Fortunately, an international break can temporarily take your mind off your own club. That is until a certain former manager happens to casually pick up another Premiership job, and in his first press conference appears to absolve himself from any responsibility of the plight that his previous employer finds itself.
Anyway, that niggle aside, the break has provided an opportunity to stop mulling over the club’s current woes and to consider deeper, more rewarding / pointless thoughts, like; which was worse for a Sunderland supporter? The last time we seriously flirted with relegation to the third tier (which to my mind was the couple of seasons leading up to Reid walking through the rickety front door to Roker Park), or now.
Wholeheartedly, it was better then and I’ll tell you for why. Yes, back then I was a wide-eyed teenager, but even looking past the innocence of youth, it was better. For example, Roker Park, even in the darkest of days, felt like a home. Familiar, and with a soul, which is sadly unlike the SoL at present. Rose tinted gegs aside, there was a gallows humour on the Fulwell End back then. Now it just feels hollow, with people turning up just out of habit.
Similarities around the ill feeling to the Board are comparable. But back in the nineties, although we didn’t know it at the time, Murray, Fickling and Co. came good with a huge investment and catalyst for growth in the form of a state of the art stadium. Sadly, despite previous investment, I cannot now see Mr Short leaving such a positive legacy before he sells up and vacates the Chair.
Even in terms of the management, back in the day, although a hapless Buxton or Butcher tried and failed, there was an honesty and integrity in that failure, and hands were held up to acknowledge such failure, which to me illustrates that the club had respect for the supporter base back then. Unlike the newly appointed Hammers boss, who when in the dugout at Sunderland appeared to give an air that he was doing the club a favour simply by being there.
But most noteworthy of all, and the thing I find hardest to swallow, is the disconnection between players and fans now, when compared to then.
Back in ‘94/95, yes you’d be regularly frustrated by Lee Howey/Brett Angell heading over from 5 yards; an ill judged bit of ‘skill’ by Dicky Ord in his own box; or Shaun Cunnington flattering to deceive in the middle of the park. But that group of players were of limited ability when compare to today’s crop, and fans appreciated that they were a unit. Many had a deep connection with supporters (especially given the number of local players fielded); they were accessible (you could come across them in a nightclub and they wouldn’t tell all how ‘terrible’ their team mates were); they cared for (or at least gave the impression that they cared for) the club and where ability may have been lacking, fans knew that effort definitely was not.
Yes, those days were far from perfect, I may be guilty of romanticising and if you’d have told me in 1995 after a home defeat to Tranmere Rovers or Notts County to thank my lucky stars for the state of the club, I’d have told you to sod off. But during a blank weekend in the fixture calendar, when comparing then to now – I’d choose then every time.