Footballers earning a great deal of money turned out at the Stadium of Light on Saturday afternoon and, yet again, let down the supporters who, earning a great deal less, help to pay their wages. A manager, also earning very good money, chose the team, the tactics, the substitutions … so he, too, let down the fans.
There is mitigation all round.
Simon Grayson was dealt a rotten hand, as I posted at Twitter soon after the final whistle was blown to confirm Sunderland’s place, second bottom in the league in which we rather hoped to be competing at the other end. He took the job knowing he had little or no money to spend and the squad reflects that reality. He may be doing the best he can, or anyone could.
The players may be trying their best and finding their best simply isn’t good enough at this modest level.
There pretty much ends the mitigation. We are in desperate straits, with an owner who has no more money he wishes to put into the club, a manager who has failed to inspire and a bunch of players who lack confidence and – as Gary Bennett said in his BBC commentary on the latest defeat, to Bristol City – an ability to avoid basic errors. Who is to blame, players or manager? “A bit of both,” he replied.
Salut! Sunderland takes no pleasure in being the purveyor of doom and gloom. Pete Sixsmith, who should be on the SAFC board, longs for the chance to work his magic with words on a performance that sends him home uplifted.
But how can we be positive when the club we all love is subjecting us to such torture?
Sunderland fans can be found in all corners of the world. They are no less fans if they happen to live, because of work or family demands, far from the Stadium of Light. Monsieur Salut is just back from France and will make his own debut at the Riverside next weekend.
By then, we – our team, our club – could be bottom of the league. Things are so bad that even a win against Bolton on Tuesday, staving off that humiliation, will seem hollow. Yes, there’ll be relief, a bit of joy even. But we’ll know it hardly represents, in itself, a turning of the corner.
Where this all leaves us is frightening to contemplate.
I am not – yet – among the growing army of supporters demanding Simon Grayson’s dismissal, if only because a) he was given a thankless task and b) I cannot see a Big Sam-style saviour arriving any time soon.
But I do know this is a man who prided himself on succeeding at this level on a low budget. There is scant sign so far of him living up to that …
Here, courtesy of safc.com, is what Grayson made of the Bristol defeat:
‘We have lost another home game so I am not going to stand here and say they did well and their performance warranted a victory.
When you analyse the game there were certain things we did ok with but we probably didn’t do enough to win the game.
The biggest factor that can happen in a home game is getting that first goal.
We did a set play meeting yesterday, we went through the possibilities before the game with the players in the team meeting and ultimately a player who is 5’7 gets a free header in the box and that knocks the wind out of your sails.
Up until then I thought we did alright. We passed it and did ok at times, we limited them to a few opportunities but their goal obviously derailed us.
We had a big boost before half-time but then we got done with a sucker punch.
The players have got to take responsibility for mistakes over the last few weeks.
The players have designated markers and they have got to make sure they get touch-tight to make sure they don’t contribute to an opportunity for the opposition.’
Make of that what you will.