As a Sunderland fan of many decades, and in the wake of our horrifying but completely predictable relegation to League One, I’d like to address the club’s official post-relegation statement, and absentee owner Ellis Short, with a few statements of my own…
‘It was not envisaged nor expected that we would subsequently be facing the prospect of League One football, which makes this position all the harder to take.’
You’re wrong. Anyone with half a brain could see that dismantling a failed Premier League relegation squad and trying to rebuild with a transfer spend of just £1.2m would end in tears. You were at best naïve and at worst utterly incompetent.
We brought in £30m last summer from the sale of Jordan Pickford alone, and re-investing a modest percentage of that should have allowed us to stabilise in the Championship. But no. One point two million pounds. Disgraceful.
‘Despite the difficulties we have faced, our fans have been a shining light. They have continued to back the team in their thousands, which has been incredibly humbling to see.’
Before last season, we’d been averaging 40k attendances year after year, to watch seasons of ineptitude leading to a last-gasp relegation escapes. Those fans (who might well be suffering from Stockholm Syndrome by now) have witnessed just 25 home wins in 136 league matches at the Stadium of Light, stretching back six seasons.
That’s an average of four home wins per season. For six years.
And yet they still turn up. You have got no idea about the mess the club would certainly be in without the unwavering loyalty of those fans.
‘We are truly sorry that we have not been able to give them the positive outcome such tremendous support deserves.’
You’re wrong. Nothing you have said or done in the past few years has shown that you have any respect for the loyalty and devotion shown to the club by the supporters. We’re realists and we realise that you’ve plunged the club into a financial abyss – for us, a ‘positive outcome’ would have been mid-table stability and evidence of a strong platform for responsible rebuilding.
But no – £1.2m only buys you another relegation.
Our away following regularly snap up every last ticket available to them and when we somehow reached Wembley in the Capital One Cup in 2014, the carnival atmosphere among our fans was unreal. If we hadn’t lost 3-1 to Manchester City, there’s every possibility we’d have drank London dry.
That cup run should have been a wake-up call for you – the untapped potential at Sunderland is mind-blowing, and yet the club has been mismanaged to the point where it has plummeted into the third tier, a rotten husk of what it once was.
‘There remains a burning desire from within to re-build and re-invigorate the club.’
I don’t believe you. You sound like a man who keeps telling his wife he’s going to change and clean up his act but then four days later falls asleep drunk on the doorstep with his trousers around his ankles. I am perpetually bewildered as to how you became a billionaire, as your record at Sunderland is that of a clueless, aimless chancer who thinks that if he keeps throwing s*** against the wall, some of it might eventually stick.
‘Sunderland AFC is so much more than a football club…’
You’re right but you’re also wrong. At the moment, it looks as though it is beyond repair, and that is as a direct result of your abominable decade-long tenure. You claim to want to find a new owner for the club but it’s currently so damaged by your string of catastrophic decisions, that most potential investors wouldn’t give it a second glance. Who would buy a house with broken windows, blocked drains and a tribe of rats nesting in the airing cupboard?
We’re not asking for a Manchester City-style moneybags adventure – we’re in League One and all we ask for is a season where we actually compete for once. You know, to win maybe a dozen matches at home and maybe challenge for the play-offs. That would be infinitely better than the spineless capitulation we’ve just endured in the Championship.
We’ve been relegated with pride before – we went down singing from the top flight in 1991 and 1997 – and those seasons were a world away from to the 19-point season of 2003, the 15-point season of 2006 and the last two seasons of dismal incompetence. We know when we’re punching above our weight and when we’re being cheated.
We’re not a spoilt bunch of cry-babies who believe we’ve got a divine right to be in the Premier League.
We just want to feel as though our team are giving it their best, and that comes directly from the club’s owner making sensible, practical decisions and investing sufficiently in players so that it looks as though it’s a good bet for a potential new owner.
Do that, and we’ll be on the first step of the journey towards Sunderland becoming ‘more than a football club’ again. Right now, it’s a f***ing basket case.