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Sunderland are at the lowest point in their history. How has it come to this?

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Post  Steve30000 on 2019-12-24, 11:47 pm

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Team sit 13th in League One and the future of a club that panicked in sacking Jack Ross is shrouded in uncertainty

Louise Taylor
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Tue 24 Dec 2019 16.38 GMTLast modified on Tue 24 Dec 2019 16.40 GMT
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Sunderland’s Luke O’Nien feels the pain during a home defeat by Burton.

The Dutch describe Advent as de donkere dagen voor Kerstmis. It means the dark days before Christmas and, for Sunderland, they can never have felt shorter or bleaker.

The winter solstice may just have passed, leaving the earth starting to tilt towards the sun once again but, at the 49,000-capacity Stadium of Light, there can be no guarantees that spring will bring a rebirth of warmth and brightness.


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Sunderland are preparing for Bolton’s Boxing Day visit sitting almost as low in League One as the winter sun which, on Monday, struggled to break through the December gloom to shine weakly on what remains their top-end Premier League-class training facility, the Academy of Light.

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Phil Parkinson’s side are 13th – the lowest position in their sometimes illustrious history – with the manager deemed under pressure barely two months after succeeding Jack Ross.

If it seemed dubious at the time, hindsight has made the decision to sack Ross, with the team sixth in the table and within touching distance of the automatic promotion places, look increasingly poor and panicky.

The problem was that the intelligent, talented Scot – who was swiftly snapped up by Hibernian – had narrowly missed out on taking Sunderland to the Championship last season and fears of another failure perhaps clouded the judgment of the owner, Stewart Donald.

Parkinson has a decent body of work behind him, doing very good jobs at assorted clubs including Bradford – remember that wonderful run to the League Cup final? – and Bolton, but he tends to start slowly and Sunderland are a club in a desperate hurry to return to the Premier League.

Right now football’s promised land looks an awfully long way away and, with Donald having recently taken a £9m loan from FFP – a company consisting of a small group of American investors with close links to Michael Dell, of Dell computers – the future is shrouded in uncertainty.

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Should Donald fail to repay that loan, FFP would take charge of a club which, not so long ago, was put on the market for £170m by its former owner, the American billionaire Ellis Short.

While this could be a very good thing – if Dell were to get involved Sunderland would gain heavyweight financial muscle – nothing is guaranteed. After all, the training ground is in the upmarket Cleadon area of Sunderland and occupies precisely the sort of invitingly large site which property developers would relish turning into expensive luxury homes.

Phil Parkinson, making his feelings known to the referee after a defeat at Gillingham, says: ‘This is a critical period for us.’
Phil Parkinson, making his feelings known to the referee after a defeat at Gillingham, says: ‘This is a critical period for us.’ Photograph: Paul Dennis/TGS Photo/Rex/Shutterstock
Meanwhile the team itself has turned distinctly downmarket. A recent picture of two players, the former Celtic winger Aiden McGeady – since transfer-listed and working with the under-23s following a “training ground incident” – and Chris Maguire tucking into a post-match meal at a McDonald’s on the way back from a 1-0 defeat at Gillingham appeared emblematic of plummeting standards.

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So far Parkinson has presided over only two wins and has, damningly, said: “Is it the greatest dressing room I’ve been part of? Probably not.”

Following a disappointing 1-1 home draw with Blackpool this month, Parkinson swerved post-match media duties, claiming “he needed a break” but he was back facing the microphones and endeavouring to be as upbeat as possible on Monday.

“This is a critical period for us,” said Parkinson, reminding everyone that his side are only six points off a play-off place. “In the next block of four games we have to aim to get back into the top six or pretty close to it.”

Flags at the Stadium of Light have been fluttering at half-mast since Friday when Billy Hughes, a vital attacking spark in Sunderland’s 1973 FA Cup-winning team, died at the age of 70 and a minute’s silence will precede kick-off against Bolton.

The crowd is likely to be significantly down on this time last year when a 46,039 gathering shattered the League One attendance record by filling the stadium for a 1-0 Boxing Day win against Bradford.

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Back then Sunderland seemed set fair for automatic promotion with Josh Maja scoring freely but the January transfer window saw the young striker sold to Bordeaux and the team’s fortunes have never properly recovered.

Despite a tight budget, Parkinson hopes to redress the balance next month. “I know what I need to be successful,” he said on Monday. “I’m working hard to get this team into a position where we can challenge. We must get more out of the players but, of course, we’d also like to improve the squad.”

The boardroom has recently been fortified by the appointment of two new non-executive directors, the North Yorkshire-born, Sunderland-supporting Sky Sports presenter David Jones and Tom Sloanes, a Wearside-born businessman, but whether or not celebrations are in order before the summer solstice will be principally down to Parkinson’s players.


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His USA international, Lynden Gooch, not only believes Sunderland can rise to the challenge but disputes claims the dressing room is divided. “It’s a good group of lads,” he maintains. “When Jack Ross was here he changed a lot and got a lot of good lads in; now we’ve just got to stick together.

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“We’ve been through a lot, especially missing out on promotion by one win last season, but we’re still aiming to go up automatically. If you put three wins together on the bounce you’re in the top two, that’s how close this league is.

“You can’t get too down because you’re not going to get any success if you do that. Phil Parkinson hasn’t really had too much time on the training pitch to properly implement what he wants but we know we’ve got the quality. We’ve just got to keep plugging away and things will turn.”
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Post  Nostalgic on 2019-12-25, 1:38 am

So much for a merry christmas.
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Post  cyprussyd on 2019-12-25, 8:46 am

My view is a very simple one but then again I am a simple person.

Whatever I want or feel I know that I have very little if any influence on the ownership, manager or players.

Like all Sunderland fans I am far from happy with our present predicament and do and always will have the option of saying enough is enough and either stop going or go less and believe me that time may be near.

But I simply cant survive in a world of negativity, there always needs to be hope of a better future, trust that it cant always be like this so I will always do all I can to support the owner, manager and team at games, doing anything else, IMO, only adds to the problem.

The constant attacks on Parkinson only drags my head down and in the end I stop reading them, they depress me.

So on boxing day, tomorrow, I will be there doing my bit in hope of a good day.

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Post  wanderer on 2019-12-25, 8:58 am

When I asked who would be at the game boxing day, you didn't reply. Why is that?
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Post  Steve30000 on 2019-12-25, 9:09 am

So basically if we lose tomorrow, we can't say he's doing a shite job?

🤣 Aye, reeto
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Post  Nostalgic on 2019-12-26, 4:28 am

Trying to make sense of how things are as such is like studying the entrails of a crow.  Managerial appointments - we have had the lot across the board, so it might be that.  Managing Directors or owners - money has been provided when and where, so it might be that.  Choice of players, four year contracts at competitive wages, might be that.

Bottom line right now is that despite divided opinions about the current lot's ability it's what we have.  For me, solution is that supporters have to accept it, maybe for the rest of the season, but they have a huge part to play by being behind the team no matter what because it is like a family, a two way "christ what now" situation that has to be faced up to, no matter what.
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Post  gil t azell on 2019-12-26, 7:58 am

I will be there and agree 100% with Syds post.
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Post  cyprussyd on 2019-12-26, 8:14 am

Nostalgic wrote:Trying to make sense of how things are as such is like studying the entrails of a crow.  Managerial appointments - we have had the lot across the board, so it might be that.  Managing Directors or owners - money has been provided when and where, so it might be that.  Choice of players, four year contracts at competitive wages, might be that.

Bottom line right now is that despite divided opinions about the current lot's ability it's what we have.  For me, solution is that supporters have to accept it, maybe for the rest of the season, but they have a huge part to play by being behind the team no matter what because it is like a family, a two way "christ what now" situation that has to be faced up to, no matter what.
And that IMO is the honest truth, do I like it, no, after today's game if we are shite can I shout it from the rooftops, yes. But leading up to the game and during the game I have to ave hope or whats the point.

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Post  gil t azell on 2019-12-26, 6:22 pm

Today was the worst ever imo.

Flanagan injured oh I know I will bring another defender on when we are playing the bottom team on minus points and we are screaming for a goal. Pathetic management today.


PS, I know the refs assessor who was there today and prior to the game he told me he had never ever known such negativity from everybody at the club inc all staff.
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Post  Black Cat Kiwi on 2019-12-26, 6:48 pm

gil t azell wrote:Today was the worst ever imo.

Flanagan injured oh I know I will bring another defender on when we are playing the bottom team on minus points and we are screaming for a goal. Pathetic management today.


PS, I know the refs assessor who was there today and prior to the game he told me he had never ever known such negativity from everybody at the club inc all staff.
The vultures are circling and smell blood with an opportunity for easy pickings.

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Post  fitz on 2019-12-26, 7:03 pm

it is kind of crazy how a club can go from the premier league to looking at home in the bottom half of league 1 in the space of a couple of years

at this point relegation to league 2 looks as likely as promotion and if we did somehow get promoted who thinks that this club is in a position to succeed in that league?

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Post  Nostalgic on 2019-12-26, 7:48 pm

fitz wrote:it is kind of crazy how a club can go from the premier league to looking at home in the bottom half of league 1 in the space of a couple of years

at this point relegation to league 2 looks as likely as promotion and if we did somehow get promoted who thinks that this club is in a position to succeed in that league?
I fear that the bargain basement personnel changes could keep us obscure for quite some yet, fresh thinking, investment and attitude turnaround needed.  

We will make tasty pickings either way.
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Post  wanderer on 2019-12-26, 8:00 pm

Nostalgic wrote:
fitz wrote:it is kind of crazy how a club can go from the premier league to looking at home in the bottom half of league 1 in the space of a couple of years

at this point relegation to league 2 looks as likely as promotion and if we did somehow get promoted who thinks that this club is in a position to succeed in that league?
I fear that the bargain basement personnel changes could keep us obscure for quite some yet, fresh thinking, investment and attitude turnaround needed.  

We will make tasty pickings either way.
I wonder how FPP are feeling now.
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Post  Steve30000 on 2019-12-26, 11:25 pm

Fpp won't be that fussed. 9m for a stadium, academy, and a bit of land..
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