Nick Barnes: ‘what’s it like covering a normal club instead of Sunderland?’

Nick Barnes, interviewing Grayson’s equally hapless predecessor

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.

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4 thoughts on “Nick Barnes: ‘what’s it like covering a normal club instead of Sunderland?’”

  1. “Could be some time – barring cup matches – before you’re sampling the Shangri-Las of the Emirates, Etihad and Stamford Bridge stadiums again.” says Graeme Anderson.

    It’s more likely to be The Brewery Field, Victoria Park, The International Stadium and Croft Park the way things are going.

  2. I attach no gravitas whatsoever to Graeme Anderson’s views on anything.

    To prevent possible libellous action I will not expand.

  3. The fact John O’Shea and Lee Cattermole have played under 25% of all Sunderland managers suggests that our problems are deeper rooted than Simon Grayson’s poor showing.

  4. Based on what we had for a budget he looked a good fit but he is perhaps better with a small squad as having a big one here seemed to make him make changes for no reason. For example changing Ruiter the first time ‘to freshen things up’ when he had been man of the match. Browning has made 1 serious mistake all season but got dropped immediately. It is no wonder that the only one at the back playing with any confidence is Oviedo as he is the only one not to get dropped after a decent game.
    Grayson always gave the impression that he didn’t actually watch the games and neither did his coaching staff. Everybody in the stands knows that Grabban, while great in front of goal, has no bottle and will not challenge for a high ball, except apparently for our staff and players. Last night, the opposition also clearly knew as they didn’t even challenge for those balls, just played for Grabban to leave them. Everybody in the stands knows that Steele won’t come for a cross and so how do we get beaten by virtually identical corners in consecutive games. What were the coaches doing in those 2 weeks (and don’t give me any rubbish about a presentation the night before). We could see versus Preston that Steele was positioning himself badly behind the wall and was vulnerable on his side. Brentford’s coaching staff also spotted that but clearly ours didn’t. There are many other examples but I am starting to lose the small degree of optimism I got from the decision last night so I will stop here.
    A new manager will have a fairly strong (for this division) squad but will have to settle on a back 5 and formation very quickly, with the squad being used mainly from the bench if we are to make any sort of a recovery. Oh and, here’s a thought, watch the game, perhaps from the stands in the first half like Reidy used to do.

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