Wear The People

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History repeating 30 years on?

Posted on 4 August, 2017 at 9:45

Wear The People’s Mal Robinson looks ahead to the new season, by looking back at an important season for the Lads and wonders if history will repeat itself?

The talk of the summer may be focussed on 20 years since leaving Roker Park and 20 since the opening of the Stadium of Light, but if you cast your mind back another decade, then it will be 30 years since the start of Sunderland’s only season in the third tier of English football.

30 years ago, it was also my first full season watching Sunderland. My Dad had taken me to the season previous, where I had the delight of watching us succumb to West Brom, Sheffield United, even surrender a 2-0 lead at home to Barnsley on the last day of the season to ensure we had the pleasure of Gillingham in the play-offs (what a game that was), and 30 years ago, May gone.

And so 30 years ago this August, we trundled in the light drizzle to Roker Park to see Denis Smith’s Sunderland take on Bristol Rovers in a drab 1-1 draw, the club’s first home game in Division 3 in our history.

The campaign itself was a glorious one, even if in Division 3. The team swept all before them (eventually) and the arrival of a young gun named Marco Gabbiadini, meant there was fresh enthusiasm once more on Wearside. Sunderland were big news in this Division at that time, and red and white away followings drowned towns and cities up and down England from Aldershot to York.

You could close your eyes and envisage a similar trend for this season. It can be argued, Sunderland are the biggest name in the league (perhaps Villa now with John Terry can rival this) and teams will be looking for a scalp, as red and white hoards bombard vicinities from Burton to Sheffield this time around.

Yet, I fear for the club and the team.

At the moment, the club feels like damaged goods. I do believe in the manager, Simon Grayson, and think he speaks common sense, with a can do, no nonsense attitude. But as many before him in the SOL hot seat, it is money and the players that talks.

Travel 30 miles or so down the A19 and its Middlesbrough who are the perfect example of how to combat relegation during pre season and re-align themselves with the fans. Garry Monk has held talk ins with the fans and backed up promises with head turning signings. They look like a club ready to take the league by storm, the fans, players and club all as one.

Sunderland in comparison look like a non-league outfit, actually that’s insulting to the likes of South Shields and Gateshead, who seem to have their PR in check.

The lack of major signings and funding from up above has been aggravated by a pre season “friendly” arranged with Celtic, to which I can only surmise as appeasing our sponsors. A game which cost in policing, brawls and bad press across the board. My option would have been to play Everton for the Bradley Lowery Cup – a club that has done so much for Bradley.

It was supposed to be a game to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the SOL, yet it was Celtic who took the limelight. Even at 0-2 within the first half, the sight of a pathetic by-plane with 20th anniversary message from the club, just smacked of ill timing as ever.

Throw in Darron Gibson, not so much the somewhat staged video by fans, but the club’s response! They couldn’t even spell his name correctly in a media statement. And to be honest, Gibson was bang on the mark.

Then there is the strip which goes away from the traditions of thick stripes of red and white for something resembling a butcher’s apron, or throwaway plastic bag. The fans don’t like it and it looks hideous.

So just like the international tournaments with England, we go into the club season with no expectations of the side...I think that would be for the best. Sunderland’s promotion and relegation odds are similar; it’s that tough to call.

A good start is crucial. Win against Derby and we’re off the mark. Lose and the pre season negativity is reignited and questions over anyone and everyone with the club will resurface.

The club is not in a healthy state, lose the first few and we are playing catch up with desperation already, which could prove terminal.

So which part of history will be repeating itself come May 2018? The 30 years since I had to watch drivel and dross en route to the third tier, or the beginning of the revival under Denis Smith?

Personally, I don’t see neither.

Sadly, Sunderland are not strong enough this year in terms of depth and skill and we lag behind the likes of Boro and Villa. We do have people on the day that can perform (McGeady, Cattermole) will one be consistent enough and will the other stay off the injury list? A mid table finish could be in the offing.

I’d happily snap the hands off anyone offering us a play-off position now.

Mal Robinson


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Reply Timmytar
22:04 on 14 October, 2017