If you think Reading have had it bad this season, you’ve not been following Sunderland. The Mackems have had a seriously rough 2017/18 campaign off the back of a depressing Premier League exit, and face back-to-back relegations into the third tier.
There’s no-one better to grill on all that than our SB Nation cousins at Roker Report (who you can find on Twitter right here). We spoke to @Gav1879, their managing editor, to see where it’s all gone wrong...
Could you give us a quick overview of how the season’s gone for Sunderland so far?
Terribly. I don’t think it could have gone much worse, really. We started initially well, dipped incredibly after losing to Leeds (including a 16 game streak without a win which saw Simon Grayson lose his job), brought in a reputable manager then failed to back him with funds, lost our top scorer because we had waived a fee to get him and in turn agreed to a clause which allowed his parent club to recall him, suffered countless injuries to key players, employed the worst trio of goalkeepers the club has ever had, conceded about ten thousand goals from set pieces, almost went a whole year without winning a home game, f*cked up every single chance we had to gain ground on the teams above us and, the worst of all, we’re about to be relegated to the third tier of english football for only the second time in our history.
Other than that it’s been an absolute thrill.
Chris Coleman came in last year but hasn’t managed to turn things round - was he just given too big a task?
Yeah, I guess so. There’s no getting around the fact he’s made some mistakes, but he’s probably been given the most impossible job in football. When we had a real chance of improving ourselves in January the club’s owner - who for the record has never even had a phone conversation with Chris Coleman - neglected to provide the manager with any money in January, and as a result we brought in a host of crap loan players and a crock on a free transfer, none of which have improved us a single bit.
Coleman, like the rest of us, is holding out in the hope we get a new owner in the summer.
How optimistic are you about Sunderland in the long term? If you go down, do you think you could bounce straight back?
That depends entirely on three things, for me. 1 - We need an ownership change. The club is being bogged down because of Ellis Short’s sheer presence as controller of this football club, and until he leaves that just won’t go away. 2 - Chris Coleman needs to remain as manager. He’s spoken quite openly about wanting to stay, but I worry that he might walk away if Short stays and continues to neglect the club. 3 - Our recruitment must be spot on. That depends a lot on what happens with regards to my other two points also, but we need to sign a boatload of players that are ready for this fight. We’ve recruited awfully for years now.
What are the main strengths and weaknesses of this Sunderland side?
Strengths - when we are in full flow we can actually attack. Bar a few barren periods we’ve scored pretty freely this season, and the last four performances have been good, so you can expect that we’ll at least try and give you a good game.
Weaknesses - we cannot defend to save our lives. Seriously. On an almost weekly basis we concede a goal from a set piece - just make sure you get plenty of free kicks and corners and you’re basically guaranteed to win. Our goalkeeper is shocking too - how Lee Camp has ever made a living from professional football is beyond me.
How do you see the game going, and what will the score be?
As I alluded to before I think we’ll attack you, at least initially, because Chris Coleman said in his press conference that is precisely what we’ll do as we’re so desperate for the points. We’ve actually played well in our last four games and are far better away from home than we are at the Stadium of Light. I think it’ll be a close, entertaining game that’ll end with a 1-1 draw.