It seemed inconceivable that Sunderland will be playing
Accrington Stanley in the Football League next season but that is the
harsh reality facing fans on Wearside.
Where once there was Arsenal and Chelsea, now there is
Accrington and Gillingham. It might seem to be the end of days, the very
bottom of the barrel after seasons of failing, but the truth is that it could
well be the springboard that Sunderland need to begin rebuilding.
It is easy to point to Coventry City in League Two and
use them as an example of what awaits, or even Portsmouth currently battling to
get back into the Championship. Other sides such as Charlton have found life
tough in the third tier also but there are so many examples of sides
Southampton spent time in League One not so long
ago but Adam Lallana helped inspire them to
further glory. They won promotion, picking up the EFL Trophy on the way,
before finding themselves back in the Premier League and in the League Cup
final. They remembered how to win games in League One and they carried that
through to the top flight.
- By PANNATHORN SUKMANONT - Adam Lallana in Bangkok, CC BY-SA 2.0
Leicester City are perhaps the very best example of what
can be achieved. In 2008/09, they found themselves scrapping with the likes of
Colchester and Tranmere but, after a couple of seasons losing matches, they
remembered how to win again. Within a decade, they added the most treasured
domestic prize of them all to their trophy cabinet, the Premier League.
More recently, Wolves have suffered the indignity of a
relegation to League One, only to bounce back stronger and wiser. Their
promotion this season caps off a rise that has pleased many of their
fans but it has also ended a miserable period. The slide was truly
arrested in League One where they too remembered how to win games.
Sunderland have a huge opportunity to make use of youth
players such as Lynden Gooch, Joel Asoro and Josh Mata. These have the
potential to thrive in League One. They would likely be afforded more chances
too as the quality of opposition, whilst not to be underestimated, would take a
dip some weeks.
Chris 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 when
attracting players at that level. There’s a lot of big fish fighting for
signatures in the Championship, but there’s few bigger than Sunderland in the
third tier. Blackburn have demonstrated their pulling power by attracting
Bradley Dack, a player who has made an enormous impact on their season. One
division below, Marc McNulty was never going anywhere other than Coventry City,
a relative behemoth of a side when compared with Morecambe and Stevenage. He’s
scored the goals that give them hope for the future.
There’s the positive of their own young players getting a
chance, the opportunity to pick and choose the very best League One has to
offer by wowing them with the grand stadium and top rate facilities and there’s
an opportunity to win the EFL Trophy as well. They would surely be amongst the
favourites for both that trophy and the league in almost all football predictions. It might be
a maligned competition in which it would seem offensive to face Newcastle
U23s but it is a route to Wembley, a route to silverware and a chance for
players to gain confidence and experience.
Relegation isn’t a good thing and Sunderland should have
done much more to avoid it but it can be a cathartic experience from which
they come back stronger, wiser and full of confidence once more.