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Are Sunderland capable of an immediate return to the Premier League next season?

Martyn Cooke



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?


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.

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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.


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)

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.


Tyias Browning injury could save Brendan Galloway’s miserable season

Browning’s absence means Galloway might get a chance in the Sunderland first-team



Photo: Getty Images

Everton fans have often been wondering why Cuco Martina is playing at left-back this season, when the club have a talented player in that option out on loan. Brendan Galloway is currently at Championship side Sunderland but was not recalled in January despite the injury to Leighton Baines.

In fact, he might have been recalled simply because he is not playing at the Stadium of Light.

The Zimbawe-born defender has failed to have a telling impact on Wearside this season. He has not played for the Black Cats, who are bottom of the Championship, since the 9th December.

Instead Galloway has been playing with the under-23s. Sunderland boss Chris Coleman simply did not fancy him but now, it seems, he may get a chance. If he does, it will be due to an injury to fellow Everton loanee Tyias Browning.

(Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Browning has suffered a groin strain, putting him out for the rest of the season. With Sunderland already short on central defenders, Galloway is in contention for a recall. Coleman explained as much to the Sunderland Echo:

“Brendan’s had a few U23 games and he asked to play in those so fair play to him.

“He’s trained hard, he might get a call depending on what happens with Sheasy on Friday, he could be in the squad. It is hard for him, it hasn’t worked out but I said to him 6 weeks ago, if you don’t move, stay fit because you never know. He has done that and so he may get a chance. “

This could present Galloway with the perfect chance to finally get his career back on track. When he first broke through at Everton it seemed as though Galloway was destined for the first-team.

But he has simply not developed since. A loan spell at West Brom last season proved to be a disaster and his spell at Sunderland has been, arguably, even worse. Being dropped from a team performing as badly as the Black Cats hardly acts as a measure of confidence.

(Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images)

Galloway could, however, have the chance to prove himself to Coleman and get back into first-team action. It will be at centre-back, not his favoured position, but right now the Everton loanee will take what he can get.

The England under-21 international is still contracted to Everton until 2020 so will be hoping he has what it takes to make it at Goodison Park.

This weekend might be his last big break at Sunderland to show what he is capable of.

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Mousa Dembele links from 2015 highlight Sunderland’s plight this week



Sunderland’s hopes of survival in the Championship are fading fast. The Black Cats were comfortably beaten 3-0 at home by Villa last night to continue their miserable season. The appointment of former Wales boss Chris Coleman has not changed their fortunes and currently Sunderland stare down the barrel of Championship relegation.

Tonight, Tottenham Hotspur take on Juventus in the Champions League. One man who will be expected to star yet again will be Mousa Dembele. He tore Juventus apart in the first-leg and has done similar against some of the best midfielders in the Premier League all season.

Sunderland fans will be aghast at the fact, just three years ago, their side tried to sign the Belgian.

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 02: Players of Sunderland react after Reading scored their third goal during the Sky Bet Championship match between Sunderland and Reading at Stadium of Light on December 2, 2017 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)

Back in the summer of 2015 Sunderland had just survived another relegation battle. Dick Advocaat was manager and the club wanted to stay well away from the bottom of the table.

Dembele therefore emerged as a transfer target and one that looked likely. He was struggling for form and fitness at Tottenham Hotspur at the time and Sunderland felt they could get hold of the player. It was reported by the Mirror that Sunderland were keen on the player, who had started just 10 games in the previous season, after signing his Spurs team-mate Younes Kaboul. The Daily Star went on to suggest Tottenham wanted a fee of £15 million for the player which, in hindsight, looks a bargain.

But Sunderland never got their man. They survived relegation by the skin of their teeth again that season, and were eventually relegated the season after.

Now Sunderland are being thrashed at home by Villa and looking at a place in the third-tier of English football next season. Meanwhile Dembele has more than rewarded Mauricio Pochettino’s faith in him. He is set to go head-to-head with Juventus in the Champions League yet again this evening.

LONDON, ENGLAND – JANUARY 16: Mousa Dembele of Tottenham Hotspur and Jeremain Lens of Sunderland compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Sunderland at White Hart Lane on January 16, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

Not many analogies sum up the reduction in ambition and performance at Sunderland more than their pursuit of Dembele less than three years ago.

Sunderland have gone from being linked with currently one of the most in-form midfielders in Europe, to picking over the debris of another home mauling. All of this in in less than three seasons.

Sunderland fans deserve better. They deserve what Tottenham get from Dembele and co week-in and week-out. Hopefully, with relegation looking likely, they can press the reset button. In three years time, perhaps Sunderland will be amazed at their rise from such a lowly position.

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Coleman unable to halt Sunderland’s decline as Black Cats face relegation

Despite optimism upon Chris Coleman’s arrival at the Stadium of Light, the Sunderland job has only proven a poisoned chalice, with the club seemingly destined for relegation.

Martyn Cooke



Chris Coleman
Photo: Reuters

When Chris Coleman led Wales to the semi-finals of Euro 2016, who could have envisaged that less than two years later he would be embroiled in a desperate relegation battle at the foot of the Championship, with a club that appears determined to tear itself apart?

There were plenty of eyebrows raised when it was announced in November that the 47-year-old would be the next Sunderland manager.

The Black Cats were sinking towards the third tier of English football having suffered relegation from the Premier League the previous season and the future of the club was unclear with American owner Ellis Short actively looking to sell.

Quite why Coleman opted to take the Sunderland job is anyone’s guess.

Perhaps the 47-year-old bought into a vision that he would be able to turn the club’s fortunes around and help Sunderland to finally fulfil its obvious potential.

However, the fact that he was about to become the Black Cat’s ninth manager in six seasons should have been the warning sign that the problems and issues that have underpinned the club’s demise are deep-rooted and entrenched.

When Coleman first arrived ay the Stadium of Light he spoke enthusiastically about rebuilding the club.

However, that energy and enthusiasm has gradually been eroded week by week and it now looks an almost certainty that the Welshman will need to commence his resurrection of the club in League One next season.

Tuesday night’s one-goal defeat against Bolton Wanders has left Sunderland rooted to the foot of the Championship whilst Saturday’s entertaining 3-3 draw against Middlesbrough means that they are four points short of safety.

However, only four wins in 17 league games since Coleman took over in November suggests that the Black Cats will need to produce an unprecedented run of form in the closing weeks of the season to stand even the slimmest chance of survival.

In truth, relegation feels only a matter of time.

A club in chaos

Whilst Chris Coleman will need to shoulder a degree of responsibility for Sunderland’s current predicament, the 47-year-old has been dealt an awful hand of cards.

Financially, the club are in a mess and owner Ellis Short has now been desperately looking to sell the Black Cats for over eighteen months.

Since purchasing the club a decade ago, the American saddled Sunderland with debts reportedly in excess of £100 million and has overseen relegation to the Championship.

The supporters have not been shy to voice their discontent, frustration and anger at Short’s ownership, yet the club will be stranded in limbo until a credible buyer steps forward.

The off-pitch chaos and lack of investment has directly impacted proceedings on it.

The club reportedly has an annual wage bill of £35 million that has all but swallowed up the first year of parachute payments and the £30 million received from the sale of Jordan Pickford in the summer.

Simon Grayson was handed the task of making Sunderland competitive in The Championship but was handed no money to build a squad. He spent less that £2 million in the summer on 10 new players.

The suggestion that Coleman would be provided with significant funds in the January window, in contrast to his predecessor, was little more than blind optimism.

The Welshman, who inherited a squad lacking in quality and depth, was permitted to sign just four loan players last month despite the team desperately in need of immediate reinforcing.

Coleman may have succeeded Grayson in November, but he has been forced to work under exactly the same financial restrictions.

The 47-year-old has consequently had to rely on his ability as a coach and motivator in order to try and improve results, although with little success as he wrestles with a complex group of players – some lack motivation, some lack experience and some simply lack quality.

Quite where relegation will leave both Sunderland and Coleman is unclear.

Without a buyer the Black Cats appear destined to suffer from a lack of investment that will leave the club in a desperate downwards spiral. The future certainly looks bleak at the Stadium of Light.

For Coleman, the decision to take up the managerial role at Sunderland appears to have backfired badly.

It remains to be seen how long he will be willing to stick with the club, but he will be fully aware that with every defeat the high-profile reputation that he built whilst in charge of Wales in being slowly eroded.

It may be easier to leave the sinking ship rather than stand on the bridge as it disappears beneath the waves.

The success of the Welsh team at Euro 2016 already feels like a distant memory.

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