Some 116 days ago, Brisbane Roar’s Scott McDonald scored in the 16th minute against the Newcastle Jets. That goal secured a 1-0 victory for the team then coached by Robbie Fowler and would be the last successful A-League strike for some time.
Statistically, Sunderland can stay up in the Premier League this year.
That’s why statisticians work in finance and insurance, anyone with a passing appreciation of the Premier League knows the Black Cats are yesterday’s newspaper. No statistician could convince me to put any hard earned on it being otherwise.
Last weekend, Manchester United hammered the latest nail into the coffin that will become Sunderland’s season. An emphatic, unequivocal 3-0 victory illustrating the hopelessness of the Sunderland cause now we are halfway into April.
Immediately thoughts will turn to blame laying. And, as always in sport, most of the attention will be focused on the coach, ‘manager’ as the English put it. As if the players would have found the results needed to stay up, if only David Moyes had given them the right direction.
And yet, if Sunderland are to do one thing over the off season to ensure that their banishment to the lower leagues is a one-year aberration, it must be to lock Moyes into a long term contract.
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Many articles will point to the United defeat being even harder for Moyes to stomach, given his ill-fated time at the helm of the Red Devils so recently. As if anyone was going to succeed following immediately on from Sir Alex Ferguson.
United misread Moyes’ skill set, believing he had much of what had made Sir Alex the legend he became. Chiefly, that they both reveled in a siege mentality, loved to be hated.
Ferguson certainly did, he measured his success by the level of hatred it evoked, especially when it was built on history, such as when United finally superseded Liverpool in terms of titles won.
Moyes had been very successful, relatively, in his time with Everton, which earned him the job at United.
But, that was a different siege mentality altogether: the battler overachieving. Succeeding despite all the things stacked against him, a small squad, injuries leaving him with no cover at the ‘pointy end’ of the season. The new talent he found and nurtured only to have it snatched away by the chequebook-waving bigger clubs.
Moyes wasn’t built to aspire to European finals against Madrid or Bayern. He loved the achievement of mid-table security and a cup run, while teams with more money and more history yo-yoed back into the Championship.
Sunderland are a big club, they have history, a huge support base, they are the only team in a big city. And next year they will be gutted, financial stricture will prune the squad built around Premier League wages, the vultures will swoop for any player worthy of the top tier.
And Moyes will love it, a small squad, the necessary introduction of unproven youngsters, the scouring of the secondary European leagues for forgotten, unseen talent.
The Brentfords and the Swindons will hate them, delighting in the thought of the storied old club getting drawn into the quicksand that is the Championship, the hardest league in the world to get out of.
Newcastle will be crowing, a home game against Chelsea will see St James full to overflowing, while Sunderland travel to Torquay.
The winter will be made up of frozen nights at similar backwaters, Barnsley and Burton Albion, and Moyes wil be in his element.
He’ll regenerate the players he managed to hang on to, find a great centre back and a playmaker in Slovenia. Nurse a threadbare squad through that huge fixture list.
And he will get Sunderland back into the top tier, one year on. I’d put money on that.