Sunderland return to championship! The worthy English club has finally overcome its long-term indifference and wants to give joy to the fans again. Why is Black Cat advertising good news for all English football? How did he get to the back of the Premier League?
After finishing fifth in the regular season and defeating Sheffield Wednesday and Wycombe in the playoffs, he finally made it. Sunderland return to the championship. The team, led by Alex Neil at the crucial moment, will now have to meet the demands of the upper class, and among Sunderland’s most deadly fans there are even voices calling for a return to the Premier League. The key to the structure is patience, and Black Cat fans know how easy it is to fall in English football.
Until about a decade ago, Sunderland were average in the English Premier League. He did not fight for the highest goals, but maintaining his presence in the league was more the norm at the Light Stadium. At Sunderland, of course, they knew exactly what an inheritance was. The Premier League’s Black Cats era began outside the elite, and even after the first rise, they struck a balance between the two top leagues.
They have played in the Premier League for ten consecutive seasons since the 2007/08 season. There is no fireworks, the best result is 47 points (tenth place). Relative stabilization, although Sunderland is often dragged along the storage line. Finally, he landed on his feet for a long time, but already at that time there were signs of unhealthy management of the club. Most of the money was burned and, to put it mildly, bad decisions were made.
But happiness had to end. In the 2016/17 season, the team led by David Moyes was relegated from the league in a very weak style. He scored 24 points in the last place in the table. The team lacked vision, commitment and confidence in success. It was a painful experience for the fans to play for Sunderland.
On the boards for the second time
Dropping out of the Premier League was a bitter pill, but the worst for the club was still ahead. The owner at the time, Ellis Short, was synonymous with defeat. While working as an American businessman, Sunderland was in debt from 2008 to 2018. Moreover, after being relegated, Short did not want to continue investing in the team. And the attempt to recover the finances did not go well. To save money, the club, along with others, Jordan Pickford, Fabio Borini was leased and Cermein Defoe died. The team was joined by a mix of young starters and players who were too weak for greater challenges. Many of them came to Sunderland on lease. The squad was very narrow, the quality did not even reach the level of the Championship, and Short was only thinking about protecting his interests. New head coach Simon Grayson had nothing to do to build a team to return to the Premier League quickly.
The start of the first season after the fall of 2017/18 was quite good. Although the Black Cats scored four points in two matches, then everything went well. Grayson lost his job in Game 15 and Sunderland were in the top ten. Robbie Stockdale took over temporarily, but his short adventure did not improve the situation of the Stadium of Light team. After the 17th round, the team settled in the last step of the tournament schedule.
Finally, Chris Coleman sat on the coaching bench. The post of general manager of the former Welsh national team began in a promising way, and his players were leaving the red zone. However, the impact of the new broom was short-lived and Coleman did not change the face of the team in general. Sunderland recorded its second consecutive decline.
The fall still took place in a bad style and with quite a mismanagement. Very little has changed in the game since relegation from the Premier League. No idea, low level of commitment. Others, though still very bad, make decisions in cabinets. In the past, money was spent foolishly, but this time he almost never invested in the group. The Black Cats have said they are in complete disarray for Ligue 1.
Sunderland’s fall would take a long time. Short, who did not have a very good nose on the ball, could not withstand the pressure. After weaker moments, more coaches left the club, and only Steve Bruce, Martin O’Neill and Gustavo Poyet had been at Sunderland for more than a year. In ten years, Sunderland has passed 11 coaches and it is worth adding some temporary coaches. It is difficult to talk without stabilization.
The club fell out of the lower league several times, and subsequent transfers did not yield any results. First of all, Sunderland has been on the red balance sheet for many years. It’s hard to find many bright spots when looking at record sales. Yes, Pickford was given for a lot of money, but it was like the club hit the wall. Darren Bent and Jordan Henderson also agreed to earn at Sunderland (a total of almost £ 40 million), but these transfers took place in 2011. The list of serious amounts can be closed here.
If the money spent on other players paid off, it wouldn’t be a problem. But these were not. After relegation from the Premier League, the change of direction only ended Sunderland. The club, which missed the choice of people with a budget of millions, suddenly had to look for free options. It couldn’t work. When Steward Donald took office, the situation was about to change. His ambitions were high and the club wanted to return to the Championship in a big way. It was close to rising even after the 41st round of the 2018/19 season. Although the “black cats” took second place, they almost reached the finish line. They finished the regular season with two draws and two defeats and moved up to fifth place.
The playoffs were also a chance. These appeared dramatically. First, Sunderland beat Portsmouth 1-0 in the overall standings, which resulted in a promotion to the final. There, the McCams met Charlton. Although there was a 1-1 draw in the table until the 94th minute, then Patrick Bauer scored the important goal for Charlton. Sunderland consoled the fans. The thunder fell on Donald, whom the fans no longer wanted at the club. The owner, the Netflix drama “Sunderland to the Grave” could have shone, but it eventually led to another funeral at the Light Stadium. Because the lack of promotion in such categories must be taken into account. And the next campaign ended worse for “Czarny Cats”. The club did not even reach the playoffs in the season shortened by the pandemic.
Donald resigned as president in July 2020 and openly admitted that he would be happy to get rid of Sunderland shares. This did not shock public opinion, as it was already written about a possible separation. The identities of the new owner of 23-year-old Cyril Louis-Dreyfus from a family of famous businessmen were unexpected. The operation took place in early 2021.
As for the property structure itself, everything was still unclear. It turned out that Cyril-Dreyfus bought 41% of the club’s shares, some of which are still in Donald’s hands. But that was enough to give Sunderland a new lease of life. The young billionaire already had the experience of a big ball. His family managed Marcel Olympique with great influence.
A better time vision did not turn into full results. Sunderland’s 2020/21 season ended in fourth place, but they were already eliminated in the play-off semi-finals against Lincoln. The next, the last, 2021/22, at the Stadium of Light, as before, began with dreams of ascension. However, history has taught that there is no need to award medals at the beginning of the tournament. The trainer was Lee Johnson, who was hired in December 2020.
The team played hard under his leadership, but in the end, Bolton’s 0-6 defeat in January was a bit painful. The Black Cats have signed Alex Neil, who has previously been promoted from Norwich to the Premier League. This time, the change in the bench paid off. Neil has led the team in the last 15 games of the season, losing only once. Sunderland finished fifth in the league, giving them a chance to play in the playoffs. After a 2-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday in the semi-finals, it was time for the final against Wycombe. Wembley was happy this time. After a 2-0 victory on 21 May, Sunderland fans were able to celebrate their return to the championship.
Opportunities and challenges
The story of Sunderland’s downfall is more than the last four years in Ligue 1. The team was already struggling in the Premier League, playing in the lower leagues and quickly disintegrating, and the biggest problems were still gathering off the field.
Why did the club survive this great crisis? It is no exaggeration to say that history and fans saved him. Founded in 1879, Sunderland are six-time English champions, two-time FA Cup winners and several-time lower-level champions. Although it is a historically distant story, the townspeople still live around it. An industrial city growing from working-class traditions. For some, the Light Stadium is more than a pitch and a tribune, and Sunderland is more than a football team. It has been a tradition for 140 years and now grows on every brick and every street. Taking it will shake the identities of several generations.
History already knows the great failures of football clubs. You can even mention Chester City, which built its life after 125 years of existence. There was a strong call once at Oxford, and Derby County was close to it a few months ago. Finally, the Aries fell to Purgatory, the 3rd league in which Sunderland had just fled.
Black Cats ahead of the difficult season in the Championship, perhaps the most difficult season of recent years. After the fight, there was a rise, but there is no doubt that Sunderland need to strengthen. Plans and ambitions are great, but they cannot be wisely embraced. With good management, the club can return to the Premier League in a few years. However, optimism is not recommended. Another fall would be a cataclysm. The time of joy is over, now is the time of hard work.