Chris Coleman may have insisted he
was pleased that Sunderland's players stuck at it at QPR but quite frankly it's
increasingly clear to see that none of them really give much of a toss that their
current employer will be relegated in a matter of weeks.
Given a hero's welcome yesterday afternoon in West
London, Lee Camp was keen to return the adulation he received from the QPR fans
celebrating victory as Sunderland slumped to yet another defeat.
chest, blowing a kiss and taking care to applaud each Loftus Road stand in
turn, all that was missing were roses raining down from the adoring home
supporters and the Rangers hero taking a bow in the centre circle and making
the sign of a heart.
Camp had just played 40 minutes in a Sunderland
shirt - a result which makes it almost certain the club he's currently representing will play their football in League One next season. Not that the
usual miserable-looking sod looked overly bothered as he relived the 'glory
days' of over a decade ago, when he had helped QPR gain promotion from said
division into the Championship.
No big deal really. It's not unusual for a
visiting goalkeeper, returning to a venue at which he enjoyed some good times,
to warmly interact with the opposition fans behind his nets, but that moment
kinda summed up Sunderland's plight right now as the relegation run-in
concludes through March and April into May.
Lee Camp probably doesn't much care which division
the Black Cats will be playing in next season. Aside from a relegation on the
latter section of his CV, why would he? He has no affinity to Sunderland,
Wearside, the club, its fans, staff or people beyond a four-month loan stint one intended to get himself some first team football rather than sitting in
the stands watching his teammates at Cardiff.
Relegation will have little long-term impact upon
most of the players in yesterday's squad. The majority will be sold, released
or return to their parent clubs come the summer. For those lot, finally
escaping the mess at Sunderland will no doubt be a relief.
Realistically, of yesterday's 18-man matchday
ensemble, there's only about a third you can point to and suggest they'll still
be here still next season. This direction of transfer policy is sure as hell a big factor behind the impending relegation.
Who will be here next season and who will be gone?
Take a look, who really will be here to take the battle to League One and attempt to restore pride on Wearside?
Of the goalkeepers, Camp will
return to Cardiff and perhaps look for a new permanent home in the
Jason Steele could well be sold or loaned out. For one
thing, his supposed £15k a week wages will be an obstacle to him remaining in
Of the fullbacks who took to the pitch
yesterday, Adam Matthews might be worth a few quid on the open
market and Bryan Oviedo will be fresh from a World Cup and
looking to move on when he returns.
Of the centre-backs, John O'Shea will
either retire or be announced as player manager should Chris Coleman depart
though heaven only knows what will become of Lamine Kone; but fair
to assume he'll be off.
In midfield, Sunderland AFC desperately need to
move Lee Cattermole on this summer come what may. The stalwart
outstayed his welcome some time ago though you just know he'll still be lingering come August, whilst George Honeyman looks like taking his place as the new ever-present utility midfielder. Jonny Williams will
return to Crystal Palace's treatment room and Ovie Ejaria will
head back to Merseyside.
Joel Asoro is a talent upon which the Black Cats could
rebuild around but you just know he'll be cashed in as soon as a club higher up
the pyramid comes knocking. Ashley Fletcher will return to
Middlesbrough, chastened by his miserable experience at the Sunderland.
Of yesterday's subs; Billy Jones is
out of contract and will be gone, Aiden McGeady will surely
have a Championship admirer who'll take him whilst Callum McManaman might
actually find his level in League One and turn out to be an asset next
Finally, the academy graduates on the bench at
Loftus Road - Josh Maja, Lynden Gooch and Ethan
Robson will surely prove to be the bedrock of the Sunderland squad in
the third tier.
So is this the problem, or merely one of many?
And therein lies a significant portion of
Sunderland's issues this season - a cohort of senior pro's comprising a
hardcore of has-beens battered by year's of failure at the Stadium of Light
fleshed out with a good chunk of loanees and flops on short-term
Relegation to the Championship was supposed to be
the point at which SAFC swept a new broom through the dressing room, but
neither of the managers who've been employed by the club this season have
either been interested or had the nous to do so In fairness of course, clean sweeps do tend to require money to reinvest in order to enact them.
Perhaps the shockwaves of a cataclysmic drop into
League One will belatedly achieve the much-needed revolution. It's sure as hell overdue.