Manchester City visit sees a reboot of season opener; it really has been grim at Sunderland since

 

Sunderland supporters could be forgiven for harking back to more optimistic times when Manchester City visit this weekend in a reversal of the season opener. For many this campaign has been as bad as it's ever been at the Stadium of Light. But with the wisdom of hindsight, the warnings were there in the first five minutes of that first game against Pep Guardiola's billionaires.  


Things looked so much brighter back in August when Sunderland traveled to Manchester City. The sunshine helped of course, but it was more than that. 

David Moyes had been in charge for a few weeks when Sunderland arrived at the Etihad and most pre-season predictions had supposed that the experienced manager would banish the threat of relegation in spite of the difficulties caused by Sam Allardyce's abrupt exit for England.

Only a late Paddy McNair own goal meant Moyes departed Manchester City without a point. But there were reasons to be cheerful. Three of his new signings made Sunderland bow - Donald Love and Adnan Januzaj on top of the Irishman who turned the ball into his own net; and a sprightly Lynden Gooch looked like he was ready to make embark on breakthrough season on his debut. Kone and Kaboul resumed their partnership at the heart of the Sunderland defence and the Black Cats restricted the Etihad crew to few clear cut chances. 

Who were we kidding? Perhaps the warnings were there for all to see. For all their endeavour, Sunderland rarely saw the ball that afternoon, managing just 23% possession. And the calamitous defence which would mar the bulk of the season to follow showed itself when the now not-so-sadly departed Patrick van Aanholt launched himself at Raheem Sterling to concede a penalty within the first five minutes. 

And that was that. A side who huffed and puffed, couldn't retain the ball and shot themselves in the foot when it came to taking a chance to grab a point. Sadly, that template has been rolled out countless times since and now we are we are - deep in the relegation mire. 

Of course there have been several more layers of misery to add as the season has progressed. Most of us hadn't realised just how bad the financial situation was at the Stadium of Light until warnings were issued by club executives and the manager himself late last year; most of us had assumed - as did David Moyes - that any shortfalls in the hastily managed summer transfer window would be able to be addressed in the winter one; and no one could have foreseen just how bad the injury situation would become. 

The time for post-mortems can wait until the end of the season but we once again will need a miracle to avoid relegation. Blame goes far deeper than just this campaign and the current incumbents of course, but what a mess. 

It really has been a horrible, tortuous season in which to follow Sunderland AFC with precious little highlight or respite from the gloom. It's not over yet of course and there's a whole load of football still to play but if getting anything out of Sunday's game with Manchester City already feels like a step too far, then the warnings were there all along - right from that very first game at the Etihad. 


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