There has been a major experiment going on at the Stadium of Light this season, a virtual whole new team has been bought and to be honest, looking at the statistics, the experiment has failed, mainly in terms of goals scored.
There has clearly been a deep malaise at Sunderland since Darren Bent left in January 2011, and the team only won three of their last 13 games in the 2010-2011season. Then Asamoah Gyan and Jordan Henderson departed, with Danny Welbeck returning to Manchester. With those players went a lot of our creativity and goal threat.
It is one thing being able to recruit top, top players, but one also has to keep them happy. This season's haul of just two wins from 13 has obviously not helped Bruce's cause, and the team was visibly bereft of confidence in the home defeat against what was a rather ordinary Wigan last Saturday.
Steve Bruce is an affable guy, honest and good with the media. I admired those qualities, especially when we were 6th in the league. The fact that he is seen as a Geordie has no bearing on this outcome in my opinion. He was born in Corbridge, near Hexham, and parts of Sunderland are closer to Newcastle than that particular Tyne Valley country town. Bob Stokoe was born in Northumberland, actually played for Newcastle, but is still a legend at the club, as that wonderful SSOL statue shows so powerfully.
Although being a football supporter is an emotional rollercoaster, running a high-profile club is still a business. SAFC Chairman Ellis Short stated "It is my job to act in the best interests of our football club and I can assure everyone that this is not a decision that I have taken lightly. Sadly, results this season have simply not been good enough and I feel the time is right to make a change.”
"I would like to personally place on record my thanks to him for his significant contribution to our football club over the past two and a half years and everyone here at Sunderland naturally wishes him the very best for the future. I would also like to thank our fans, who have endured a trying start to the season. Their support continues to be the driving force behind our club and is vital as we now look to the future."
Assistant manager Eric Black will take charge of the first team as the club recruits a new manager. This is a sad end of the reign of the former Manchester United defender, who took the team to 6th in the Premier League just a year ago - fans will remember the wonderful 3-0 tonking of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Last year’s 10th finish was the best since 2001, the Peter Reid era.
I will blog more about this again soon, with my thoughts about Martin O’Neill, Mark Hughes, and other prospective Black Cats managers such as Huddersfield Town's Lee Clark, a former Sunderland player...but he is definitely is a Geordie. Should the board go for experience or a younger manager? Peter Reid is available, but would be more of a candidate for Director of Football.
A word on Gary Speed: I should add that in the context of the news of Gary Speed’s death, the idea of “kicking a leather bag of wind around a field and caring about the outcome” seems rather strange. But that is what Speed did for a living and he did it very well, and he was universally admired. We all think our sporting heroes should inspire us and grow to old age in peace and respectability, but the truth is that Gary Speed was 42 and one can only imagine what sort of horrific existential crisis he was going through for that tragic apparent suicide to take place.
I was working in a Biotech company in Berkshire and the deluded CSO (only joking Colin!) had a pair of season tickets at Chelsea. So one midweek a fellow football fan and I drove in through West London to join the hordes at Stamford Bridge for a game against Newc**tle around 2000. We saw a relatively tame Toon performance, but Gary Speed scored in a 3-1 defeat, and was outstanding throughout.
We have said farewell to a football legend, a gentlemen, a true sportsman and talisman for his home country of Wales. Events like this puts everything else into its proper context.
©Lars J.S. Knutsen