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If there was a Gray cloud hanging over the Stadium of Light named Simon the last three months, it's surely turned to black now.
Sunderland are a sinking ship, nine captains in six seasons have tried to steady her in the form of various characters who were unfortunate enough to accept the poisoned chalice that is the role of manager. All have hit the proverbial iceberg with nothing to show for their troubles.
The drop into the Championship has been an inevitable storm on the horizon. When it finally hit no one was surprised. What has come unexpectedly is the blind ineptness that those behind the scenes have been so forthcoming to display in their attempts to buoy some life into this once great club. The Stadium of Light seems to chew any calibre of manager, regardless of experience or enthusiasm, and spit them right out in the most undignified of manners.
Who is going to put their hand up to go through the meat grinder this time?
There have at least been some interesting names linked. Three proper blokes who are intrinsically and indefinitely linked to Sunderland for exceptionally positive reasons are on that list, raising one eyebrow towards optimism while the other droops towards the incredible feeling of parasitic desolation that no man, woman or child seems to be able to remedy.
Two of the names in this category have had a swipe at the helm before, namely Peter Reid and Kevin Ball, albeit the latter in a care taker as opposed to permanent capacity. The former arguably led Sunderland through it's most successful period in modern memory, leading the Black Cats to successive seventh placed finishes. An achievement that goes unrivalled since those heady days of lifting the FA cup in 73. That feat achieved through hard work and sheer bloody mindedness, qualities which are etched into the DNA of Sunderland and the fans but which has been sorely lacking in evidence for a number of fruitless seasons.
It's testament to the fans of this once great club that the stands haven't been forlorn as you could expect after years of perennial under achievement and struggle. Many will say that Reid is too long in the tooth and his record after being sacked by Sunderland hardly screams of a golden CV. But there may be life in the old dog yet, could he and does he have enough left in the tank to breathe some life back into this decaying club? Your guess is as good as mine.
A former player under Reid, Kevin Ball would most certainly instil some passion and robustness into this team of chasers and chokers. The man was hard as nails as a player and bleeds red and white but questions remain over his suitability and experience as to whether he could handle probably the hardest job in professional football on a full time basis.
This leads us quite nicely onto another Kevin considered legendary by fans. A certain Kevin Phillips, scorer of goals and winner of the European Golden Boot (still to this day the only English striker to receive this most prestigious acolade) began as the bookies favourite. Young and hungry yes, but very much an unknown quantity at managerial level. He's earned his stripes, first as a striker coach before working his way to assistant manager at derby. Is he ready to take the rudder of this aimless ship and instil some belief and passion back into the Black Cats faithful? Impossible to know but Roy Keane was certainly wet behind the ears when he arrived and managed to restore Sunderland to it's rightful place in the Premiership. Could Super Kev manage the same feat? Of course survival in the Championship will be the goal with all plans of a promotion push certain to be dead and buried by now or at least shelved.
Whatever happens over the next six months will surely be interesting and I once again look to Wearside with a cautious sense of optimism. After getting it wrong so many times surely the hapless idiots who make the big decisions at the Stadium of Light will stumble across something positive. A little bit of serendipity would be welcomed with open arms by all who are drawn to this enigmatic club. True love dies hard.