Sunderland have won the dubious award of the worst start in the history of the Premier League. A far cry from their status as the “Bank of England” club in the 1950s, when they spent record amounts on signing new players. Since then, Sunderland’s seasons have been a continual movement up and down between the Premier League and the Championship – the epitome of a ‘yo-yo’ team struggling to establish themselves. The stakes have never been higher to stay up for the club, given the riches associated with the Premier League’s television deals, where they receive their fair share of the £10.4 billion agreement.
For the past six years, Sunderland have had similar Premier League success stories, hanging on by the skin of their teeth in the latter stages in order to escape relegation. Many of these occasions coming down to the final game of the season to secure their Premier League status. However, on this occasion, Sunderland find themselves on the back foot, even more so than usual, claiming only five points from their last eleven games. After the departure of Dick Advocaat, claiming that the team was not good enough to survive, Sam Allardyce’s tactics in October 2015 focused on parking the proverbial bus in order to begin to turn things around for the club. His organised defence and the goal scoring ability of Jermain Defoe saw Sunderland escape relegation with one game to spare. The season ended on a positive note, however this backfired when Allardyce was appointed England manager prior to the start of the 2016/17 season. The uncertainty had great implications for Sunderland, with Moyes being pulled in at the last minute.
It could be deemed as too late and Sunderland will lose sight of the bright lights of the Premier League for good if action is not taken. Moyes has to consider who he will recruit for the team, given that the vast majority of successful international players wish to reside in London, rather that provincial Northern England. With the shops of Knightsbridge attracting the WAGs far more than Sunderland’s ‘The Bridges’ shopping centre, boasting Poundland, Greggs and Primark, it appears that Moyes has a challenge on his hands to entice more notable squad members that the team so desperately requires.
The alternatives for Moyes are as follows: recruit players which have fallen by the wayside, struggling within more successful clubs, with a desire to prove themselves once again within the Premier League, or success stories such as that of Jamie Vardy – an unproven talent from the lower leagues. This would save the club money and also allow Moyes to design the team to what he sees fit.
In addition, the question of the Academy of Light can subsequently be posed: why has bringing up and coming local players through the academy been such a failure? To only have produced two Premier League regulars, namely Jack Colback and Jordan Henderson, both of whom no longer ply their trade at the Stadium of Light, Moyes also has the duty of re-establishing the Academy of Light as a successful and talent-generating facility. Sunderland’s achievement is relying on rapid action from David Moyes.
With 27 games remaining, it seems doubtful that he can bring in the necessary defensive strength, creativity in midfield, and a suitable striking partner for Defoe to be Sunderland’s saving grace for the season. With the odds stacked against them, Sunderland are unlikely to avoid the relegation scare in the final few games, as they have so narrowly done in the past.
Image Courtesy of Ronnie MacDonald