May 22, 2017
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Are Sunderland capable of an immediate return to the Premier League next season?

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Sunderland appeared to have been destined for relegation from the first game of the season and the club’s supporters have had to endure a campaign which never truly looked like ending in anything other than falling through the trap door.

However, uncertainty off the pitch and a lack of quality on it means that an instant return to the Premier League next season is highly unlikely unless the club undergoes a radical overhaul in the summer.

This has already begun, with the club, today, realising an official statement announcing manager David Moyes’ resignation, but supporters will know there is a long way to go in terms of recruitment if they are to challenge for promotion from the Championship next term.

Where did it all go wrong?

After almost half a decade of relegation battles, great escapes and scrapping for points at the bottom of the Premier League Sunderland’s luck finally ran out this season as they fell through the trap door into The Championship. Unfortunately the writing was on the wall from an early stage and in reality The Black Cats have been feeble and timid in their attempt to remain in the top flight.

The summer was chaotic as Sam Allardyce departed to take up his ill-fated stint with the England national team and the way that the FA prolonged the interview process disrupted Sunderland’s pre-season preparations.

David Moyes was appointed as Allardyce’s replacement but had just weeks remaining before the campaign started and his admission that Sunderland would be in a relegation struggle less than a month into the new campaign set a negative tone that continued throughout the year.

Owner Ellis Short should also receive criticism for the limited financial backing that he provided and the appalling lack of investment in the playing squad that left the club scrambling to sign the likes of Joleon Lescott and Steven Pienaar on free transfers.

A culmination or pre-season disruption, a manager who had resigned himself to failure with a month of the season starting, a lack of investment, and a group of players who produced some awful performances predictably resulted in relegation.

Is their squad capable of securing promotion next season?

No.

The current Sunderland squad is one that is desperately lacking in quality and, to make matters worse, the few prize assets that are on the books will quickly depart in the summer.

Jermain Defoe, who has been one the few players to come out of the season with any credit for his goal scoring exploits, has a clause in his contract that allows him to leave on a free transfer in the case of relegation and there will be no shortage of suitors.

Jordan Pickford has been excellent throughout the campaign but the young goalkeeper has proven more than capable of performing in the top flight and a host of clubs will be lining up to match the £30,000,000 asking price.

Lamine Kone, Fabio Borini and Wahbi Khazri will all likely depart the Stadium of Light whilst the Black Cats also have three loanees that will return to their parent clubs with a further seven whose contracts expire in the summer.

This will leave Sunderland with a squad devoid of quality and in need of major rebuilding work. However, Ellis Short has made it clear that he wants to sell the club and seems unwilling to provide the significant investment required to build a team capable of challenging for promotion from The Championship.

The Black Cats are €200,000,000 in debt and were spending £73,000,000 on player wages this campaign, among the top ten in the Premier League, so any prospective manager  will face considerable challenges both on and off the pitch next season.

Who will be in charge?

Despite Moyes making it clear that he was keen to remain at the club and he appears to have the backing of Ellis Short, his resignation from the club will perhaps come as little surprise to the Stadium of Light faithful. The Scotsman’s successor is yet to be announced, but the club will surely be eager to find their next manager before the end of May.

The vast majority of Sunderland supporters believed that Moyes’ position was untenable and there would undoubtedly have been an element of hostility should he have persisted at the helm. His replacement will need significant funds to overhaul the current playing squad, but there is no guarantee that the budget will be made available by Short.

Conclusion

In truth Sunderland’s relegation came as little surprise. The Black Cats have been teetering on the brink for the last half a decade and a culmination of a lack of investment, poor management, and a squad of players devoid of quality finally resulted in them falling into The Championship.

The club will go into the summer amidst a backdrop of disharmony and uncertainty. Ellis Short seems unwilling to invest in the playing squad and now, with David Moyes’ resignation, the club’s supporters will be waiting in anticipation to see a new man brought in.

The team will be weakened by the departure of a number of key players in the summer and any prospective manager will face the challenge of trying to build a club capable of challenging for promotion whilst having to finance the large debt and wage bill that Sunderland will be burdened with.

An immediate return to the Premier League seems unlikely unless the club undergo a radical overhaul during the close season.

Featured Image: All Rights Reserved Alfie Chapman (Alfie Chapman)

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Martyn Cooke

Martyn is currently a PTA and Research Assistant in the Department of Exercise Science at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). In addition to his teaching role he is also undertaking a PhD in Sports History that is exploring the origins and development of football in Staffordshire. Prior to working at MMU, Martyn spent a decade operating in the sport and leisure industry in a variety of roles including as a Sports Development Officers, PE Teacher, Football Coach and Operation Manager.

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