A lot of Salut! Sunderland readers go nowhere near Twitter and as one who spends far too much time there, Monsieur Salut can but say: “Bear with me. I am hopeful of finding a cure.”
But I must admit I have been flabbergasted by the names that have been more or less officially linked with the search for a successor to Jack Ross – and what those names say about our status and ambition.
First we hear in effect that Ross was not good enough. “.. with three quarters of the season remaining, we did not feel things were going as well as they should be,” our executive director and my own former colleague Charlie Methven tells The Daily Telegraph.
John McCormick writes Did we get rid of Simon Grayson too early? There are some stats that say we could have and you might want to look back on my end of season review before reaching a conclusion. And what about Steve Bruce? It’s just on ten years since he was appointed by Sunderland, only to be sacked some 2½ years later when we were mid-premiership. Only ten years? Mid-Premiership? It seems like a lifetime.
Bruce then went to Hull, where he became a hero before walking out, which appears to be the norm for Hull managers this past decade, with Nigel Adkins having followed Marco Silva and Leonid Slutsky in not completing or renewing a contract (Mike Phelan is the exception, he was sacked).
After Nigel Adkins announced his departure Simon Grayson seemed to be an early favourite to take over. Perhaps he still is, although I haven’t seen his name for a couple of days. Personally, I wish him well although Hull could prove to be a poisoned chalice, and he’s drunk enough from them recently.
We’ve exchanged a few players with Hull, too. Frazier Campbell is still with them, having re-signed in 2017, and others who have worn both sets of stripes are still plying their trade in various leagues (even Paul McShane until his release by Reading at the end of the season), so I thought I’d dip into the archives and take a trip back to June 16th 2013, when our guest, Sam Campbell, looked back on a few tempestuous years, for Hull, not us.
The first saw us exit the League Cup at Goodison, where a weaker than usual team in a struggling club had no trouble in dispatching us. Rodwell played that evening, in what I think was his last game for us (other than as an unused sub at Brentford), but other than that there was nothing of note in the game and it has no bearing on the rest of the season, so I’ll ignore it.
Who are You? may be slowly turning into a family affair. After Wrinkly Pete roped in his Bristol City-supporting nephew, Monsieur Salut does the same with the Boro-supporting part of the Randall clan (my sister has lived in Middlesbrough almost all her adult life). Andy Falconer* grew up close to Ayresome Park. He is bang up to date with comments on Simon Grayson’s saacking – risky for Sunderland, he believes – and expresses a liking for McGeady, Watmore and Catts while naturally thinking no Sunderland player could truly enhance the Boro squad. He sees a bitter scrap at the bottom for us, promotion via the playoffs for his lot …
Poor Pete Sixsmith, enduring yet another game in which Sunderland looked every inch relegation candidates, twice trailing to and only then scraping a draw against another side looking every inch relegation candidates.
Shortly after the error-strewn match, the glaringly obvious reason for there being no post-match managerial press conference was confirmed. The men largely responsible for the Sunderland’s failings, and therefore in part responsible for the manager’s impotency in the face of a great club’s decline, had sacked Simon Grayson. Where do we go from here? In Sixer’s case, to the welcome respite of Christmas Santa duties …
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 …
To no great surprise, Simon Grayson has been sacked after yet another wretched result, 3-3 at home to the Championship’s bottom club, Bolton Wanderers.
Nice guy out of his depth or decent manager with all the odds stacked against him by a basket case of a football club. Either way, Grayson is no longer Sunderland’s manager.
Having scraped two draws from two home games he said himself were important to win after the horrendous start to the season, Grayson found on Tuesday night that the patience of our absent owner and present but struggling chief executive had run out.
Malcolm Dawson writes………..I am not one of the multitude calling for Simon Grayson’s head for the simple reason that at the end of last season I decided that I would not renew my season card and would not return to the Stadium of Light until I felt the club was able to offer me something in return for what was (up until May) my loyalty.
There is only so far blind faith can take you and my eyes are open. So I’m not calling for Grayson’s head purely because I haven’t been able to judge personally how inept he really is. For that I’ll rely on Pete Sixsmith‘s first hand verdict, first in his report from yet another frustrating afternoon spent in Sunderland and then later in the flesh when I see him at the U23 game. You see I haven’t given up entirely …
Bristol City H
Every team, bar onethat I have seen at the Stadium of Light this season has had a number of common characteristics, the common one being that they are well organised with their players appearing to know what their roles are within the team structure.
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.
Pete Sixsmith gets back to roots with a trip to Old Trafford, not to see Seb Larsson score an unlikely winner or Vito Mannone make the penalty shoot out saves from Adnan Januzaj and Rafael to earn a Wembley appearance but to savour a great day out for a man fond of the oval ball as played by 13 men on each side rather than 15. The outcome of the Rugby League Grand Final and the ups and down of his beloved Leeds Rhinos set him wondering about Simon Grayson’s ability to inspire the discipline and commitment needed to move Sunderland up the Championship table.
As always with Pete’s outings, what you are about to read combines incisive sportswriting, travelogue and wit …
They say that your first love is the one that you look back on with the most affection, even though you may have found deep satisfaction or a mutual love-hate relationship with the partner that you eventually settle down with and live all life’s ups and downs. I know these things. I read them on the back of a matchbox.
So it is with the teams that you support. Sunderland AFC and I were manacled together in 1962 and that hardware has stayed securely tied since then, apart from a brief escape in 1998 after a needless relegation which a little investment and some shrewd buying would have prevented.
Before and after that, it’s been like Jack and Vera Duckworth’s marriage – plenty of ups and downs, lots of shouting and cursing and a fair bit of weeping when things went desperately wrong, but a commitment that has stuck through thick and thin, with thin being noticeably more represented than the former.