The players have to work for redemption

The Northern Echo: NO MORE HEROES: Sunderland NO MORE HEROES: Sunderland

IT CAN be quite difficult gauging a team’s ability and progression when you’re doing so as a fan of that particular side.

That’s why often we look back at former managers and players and think they were better or worse than we judged at any given time. Because in the business of football it’s very much the ‘here and now’.

It’s all well and good declaring that we were hard on Steve Bruce, for example, because we generally steered clear of the darkest depths of relegation dogfight.

But when you’re turning up week in, week out, and watching your side fail to win again and again by playing poorly, then it’s natural to question whether or not your money and emotional commitment is being fairly represented. The ugly truth of the matter is that we’ve been stuck in this rut as a side since the aforementioned Steve Bruce miscalculated how to reassemble the half-decent side that he himself had built and disassembled.

Martin O’Neill and Gus Poyet got initial reactions from this squad but ultimately they’ve been unable to sustain performance levels. Without Di Canio’s defibrillator effect than the former would have arguably took us down last year. It’s looking ever the more likely that the latter may achieve that unwanted accolade a season later.

That’s not to blame him, of course, the first seven games under the irritable Italian had left him with a lot to do. Was the league table formed from then, we would not be dead certs to go down. The commonality is the core of players.

Getting back to the point about finding it difficult to gauge where we are as a side, it’s less easy to judge after the defeat at Liverpool. I suppose it depends if you’re a glass half-empty or half-full kind of person.

For the first time since Wembley, we scored, kept the ball and played with a seeming purpose and belief. The worrying thing is that it took going two goals down to spark this reaction, it’s taken the concession of a seventh goal since Wembley to alert the players of the severity of the situation we find ourselves in.

Fans of most clubs probably feel that their lot epitomise inconsistency. “Typical [insert name], beat the good teams and lose to the rubbish ones”. Well runs to the cup final, wins against Man City and doubles over Newcastle suggest that Sunderland really can lay claim to the throne of being the enigmatic souls of English top flight football. Did we see the “real” Sunderland at Norwich or the “real” Sunderland at St James’ Park? It was the same starting eleven. Never has a Sunderland side fluctuated between the ultra competitive and the outright useless.

I’ve kind of give up trying to work them out. I’m feeling less compelled to either fight their corner or write off their chances. But despite the seeming improvement on the field, the Black Cats have won six league games all season.

Six. I’m beginning to lose hope.

It will be interesting to see how us fans percieve this squad in years to come.The likelihood is that we’ll associate the cup run with loan players like Borini and Ki.

That reflects the poor relationship the rest have with the fans at present. Never have I wished to see the back of so many players. That’s not what being a football fan is all about. They have some games left in which to salvage all pride.

Over to you, lads.

STEPHEN GOLDSMITH

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