When do you reach the breaking point as a fan? When you’re team is having a bad run of results, that’s when you need to support them the most. But if the team appear listless, and the manager seems to have lost control over the locker room, then the fans will show their rage in one form or another.
This is exactly what happened when Sunderland hosted Aston Villa on Saturday in a game that was painted up a must win for both sides in order to avoid being dragged back into the relegation swamp. But after a lackluster first half by Sunderland, fans showed their discontent by simply leaving the stadium in droves before halftime and a few fans even tried to get own to the dugout to confront manager Gus Poyet.
Aston Villa, who has been a tough team to watch all season because of their inability to score, went up 4-0 in the first half after two goals each by Christian Benteke (16’ and 44’) and Gabriel Agbonlahor (18’ 37’). After Agbonlahor’s second goal, a massive amount of fans just left the stadium in discontent. The fact that Villa hadn’t scored more than two goals in a Premier League game all season coming into this meeting doesn’t make Sunderland fans feel any better about this embarrassing loss.
“I don’t speak to the owner after every game and I’ve not spoken to him yet, I don’t know what he is thinking, but we need to speak,” Poyet said after the game.
Around 46,000 people had made their way to the Stadium of Light in Sunderland, right on the bank of the River Wear. It’s the fourth largest stadium in England to host EPL games, but the team is far from being in the top. Ever since getting back up in the Premier League in 2007/2008, the team has only finished in the top 10 once (10th in 2010/2011).
The Black Cats are sitting just one point of the drop zone with Burnley hot on their heels. Burnley pulled off the upset of the week, maybe even the season, as they beat second placed Manchester City 1-0. Last season Sunderland finished up in 14th and were a mere five points away from relegation.
So things are looking bleak for Sunderland and the fans, the question now is if the owners think that Gus Poyet has what it takes to lead this team and avoid relegation. It’s a bit perplexing that Sunderland struggles so much when they have a solid team on paper with guys like Swedish international Sebastian Larsson, former Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe that returned from the MLS during the January transfer window and a very capable goaltender in Costel Pantilimon.
So despite having a squad that looks solid on paper, Poyet has failed to make Sunderland a stable mid-table team. So you have to wonder if it’s because of the players or if it’s Poyet’s system that isn’t working. The players looked lethargic against Villa and it could just be that they lost faith in the manager and his way to operate.
Poyet took over at Sunderland in October 2013, and he was given a two-year contract. It would surprise me and probably a lot of Sunderland supporters if Poyet gets a new deal after his current one expires. It might not even be that far fetched that they would sack Poyet before his deal expires and try to bring in someone else to see out the rest of the season.
Sunderland’s remaining schedule looks pretty tough and includes games against Arsenal, Southampton and Chelsea. Next Saturday they head to London to take on West Ham. The question is if Poyet will still be the manager at that point.