It seemed inconceivable that Sunderland will be playingAccrington Stanley in the Football League next season but that is theharsh reality facing fans on Wearside.
Where once there was Arsenal and Chelsea, now there isAccrington and Gillingham. It might seem to be the end of days, the verybottom of the barrel after seasons of failing, but the truth is that it couldwell be the springboard that Sunderland need to begin rebuilding.
It is easy to point to Coventry City in League Two anduse them as an example of what awaits, or even Portsmouth currently battling toget back into the Championship. Other sides such as Charlton have found lifetough in the third tier also but there are so many examples of sideseventually thriving.
Southampton spent time in League One not so longago but Adam Lallana helped inspire them tofurther glory. They won promotion, picking up the EFL Trophy on the way,before finding themselves back in the Premier League and in the League Cupfinal. They remembered how to win games in League One and they carried thatthrough to the top flight.
Adam Lallana- By PANNATHORN SUKMANONT - Adam Lallana in Bangkok, CC BY-SA 2.0
Leicester City are perhaps the very best example of whatcan be achieved. In 2008/09, they found themselves scrapping with the likes ofColchester and Tranmere but, after a couple of seasons losing matches, theyremembered how to win again. Within a decade, they added the most treasureddomestic prize of them all to their trophy cabinet, the Premier League.
More recently, Wolves have suffered the indignity of arelegation to League One, only to bounce back stronger and wiser. Theirpromotion this season caps off a rise that has pleased many of theirfans but it has also ended a miserable period. The slide was trulyarrested in League One where they too remembered how to win games.
Sunderland have a huge opportunity to make use of youthplayers such as Lynden Gooch, Joel Asoro and Josh Mata. These have thepotential to thrive in League One. They would likely be afforded more chancestoo as the quality of opposition, whilst not to be underestimated, would take adip some weeks.
Sunderland bossChris Coleman - By Steindy (talk) 16:08, 10 November 2016 (UTC) - Own work,CC BY-SA 3.0
There’s also the added weight Sunderland have whenattracting players at that level. There’s a lot of big fish fighting forsignatures in the Championship, but there’s few bigger than Sunderland in thethird tier. Blackburn have demonstrated their pulling power by attractingBradley Dack, a player who has made an enormous impact on their season. Onedivision below, Marc McNulty was never going anywhere other than Coventry City,a relative behemoth of a side when compared with Morecambe and Stevenage. He’sscored the goals that give them hope for the future.
There’s the positive of their own young players getting achance, the opportunity to pick and choose the very best League One has tooffer by wowing them with the grand stadium and top rate facilities and there’san opportunity to win the EFL Trophy as well. They would surely be amongst thefavourites for both that trophy and the league in almost all football predictions. It might bea maligned competition in which it would seem offensive to face NewcastleU23s but it is a route to Wembley, a route to silverware and a chance forplayers to gain confidence and experience.
Relegation isn’t a good thing and Sunderland should havedone much more to avoid it but it can be a cathartic experience from whichthey come back stronger, wiser and full of confidence once more.