Malcolm Dawson writes…………Our mutual friend, Peter Lynn aka Wrinkly Pete, despite living in the West Midlands is still a regular at the bleak house we know as The Stadium of Light, still keeps the faith but calls upon the fans of Sunderland AFC to accept their fate and get behind the team during these hard times.
Inspired by the output of our own literary genius earlier this week, I turn to Dickens for inspiration for the title of my latest modest contribution to the Salut! Sunderland site.
The article started life just over a month ago, when The Guardian covered the Arsenal AGM on two consecutive days. It had coverage of the stormy meeting and the rescue of the club at that very same meeting by the eloquent, yet often under fire, Arsene Wenger. However what really caught my eye was a statistic that showed that alongside their past ten years’ final league positions (one second place finish, four times third, four times fourth and twice finishing in fifth spot) that they were actually the most successful PL team of all, when measured by the number of points gained in relation to transfer expenditure.
Now I think that is a reasonable yardstick to have used and I also think that most Sunderland fans, myself included, would be delighted with one fifth place finish during our ten years playing alongside them. However, as we all know, (and if you are like me find hugely amusing) a large proportion of Arsenal fans are not at all happy with this record. I am not sure I know why but I think the reasons are quite complex and involve the price of their season cards, the rivalry with Spurs and I think, an unrealistic level of expectation.
If you are still reading, here is what this has got to do with us.
I am of course dismayed that we were relegated last season and now play at the second level. However I have accepted it. I don’t believe that is the case for many of our fans, judging by some reactions. Take last Saturday’s game at Burton for example. It took some time for our boys to break down the home defence and indeed the Brewers had chances of their own. There was understandable frustration amongst the away contingent but there were some near me who shouted at the tops of their voices “Come on Sunderland, this is Burton, for f—s sake.”
Now, I am thrilled we beat them but strictly speaking they have more right to be in The Championship than us. They were promoted rather than demoted to it and had survived in it, which we have yet to do. So why is there this level of expectation amongst our fans and an arrogance that somehow “we are better than where we are”?
I believe like that with Arsenal’s support, it is complex and is tied up in our glory days, the size and grandeur of our stadium, the derby rivalry and our huge fan base. I am not sure though that the arrogance is helpful as it can create an almost automatic expectation of success which if unfulfilled, quickly leads to bitterness, that most evil of emotions.
Let’s look at why we are in The Championship. No John McCormick needed here.
In the same ten years that Arsenal were flying high we once finished as high as tenth (and most of us agree that was in part due to fluke final matches results) and the rest of the time have flirted with relegation for large parts of most seasons. More tellingly perhaps, during each of our final five seasons we occupied a relegation position more than any other position. No one could reasonably argue that what finally happened, which had seemed inevitable in the previous four seasons, was unexpected. Thus like it or not, we are where we are on merit. It may not be where we want to be but let us accept it. To do so means we can embrace the task and give full support to the players and our new manager.