WITH their actions in the last five months, Sunderland’s ownership group have already wrecked the current campaign. By doing nothing now, however, there is a very real risk that they are also seriously damaging the club’s chances of achieving anything next season as well. The current situation is dire, but as those associated with Sunderland should know better than anyone, there is always the risk of things getting worse.

We could fill every column between now and the end of the season raking over the disastrous decisions that have brought the Black Cats to their knees, but that is gone now. It benefits no one to remember a time, just before Christmas, when Sunderland were challenging for promotion with a popular head coach, an exciting, motivated young team and an energised support revelling in the club’s forward momentum.

We are where we are. Sunderland are floundering in the bottom half of the table, having failed to win eight of their last nine matches, they don’t have a permanent head coach, there are question marks over the future of a number of key players and having passed beyond the point of justified anger, the fanbase is lapsing into an apathetic acceptance that the wheels have come off. Both on and off the pitch, the alarm bells are well and truly ringing.

So, what should happen next? While a lot of work in a lot of different areas is needed to repair the self-inflicted damage that has proved so debilitating in the last few months, one move would begin to improve things at a stroke. Sunderland need a new permanent head coach. Not at the end of the season, or just before the start of the pre-season return. But now. This instant. With every day that passes with Mike Dodds still at the helm in his interim capacity, the rot becomes more entrenched.

Having begun to vote with their feet, the supporters need something to suggest that a positive change is possible. Monday’s humiliating defeat to Blackburn was an embarrassment in so many ways, but perhaps the most damning indictment of the depths to which Sunderland have plunged came when the supposed attendance of more than 40,000 was announced to a disbelieving stadium housing tens of thousands of empty seats. The mockery that followed said everything. No one believes anything the club hierarchy are saying any more.

The promises of progress that were made after the departure of both Tony Mowbray and Michael Beale are ringing extremely hollow. Sunderland are going backwards at an alarming rate, with the last month or so having been an exercise in attempting to tread water, but floundering as a result. What is the plan to turn things around? Which players will be part of that plan? What will the ‘new Sunderland’ look like? Why should supporters commit to being part of that future by buying season tickets for next season when there is so much uncertainty?


None of those questions can be adequately answered without the appointment of a new manager, head coach, guru, whatever you want to call him. At the moment, Sunderland are a rudderless ship, bereft of any kind of leadership or direction. Who can blame the fans if they simply choose to give up?

The players need some certainty now too. It is easy to suggest that, as professional footballers, they should be capable of motivating themselves, but there are countless examples at various levels of the game to prove things are not that simple. If you’re Jack Clarke or Dan Neil at the moment, aware of potential outside interest in the summer, why on earth would you be thinking of committing your long-term future to Sunderland when you don’t even know who is going to be leading you next season? And why bother listening to Dodds’ instructions in the next six games when you know the current leader is going to be back in his former coaching role come the start of next term?

The current stasis is not fair on Dodds, who is being hung out to dry and seeing his professional reputation eviscerated with every defeat that is etched onto his managerial CV, and is hardly beneficial for whoever is eventually appointed to succeed him either. If you’re going to be managing Sunderland next season, surely you’d rather be in charge for the next six games so you can start sifting through the wreckage you are inheriting? There are going to have to be a host of major decisions made this summer – if you’re going to have an input into any of them as head coach, wouldn’t you rather have the next month in which to assess what is working and what isn’t?

Why hasn’t a new boss been appointed? Because of the wall of silence that has been erected around Kyril Louis-Dreyfus and Kristjaan Speakman in the last month or so, we simply don’t know. Money? The club say not, but given everything that has happened recently, it’s hard to take much of what is said from on high at face value.

Because the person, or people, they want are currently in employment? That would, at least, be a reasonable explanation, but if that is the case, either Speakman or Louis-Dreyfus needs to come out and say so publicly. At the moment, their lack of action looks like either indifference or ineptitude, neither of which is a good look.

There is a common law in physics that states that nature abhors a vacuum. Well, football generally hates one too. Sunderland’s hopes and dreams for this season disappeared into a black hole a long time ago. The fear, however, is that the damage has not stopped there.