Monsieur Salut writes: unfashionable as it is to praise the press or media more generally, I believe local and national writers and broadcasters covering Sunderland by and large do a good job. I think in particular of the Sunderland Echo‘s Phil Smith, the Chronicle‘s James Hunter and The Guardian‘s Louise Taylor but could mention a number of others. And for supporters who cannot get to many games, there is the excellent double act provided by BBC Radio Newcastle, Gary Bennett’s passionate and astute reading of a game complementing Nick Barnes‘s impeccable commentary.
Nick is a West Country man and could even find himself having to report on SAFC against his own Exeter City – currently fifth in League Two but with a game in hand on two clubs above them – next season. But 15 years of covering Sunderland have left their mark (how could they not?) and there’s obvious affection for the club and especially its fans. At Facebook, he generated a lively debate with this heartfelt appeal for a sense of togetherness, an end to understandable but unproductive vitriol.
Not every one of his Facebook ‘friends’ agreed – 89 comments have been posted as I write and range from ‘wake up and smell the bulls*** from the club; it stinks’ to ‘wonderful summation’.
Either way – or some way in between – Nick’s brief thoughts, reproduced with his consent, serve as a useful starting point for the 2017-2018 edition of Salut! Sunderland‘s the end-of-season reviews* …
So the season is all but over. Four matches left and Sunderland’s destination almost certainly League One.
Even if Sunderland pull off a miracle and stay up I for one will be glad for the season to end.
What has saddened me most over the past few months is the steady decline, not just of this great football club, but of the squabbling internecine factions that, rather than all pull together and try and look forward and propose practical and pragmatic ways of rebuilding for the future, have taken greater delight in the blame game.
Players such as John O’Shea and Lee Cattermole have been roundly condemned, only for those players then to lead the way at Derby County for example.
Chris Coleman has been castigated for having no tactical nous, for poor January signings, for an inability to motivate and then condemned on social media for ineptly substituting O’Shea against Norwich – when it turns out he was injured.
I’m not defending the players or Coleman per se – the point I’m making is the problems are so deep rooted and historical that this endless stream of vitriol and often ill informed comment is not only mostly juvenile it is actually damaging the profile of the football club.
The time to judge Coleman is next season when he’s given the tools to work with.
The time to judge the players is when we see who stays and who goes – then we’ll have an idea of who Coleman believes has the character and strength to rebuild Sunderland.
I’ve heard and read so much that is just wrong I bang my head against the wall in frustration.
Rumour and speculation are as damaging as the rebukes. I understand the anger. I understand the frustration. I understand the hurt. But this fantastic football club needs the fans to pull together not fracture and disintegrate.
* The Salut! Sunderland end-of-season review series is open to all. If you have something about the season to get off your chest, this may be the place. Write to M Salut, if interested, at this e-mail address