I think it is about time we dust ourselves down a little and try to shed a little perspective on the aftermath of 2-1. With that in mind, I had a bit of a think about three things which were huge encouragements to me and three things which get the pessimism flowing once more.
One of the key tasks for Guy Poyet is to bring some semblance of stability at Sunderland. His challenge is all the greater with more than a third of the 27-man squad he inherited facing uncertain futures even before his arrival.
Before a ball was kicked this season, Niall Quinn hit the nail on the head when querying whether Paolo Di Canio has the right interpersonal credentials to make Sunderland succeed. “The big question mark is over Di Canio's man-management skills. Will he be able to get the players he has kept to gel with the many new signings he has brought in during the summer? That is a big ask because, make no mistake, the Premier League will punish weaknesses”.
In a recent Sunderland Echo article there was short quote from Paolo di Canio which gives an indication on the financial situation at the club, which determined much of the summer transfer activity and the supposed “revolution”:“We have to be honest, at the end of the transfer market we couldn’t spend any more money and in Borini we were able to loan a player with the characteristics I had asked for”.
Keep your own and your employee’s rallying calls to yourself, I’ve grown weary of such repetitive, meaningless drivel. I am sick of being lauded as part of the best group of fans in the country, like this pretentious accolade would somehow make everything alright. In times gone by this customer (that’s all I feel like these days) would beam with pride when professing his allegiance to the troops in red and white, even the talentless group that took us down with a meagre 15 points. Now I see an unstoppable pandemic starting from the top and ending with the almost exclusively spineless set of players who sheepishly stroll around the pitch. The pride has gone, but I am too tired to be angry.
It was a hunch and as hunches go, I find them rarely come true. After so many decades following Sunderland and seeing, I have no idea, 1,000 plus matches, I should have known better. The belief at the back of my mind was that the team would be enthused with the arrival of a new head coach, raring to go as they had shown under the interim management of Kevin Ball, but even more so. Getting a result at Swansea seemed far from being an impossible task, followed by defeating the Mags and Steve Bruce's Hull. It would be as it were: 'What crisis!'
There are two things Sunderland's American owner Ellis Short has in common with Niall Quinn. Both are Irish passport-holders and the billionaire businessman also succeeded the affable football legend as the club's chairman. But there the similarities seem to end with each having totally different records in trying to run the day-to-day affairs at the Black Cats.
Jozy Altidore has been quoted praising himself and cursing Sunderland’s luck for the start of this season. The United States international has scored zero league goals, assisted zero league goals and generally not made a massive impact since returning to the Premier League after an enormously successful spell in Holland. I have to be pretty blunt here, I am afraid there is not much substance which I can use to back up Jozy’s claims.
One man who seems destined to blossom under Gus Poyet is cultured centre back Valentin Roberge. Like most at Sunderland, his start to life on Wearside has been inconsistent but I see a very competent defender here – certainly more so than any other player we have in that position.
There are five minutes left to play and Man Utd are a goal ahead with Sunderland looking highly unlikely to cause any cursed, last minute press-box re-writes in another, ultimately, predictable conclusion to a supposedly highly unpredictable form of entertainment. My extremely bored, Leicester-supporting, step-son yawns beside me and inspects the label on his now empty bottle of nuclear-blue energy drink. It's the least energetic I've ever seen him. I glance over to my dad just past him, who returns my gaze with a resigned roll of his eyes. We exchange no words as we have suffered through this particular play many times before.