Since bouncing back from the Championship one year after their relegation in the 2005/06 season, Sunderland AFC have battled relegation year in year out. With a current nine-year stint in the premier league, when will Sunderland become a cemented fixture in the top flight?
In the 2005/06-season Sunderland were relegated with the second worst ever Premier league points total of 15, second to Derby County who finished with just 11 in 2007/08. This was arguably one of the darkest times in Sunderland AFC’s history.
With the Black cats ninth season in the premier league reaching its climax, Sunderland are following the familiar pattern of battling relegation. With the only exception being the reign under Martin O’Neill when the side finished 10th and 13th in back to back seasons. O’Neill’s time in charge of Sunderland was statistically the most successful since the teams’ promotion back to the premier league. Big name signings were made like Darren Bent, who had a prolific record in his time at the club. Bent signed for an initial fee of ten million pounds and scored 32 goals in 58 appearances before moving to Aston Villa in 2011. Sunderland have now found a striker like Bent in Jermain Defoe who currently has 16 goals in all competitions this season. Defoe is 11th on the premier league all-time top scorer list which gives great fire power to the Black cats’ front line.
Lack of Stability?
Since O’Neills sacking in March 2013, Sunderland have had three permanent managers in just three years. Stability is an important asset within any club and the lack of stability at Sunderland has arguably been down to the constant change of manager.
Paulo Di Canio was brought in back in 2013 and was in charge for just 13 matches. He won just three games, losing seven and drawing three leaving the side bottom of the premier league. Gus Poyet was appointed in October 2013 after Di Canio’s short time in charge, lead Sunderland to the Capital one cup final at Wembley and kept them in the top flight. Poyet was a big hit with the Sunderland fans, even though his win percentage was just 7% better than his predecessor. He managed 75 games in his time at Sunderland, winning 23, drawing 22 and losing 30. The popularity came from his first seasons success. Then came the experienced Dick Advocaat who took charge with just two months of the season left and Sunderland in the heart of yet another relegation battle. Advocaat kept the club in the league with a draw in the last game of the season at the Emirates, drawing 0-0 with Arsenal. Dick’s temporary time at Sunderland became permanent when his short term spell saw him fall in love with the club. However, he lasted just two months into the current season and resigned on October 4 winning just four games in 19.
How does the current regime compare to others?
The experienced, no nonsense Sam Allardyce took charge of the club in October 2015 of this season. He currently has a win percentage of 26.1%. But how does Allardyce compare to recent managers Sunderland have had? Sam has never been relegated with any team and has the formula for keeping teams stable. People think of Allardyce and link him with his time at West ham and is labelled for his ‘boring football’. However, people don’t remember the fact he got West Ham promoted back from the championship within one season, which is no easy task. He also converted West Ham into a stable premier league side. His years with Bolton saw him qualify for European football.
Allardyce made some good signings in the January transfer window, bringing in hot prospect Wahbi Khazri, no nonsense defender Lamine Kone, Jan Kirchoff from Bayern Munich and Dame N’doye who although may not be seen as the most glamorous of players, has been in a relegation fight with Hull City last season. Since joining the club, Allardyce adopted the 4-3-3 formation and has made clean sheets a priority. Sunderland have conceded just 39 goals which is an excellent stat in comparison to relegation rivals Norwich who have conceded 60 and Newcastle United who have conceded 62, three worse than already relegated Aston Villa.
The Premier league demands
The demands of being in arguably the best league in the world get higher every season. The expected points total to stay in the league has always been 40 points but the task of getting to that stage proves harder and harder each year for many teams. Many clubs have the idea that spending money is the key to finishing as high as possible and that has been the case over the years. However, now more than ever the key aspects of doing well in this league come down to team spirit, consistency, a manager with experience and high work rate. Leicester are a fine example of how to each of these things correctly. Now I’m not saying Sam Allardyce is gonna lea Sunderland to titles right now, but he certainly possesses certain aspects as a manager which can only enhance the black cats chances of doing better year in year out.
The key to survival
In January 2015 Sunderland signed number 11 on the all-time top goal scorer list in premier league history, Jermain Defoe. It has always been apparent that Defoe would be key to Sunderland’s survival but since the turn of the year it has been more important for him to score than ever. With 16 goals in 30 appearances this season, Sunderland may have been already relegated without the prolific Englishman. Defoe is seventh in the current league standings and just nine goals behind current top scorer Harry Kane who has played four more games than the thirty-three-year-old.
So what if Allardyce does keep Sunderland in the premier league? Where do Sunderland go from here? I feel Allardyce has to stay at the club, which I think he will, for Sunderland to have a chance of finishing higher in the league next season and not be part of a relegation dog fight. He has shown several times over that giving him time and the ability to embed a formation and signings he wants in order to provide that stability Sunderland have wanted for several years now. I also feel it is important for Sunderland to stick with Allardyce if they were to be relegated, giving them the best chance of bouncing back to the premier league, if the worst was to happen.