former chief football writer at the Sunderland Echo, writes in response:
Nick, if you thought Simon Grayson was the perfect fit, I’m worried about you. From the very start, it looked like the wrong appointment to me and I wasn’t shy in saying so. As for Martin Bain, well, he talks a good game and he looks right, but his first two appointments as manager have been disastrous. As for the club’s propensity to shoot itself in the foot – that’s a given. Could be some time – barring cup matches – before you’re sampling the Shangri-Las of the Emirates, Etihad and Stamford Bridge stadiums again.