Amid all the dross that flows from sportsmen given media platforms, without or perhaps usually with the aid of ghostwriters, a refreshingly incisive summing-up of the awful decline of Sunderland AFC appears in the Sunderland Echo column of Gary Rowell.
This hero of Sunderland’s history – his proudest moment as a player for the club he also supported came with that hat-trick at St James’ Park in 1979 – needed just a couple of sentences tochart the slump since Big Sam led the side to rousing, season-saving home wins, with three goals apiece against Chelsea and then Everton.
Only “a season and a bit” ago, he recalls, but seeming like a million years. “During that time, the energy and optimism has been sucked out of the fans with defeat after defeat at home, with the odd draw thrown in, and while much has been said and written about how many fans we’ve lost it is amazing how many still go considering what they have had to endure.”
The players whose shambolic displays have brought SAFC to its present sorry state may not feel inclined to pay too much heed of what is said here. If they retain professional pride, they should perk up and pay attention when Gary Rowell has his say.
Nick Barnes was very sceptical in his BBC commentary of the official attendance figure – 27,317 – for Saturday’s latest Stadium of Light shocker. How many more season card holders will stay away from tonight’s bottom-on-the-table game against Bolton?
As Salut! Sunderland‘s deputy editor Malcolm Dawson said in a tongue-in-cheek comment at Guess the Score, it may be time to run a different competition in which readers are invited to guess he attendance. But which attendance – the number of seats sold or the number of people present?
There is or should be enough basic ability in the squad to secure the run of wins that would heave us away from the humiliating position in which we find ourselves. And there is or should be enough managerial know-how to bring the best out of the squad rather than, as seen too often, the worst.
As usual, we have tried to stir up interest with our build-up to the match. If you have missed it, here are links to the individual items:
* The First Time Ever I Saw Your Team – “Your Ground” when it’s an away game that is coming up – is Pete Sixsmith’s self-imposed epic project. And it’s unfailingly good, a compelling mix of football, history, travelogue, wit and Sixer’s extraordinary range of general knowledge. The Bolton instalment of the series is no exception
* SAFC vs Bolton Wanderers Guess the Score, the winner – who could be a Bolton fan and will be if we lose 1-0, since that is our WAY interviewee Gabe John’s prediction
Grayson’s apparent shortcomings have been well documented here, by Sixer and others, and they are for him to address assuming he is given the time to do so. But as Gary Rowell also said, Grayson was right to insist after Saturday that it was time his players started taking responsibility.
Ha’way the Lads. Give the fans something to cheer – and something to make the absentees feel like returning.