FEEBLE BLACK CATS IN NEED OF BACKING
GOING into Friday’s match at Fulham, Sunderland, over the last six seasons, had played 234 league matches, winning 47, drawing 71, losing 116.
They were on course to lose exactly half their matches in this period, winning one in five.
It is very difficult to turn around a club used to losing. When confidence is low, it takes a big personality to demand responsibility, to want the ball, to be prepared to take risks with it rather than play the safe sideways pass.
Whoever is manager next season – and Chris Coleman should be given the summer to try to shape his own team – recruitment is going to be vital.
This will be difficult as there are highly-paid players on the books who will be hard to shift.
The stasis at the top is a huge problem with Ellis Short’s absentee ownership crippling the club.
However, the chance to play at the Stadium of Light ought to be attractive to the best players in the lower divisions and those on the way down used to Premier League facilities.
Tony Mowbray turned Blackburn Rovers around this season, Kenny Jackett did the same with Wolves a few years ago. Three decades ago, Denis Smith did it at Sunderland, the last time they fell into tier three.
Mowbray had a summer clear-out, replacing big earners past their best with younger, hungrier ones, such as Bradley Dack from Gillingham and Richie Smallwood, a League One promotion winner with Rotherham. Both rewarded his faith. Also vital was Mowbray’s ability to keep belief high despite a mixed start that left Rovers tenth in mid-October.
Bouncing back can be done, but whoever is manager next season, he is going to need nerve, inspiration…and backing from the owner.
DOUBLE TOP: Accrington Stanley’s Billy Kee is celebrating promotion and a bumper goal haul. Inset, Peterborough’s Jack Marriott