When the Netflix series ‘Sunderland Till I Die’ aired recently, it charted the demise of a once proud Premier League club.
They’d gone from Old Trafford and the Emirates to the bottom of the Championship, laden with expensive misfits and the whole debacle caught on film for a nation to enjoy. It became compulsive viewing, empathising with the staff and loathing the major players.
This season, few outside the North East will have wanted anything other than success, not for the players but the fans portrayed as such loyal, mistreated people. Their passion demonstrated a very human side to a club that could have been viewed as a behemoth that every other side wanted to slay.
They had to be amongst the favourites and anyone backing them for promotion with free bets via Oddschecker would have felt their return to be secured. Since the turn of the year, it’s looked less likely with every game.
As they stumbled to a 2-2 draw with Accrington Stanley in February, the Premier League must have seemed an awfully long way away. To merely be classed as equals with a side who disappeared in 1952 is sobering enough, but to drop 12 points behind the leader sin the third tier will have been a huge wake-up call.
Will Grigg – By Footballfacts61 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
Accrington’s entire market value is thought to be around £2.5m, whereas Sunderland’s strike force of Charlie Wyke and Will Grigg cost twice that figure. Money and status is one thing, but football is just eleven against eleven and that’s been a lesson the Black Cats have had to learn.
They’ve lost ground to both Barnsley and Luton in the hunt for an automatic promotion spot and they’re currently relying on others to slip if they’re to avoid the end of season lottery of the play-offs. They’ve got a squad that’s laden with impressive players, Brian Ovideo and Aiden McGeady have both played top flight football, as has captain Lee Cattermole.
Manager Jack Ross has tried to trim away much of the excess baggage, the players dragging the club through the floor, but so far, it’s only been partly successful. He’s introduced exciting young players such as George Honeyman and Lynden Gooch, but the fear is if Sunderland do not go up, they might jump ship like Joel Asoro and most recently, Josh Maja.
Stadium of Light, Sunderland – By Mrs Logic – Stadium of Light, Sunderland, CC BY 2.0,
Last season, Maja was the fringe player at a sleeping giant, this season he became the shining light as the slain giant sunk deeper. When he jumped ship for Bordeaux, it gave yet another warning to Wearside that it’s once proud club still has a long way to go.
Under the ownership of Stewart Donald, they’ve begun to find sound financial footing, moving on from the car crash that was the final months of Ellis Short’s reign. He came under stick on the documentary for not investing more money, for not pouring good money in after bad.
The cameras are there again this season, once again showing the emotion and passion that is the club’s fervent support. Anyone hoping for a happy ending at the conclusion of series two might just have to wait though because promotion to the Championship is far from assured.