This weekend saw perennial Premier League strugglers Sunderland confirm their relegation to the Championship for the first time in a decade and, as sad as it may be for the fans that follow the club, it may actually be what they need in order to become a stronger, more consistent side in the future.
As strange as that sounds, the club have been on a downward spiral for a number of years now. Roy Keane, Ricky Sbragia, Steve Bruce, Martin O’Neill, Paolo Di Canio, Gus Poyet, Dick Advocaat, Sam Allardyce and current boss David Moyes have all tried to take the Black Cats on to the next level in the Premier League, with Moyes in particular saying how important it was that the club aim for a top half finish under his management, pointing to the work he achieved at a then-underachieving Everton as a model he wanted to mould his era at the Stadium of Light on.
Fast forward to the current day and, with just 5 wins from 34 games played and only 26 goals scored in the Premier League, Moyes has taken Sunderland down without even putting up a fight. Their relegation has left fans and neutrals asking the same questions – can they bounce straight back? Which players will they keep and who will they sell?
Well, to sum it up, there should be a lot of players leaving the club this summer. Much like Aston Villa in their disastrous relegation from the Premier League last year, Sunderland will need to rebuild and re-shape the squad in preparation for the 46 game slog that is the Championship. Players such as Lamine Kone, Fabio Borini, Wahbi Khazri and several others will now be fearing for their careers on Tyneside, with their below-par performances this term having a big impact on the club’s relegation.
With the side struggling for a number of years in the Premier League, the relegation may have come as a relief to some fans, who will now be hoping that the club make the necessary changes at every level and start again in August with a clean slate. With a new squad as well as potentially a new manager, owner and new ambitions moving forward, the players who have taken Sunderland down will be looking to move on – or will be forced to move on, in some cases, and will be replaced with hungry, experienced guys who will fight for the shirt. I don’t think there’s a single Sunderland fan who would disagree with me when I say they would take relegation this season if it meant an overhaul this summer takes place which ultimately improves the side in the future.
Question marks also surround the future of Moyes, who, despite pledging his future to the club and expressing a wish to bring them back up next year, will need to make huge changes to his own coaching style and methods if he is to repair his severely damaged reputation, given his disastrous spells at Manchester United, Real Sociedad and now Sunderland.
Down but not out, the club have bounced back from relegation before and will be hoping to return and improve on one of the worst seasons they have experienced in a very long time.