Six points adrift from the safety zone, a debt-ridden club in crisis, relegation looking ever likely and two months in which a revolution in ability and application on the pitch will be needed to save ourselves; but if you were to browse the pages of the local press right now, you could be forgiven for believing there's no problem here. What the hell has gone wrong with the north east media?
Crisis, what crisis?
There is a crisis unfolding at Sunderland - as usual - but this season it's different, it's worse. This time the problems have become so deep-rooted they're decade-definingly significant. With eleven games to save a season, and perhaps the short-to-medium term future of the club, questions really must be asked of owner, board, manager and squad. So why aren't they being?
If you had been exiled in a foreign land for a while and happened to return to the north east right now, you would be forgiven for believing that Sunderland's bottom-of-the-table league placing was a mere blip, a lie even. Because a browse of the newspapers, a listen to the radio and a sit down in front of the TV to catch up on the local news will reveal little-to-no indication of the horrendous situation unfolding at the Stadium of Light.
A team stuck fast to the foot of the Premier League table, gazing upwards beyond a gaping chasm to the safety zone as mid-March approaches; a club with the second highest debt of any in Europe and with the latest set of goddam awful accounts soon to be published; an owner who has abandoned his toy; a mismatched, unbalanced squad presided over by a manager with the face of a smacked arse; 'ordinary folk' who work for the club being made redundant; and supporters who turn their backs on their team en-masse after an hour most weeks...and no one in the local press, radio or TV has apparently noticed that we might have something of a problem here and thought to question it. Come off it.
A press in hiding
Indeed, a browse of today's pages of the 'professional' former-print-now-mainly-online media which cover Sunderland, and you will not notice any hint of the catastrophe unfolding. The Sunderland Echo and the Newcastle Evening Chronicle are the Tyne-and-Wear big boys and they may occasionally nod to the threat of relegation, but their output never dares venture anywhere near questioning what the bloody hell is going on or even daring to suggest that change might be a good idea.
Interviews with successive players issuing a latest 'war cry' - who are then shut straight up on the pitch soon after; meekly soft questions at press conferences, and 'Match of the Day pundit says...' articles. That's the north east newspapers right now. Imagine doing a journalism degree just to sit and write that crap and never question it.
A manager under no pressure whatsoever
David Moyes occupies a unique position in Premier League history. A manager leading his side sleepwalking into relegation, having won just five league matches in his six months in charge, having overseen two transfer windows which yielded no hint of improvement but who is under not one iota of pressure. Not one question over his future from the titles who will typically produce half a dozen articles each and every day about Sunderland AFC.
Ordinarily, at any club, in any season, in any league in the world, a manager stuck fast at the bottom facing a must-win game at home in a little over a week's time, would be told by the media at least that they have but one game to save their job. Not our Moyesey, not in our press. Not in our cosy press boxes.
The argument for binning Moyes or sticking with him is a different one for now and is a worthy debate. But why isn't that debate being enacted in the north east media right now? Why didn't the press question the club when it said it would make people redundant, why don't they wonder where the owner has gone and why don't they apply some pressure to see things put right? Is it too soon? Should the post-mortem wait for the end of the season - when it's too late?
There is now an apparent industry standard in the region by which journalists and media people must never question the football team which provides them with their living. After all, the club might get cross, and stop talking to them. And that would never do.
In part, Mike Ashley destroyed the media in the north east when the Newcastle lot dared to side with supporters a few years ago. Newcastle United banned the Evening Chronicle from St James Park for having the temerity to question his dictatorship - and that was that. The local press wrecked and never a peep will be heard from them again for having dared to voice the concerns of the people who buy their newspaper.
And so here we are. Sunderland stand on the precipice of disaster and not a hint of the problem washes close to the north east media. A manager under no pressure, a club with no one to answer to and supporters with no avenue by which to hold the goddam mess-creators to account.
We have a team who need our support right now - unquestionably. But that fact surely should not forego a public debate over the state of Sunderland and some pressure be applied in the right places. God knows we need a reaction on the pitch right now, and a reaction off it in the summer.
No wonder we walk away from the Stadium of Light on the hour mark and shuffle off to do something better with our time. It's not going to get any better anytime soon, and no one will ask whether it should be a bit better than this anyway. Shouldn't it? Or is that too radical?