'Togetherness' Overload Means Precious Little Without a Change of Attitude & Application at Sunderland

Sunderland's players, freshly returned from a team-bonding trip to New York, have launched a fresh assault on supporter's senses with messages of togetherness and unity. But, most of us can be forgiven for raising an eyebrow and arming ourselves with a healthy dose of cynicism after what we've witnessed for most of this season. 

Sunderland's squad have returned from their bonding trip to New York. After a week of bonhomie, bicycles and Central Park-smiles the real work begins for a group who last time out got their bottoms spanked by a mid-table decent-but-unremarkable Southampton side. 

The four goal thumping seven days ago lingers in the air somewhat on Wearside. The elephant in the room, the fart in the lift - last Saturday's performance hasn't gone far from supporter's minds - even if it has likely been expunged from the memory banks of the New York jet-set. 

There's nothing like a week away from the Stadium of Light to reawaken faded optimism however, and by the time Sunderland face Everton this time next week most of us will be back to yearning for three points and believing this faltering squad have grown a pair during their four-day mini-break. 

I've never met a Sunderland supporter who isn't battle-hardened and clad in a coat of cynicism. All of that surrounds a never-say-die core of hope and optimism though. Stoicism and scepticism are built-in to the red-and-white pysche, so this week's overload of bonding, smiling, togetherness-propaganda and players being shoved in front of a camera or microphone to insist its 'bloody brilliant' here has started to rankle with me the more I've seen of it. 

At first, it just washed over me - apathy is a growing fungi on the soul of Sunderland supporters. Many of us - you - me - them - your neighbours - your mates - your work colleagues - whoever -  turned our backs a week ago and escaped the cold to depart the Stadium of Light early in disgust at what was laid out in front of us. But, many are growing tired of it. Five Premier League wins in six months since the season started isn't good enough and it's like this every bl**dy season. 

And now they're back from New York telling us all we need is a little togetherness. And we do - but as supporters we've never gone away and we really don't need a plea for unity laid at our door because it doesn't wash. 

These new marketing missives - #UnityIsStrength and #KeepTheFaith - will only mean anything if David Moyes and his players buy-in on the pitch. Seven days ago, Sunderland's squad - almost to a man - packed in and looked like they would simply accept defeat and relegation. 

In the last few days, we've had Didier Ndong talk about "collective effort" - yet that's a Gabonese lad who by all accounts doesn't speak much English coming out with that. We've had Adnan Januzaj announcing that "we need everyone to stick together" after he packed in at half-time seven days ago; Steven Pienaar suggested that the trip was intended to "get everyone pulling in one direction" and David Moyes said four days in the Big Apple is like buying a dog for Christmas - it was "not just for now but for the long-term".  

All well and good, and all very commendable. No one can argue with the message - but with just fourteen games left, and five or six wins needed from them to survive, the time for talking is over.

The club have trodden a fine line this week to avoid further criticism of the 'jolly' and just about managed to make a mini-break look like it was all about working and bonding. But, all these words will be utterly hollow if this squad don't turn up at Goodison Park next Saturday. 

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