SUNDERLAND (A); THE PREVIEW

09/04/18

Relegation certainties up next for City. Jon Punt spoke to Sunderland fansite the Roker Report's Michael Oates to talk about keeping faith with Chris Coleman and previewing this friendly rivalry

Jon: Last time we spoke, we were both blessed with the kind of optimism that only a new football season can bring. We had new managers, and although neither of us were genuinely expected to contend at the very top of the table there were reasons to be cheerful. Then the football happened. And kept on happening. Is there much more Mackems' fans can take?

Michael: We are a hardy bunch up here, and what we've seen in the last few years both on and off the pitch, meant that relegation from the top flight was a case of when not if; and there was a certain sense of inevitability about it, despite the frequent end of season great escapes.

I did think that this season would be something of a struggle, but if you had said that after 40 matches we'd sit in the drop zone with only 6 league wins to our name all season, even I'd have said you were mad.

The owner wants to sell, we have invested next to nothing on the playing side, and the current situation is the fruit born from what have turned out to be catastrophic decisions. We are staring at back to back relegations and administration has been tentatively mooted. It can't get much worse can it?

Well, League One was the making of us a few years back, so hopefully things will turn. Was this expected to go this badly though? The chop change strategy had to go wrong at some point, right?

Should our relegation be confirmed, then surely the club will at its lowest point since relegation to the third tier in 1987. In 139 years of history, it is looking increasingly likely that we will be playing at that level for only the second time. The club has been run into the ground financially over the last five or six seasons, which is a whole other debate which SAFC fans have had countless times in pubs and clubs across the North East.

Did we see it coming? All I can say is the lack of investment in the summer and in January has certainly contributed to our demise this season. We didn't back Grayson in the summer, we won once in our first 16 games and we haven't backed Coleman in the winter window. For me, and most other supporters, the blame lies at the door of owner Ellis Short.

It's a horror run for sure. I don't often think supporters 'deserve' better, but I'd certainly assert that your lot haven't given you anywhere near the kind of levels required.

Is general apathy and acceptance setting in now, and can you see a way out of League One when and if relegation is confirmed? I'd assume there will be a further mass exodus of players and your mounting debts are a real millstone around the club's neck.

The apathy has set in for sure. It started last season under David Moyes and unfortunately the hangover has lasted all of this campaign too.

There is talk of a takeover, which I believe is progressing well and is in the best interests of all connected to the club.

We are hanging on by a thread, but once relegation is confirmed, the squad will certainly be disbanded. We have seven loan players who will return to their parent clubs, we have players coming to the end of their contracts and will be released, and we have the likes of Kone, Ndong, Rodwell, Khazri and Djilobodji who we will look to move on. The funds from those sales quite simply have to bankroll a promotion push next season, certainly if the club isn't sold during the summer. The misery has to come to an end at some point, surely?!

For your sake, I hope so. It felt like you'd out stayed your welcome in the Premier League, yet managed to escape season after season which ultimately has hurt you more right now given the expenditure that came with that.

League One can be fun though. New grounds, less sanitisation and hopefully more goals. Enjoy it while you can.

Will Chris Coleman be the man to put together a push for promotion next season? It seemed a really left field appointment, and I was surprised he took it.

Without a doubt he is the right man, and he has stated that he wants to stay here, until he's told otherwise. We need that bit of stability and continuity. Coleman has really bought into the club, he's immersed himself in the job, but has undoubtedly found it a tougher gig than he'd have originally thought, as all of our managers seem to. We just need to halt the slide and if going in to League One is the where we must rebuild from then so be it.

We need the feel good factor back. Going to a game on a Saturday afternoon should not be a chore, but it has been that way for far too long. Winning games, whatever league it may be in, is the only tonic for SAFC at the moment.

It's a big summer ahead for so many reasons, and I'm fully behind Chris Coleman to get it right and turn around our fortunes.

Good to hear. Are the natives still relatively restless then? I'd heard the top tiers of the Stadium of Light are to be closed from next season?

Restless is certainly one way to describe our current feeling yeah. The takeover talk has seemed to lighten the mood somewhat; a light at the end of the tunnel if you like.

Chris Coleman is one of the very few positives we have at the club. The top tier is to be closed yeah, which affects around 1,500 season ticket holders I believe. Officially it's to fill up the lower bowl of the stadium to generate a better atmosphere, one that the Stadium of Light is known for, but of course there will be cost-cutting element to it also. It is a sad indictment of just how we've fallen in such a short period of time.

Sad indeed, hopefully that's just a temporary measure, most Norwich fans who can remember 1985 share an affinity for the Mackems.

So onto Tuesday, we've effectively nothing left to play for, so this is essentially an extended pre-season workout. That might lend itself quite nicely to any glimmer of hope Sunderland have, although it didn't help Villa on Saturday. I guess what I'm saying is don't expect anything, but we might just rock up and play some nice football.

I hate to ask, but how have your performances been lately and what can we expect?

We've had a real go in each of our last three games. We won well at Derby and I thought we played reasonably well on Easter Monday against Sheffield Wednesday, but yet again defended extremely poorly which has cost us countless times this season. We played ok at Leeds too, it's been something of an improvement but we've only picked up four points from those nine when in all honesty we needed to three victories to remain within touching distance of the teams above us.

Aiden McGeady has looked brighter and Lynden Gooch has really impressed me in recent weeks. Sadly it all looks to be too late.

We have to win on Tuesday, and I expect we'll given it another good go. Hopefully Norwich will have an off day and we can secure a win. I wouldn't bet on that though.

Ha, I wouldn't bet on it either way. We've fluctuated greatly since our season started to peter out, meekly surrendering at Loftus Road, then putting an in-form Villa to the sword. Much will depend on our offensive output though. If Maddison and Murphy are in the mood, it could be a decent night for us.

I'll predict a 2-1 victory for the Fine City, how about you?

I think there will be goals, I'd be amazed if we managed to keep a clean sheet. At times this season we've been awful defensively. We've conceded three or more on thirteen occasions I believe, which is a shocking statistic.

Obviously we need to win, but I'm very wary of Norwich's attacking players, particularly Murphy who looked good against Villa.

It should be an open game and we'll look to push forwards, we have no other choice really, which will leave us vulnerable at the back. I'll go for a 2-2 draw.

We generally struggle when teams try and contain us, so that's pleasing to hear. After Tuesday, I wish you all the luck in the world for the rest of the campaign.


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