Relegation is a weird and pretty brutal concept in America. We donʼt have anything like it in any of our major sports. No NFL team has to play in the CFL for a year when they go 2-14, they actually get theoretically better due to higher draft picks. So whenever I started getting into soccer I had to learn about what happens to the worst teams in the premier league, and it was a bit of a shock to be honest. The idea of playing in a lower league for a year seems like a harsh setback for most clubs. However after watching it for the last 3 years and knowing how the economy of football works, itʼs not that bad. Most teams that get relegated are fighting for promotion immediately, theyʼre obviously good enough to be in the prem, since they were literally just in it. So to see a team get relegated from the Premier League, and then IMMEDIATELY relegated again from the Championship (the league Premier League teams get relegated into) and into League 1, the third tier of english football, is something no one expects. So, how the hell did Sunderland A.F.C achieve this? How did a team with such a rabid fan base, a team that has been a premier league regular for years, a team that only once prior in their 130 year history played in the 3rd tier of english football, found themselves back in it? Itʼs quite simple, really. Two words: David Moyes.
In 2016, Big Sam Allardyce left to manage the English national team, leaving an empty hole to fill at manager. Who better to fill the roll as manager at a club than our good pal David Moyes, the ‘successorʼ to the great Sir Alex Ferguson at Man United? I could go on a tangent about Moyes and his shortcomings as a manager, but thatʼs a blog for another time, also one iʼll leave to a United Fan. Itʼll be way more entertaining and full of venom. Anyway, Moyes and the boys took a massive 2 points from their first 10 games in the prem, and were swiftly relegated after only finishing with 24 points. Moyes resigned, and now Sunderland were stuck in the Championship and with an absolutely abysmal team, thanks to Moyes. Out of the 10 signings he made, only 2 are currently at the club while writing this. Moyes signed Papy Djilobodji (yes i copied and pasted that) from chelsea for £8 mil, a team which he had made one appearance for. He was awful for Sunderland, and left a few years later after a loan spell to Dijon. Then thereʼs Didier Ndong for £13.6 mil, which a few years ago was still a fair bit of cash. He was fairly consistent under Moyes and his replacement Simon Grayson, but after Graysonʼs departure and new manager Chris Coleman came in, he barely played and was quickly alienated from the Sunderland faithful. The rest of the signings were either free transfers from everton for players at the end of their careers like Steven Pienaar, Darron Gibson, and Bryan Oviedo; random free transfers like Mika & Victor Anichebe; and smaller signings like Patty McNair & Donald Love for £4.5 and £1.5 mil respectively, who were plagued with injuries. 10 signings is a lot. Thatʼs a shit-ton of players. Regardless of if theyʼre free or not, getting 1/3 of a club in one transfer window and trying to integrate them into a side in a few months is a recipe for disaster, and man did disaster strike Sunderland.
So what now? Moyes has left after spending probably all of their wage budget on awful signings, and all the signings he brought in arenʼt working. Then they brought in Simon Grayson, someone new who had to deal with the shitstorm Moyes left. You can see how the club quickly went from ‘man that was a bad seasonʼ to ‘this might take us a decade to recover fromʼ as soon as the Championship season started. They only won 2 of their first 14 games, and Grayson was sacked to bring in the aforementioned Coleman. They were still relegated and the club was sold to a group led by Stewart Donald, chairman of Eastleigh F.C., whatever football club that is. Turns out they play in the fifth tier of english football. Yikes. Anyway, Coleman was quickly sacked and former St Mirren manager Jack Ross was appointed manager to try and get the team back up into the championship.
So, how are they faring in League 1 this season? Pretty good actually, they finished 5th in the table and at the time of writing theyʼre in the playoff! Hooray! Theyʼre up 1-0 on aggregate against Portsmouth after one game, and if they can hold off portsmouth to win on aggregate, theyʼll be in the playoff final and potentially get promoted. Their season stats look like this: 85 points off of 22 wins, 19 draws and only 5 losses, the lowest amount of losses in the league actually. Their standout player was Josh Maja, who is only 20 and had 17 goals contributions (15 goals 2 assists) in only 23 starts in the league. BUT they decided to sell him in the winter window to Bordeaux for an undisclosed fee. So their standout player was sold, and they have Will Grigg from Wigan to replace him, who is most certainly no longer on fire and is an average player now. Heʼs only contributed to 7 goals in 18 matches for sunderland, which is not great on its own and even worse compared to what Maja did for them, though after the last 3 years Sunderland has had, their transfer business could definitely be worse.
Sunderland have been the laughing stock of english football the last 3 years, the butt of every joke and a walking punchline of a club. Yet their fans stay faithful, stay passionate, and keep their faith. As a liverpool fan I like to think we have the ‘best fansʼ but I know thatʼs not true, and saying we do is just a way I like to express my love for our fan base. I know that Sunderland have undeniably the best fans of any english team and possibly any football team. The loyalty and love they have for their club is simply wonderful and I will always root for them because of that. So letʼs all collectively send Sunderland our good wishes and hope they can win the playoff and get promoted into the Championship. Theyʼve been a train wreck the last 3 years, due to poor managing of players, terrible business practices, inconsistent management from the owners, and having the terrible hindsight of actually signing David Moyes and having him have any responsibilities whatsoever. Things are looking up for Sunderland in the management department however, as they are rumored to getting close to a deal that would make former Celtic chief scout John Park the Director of Football, which would be a fantastic start towards making it back to the prem. Couple that with a solid manager and a solid squad, things are looking up for the future of Sunderland. Weʼre rooting for you guys Sunderland, the Moyes aftershocks will subside eventually and sooner or later, weʼll have our olʼ pals back in the Premier League.
Author: Logan Smith - 22, from Florida. Liverpool fan for 4 years now, also just a huge fan of the sport of football. You can find me on twitter @smittyboy8833