After watching Sunderland’s abject display against Lincoln City at the weekend, it was no surprise to see Jack Ross lose his job; the only surprise was it took so long after the final whistle for the club to act.
The team Ross sent out at Sincil Bank was packed with big names at League One level but turned in possibly the worst performance by any side to visit Sincil Bank this season, and it should be mentioned, with the utmost respect to both clubs, strugglers Southend and Accrington have been early visitors to Lincoln this campaign.
Sunderland looked poorly organised, bereft of ideas and strutted on the park with a misplaced arrogance that Lincoln soon set about dismantling piece by piece. The basic fact was the Sunderland players didn’t work hard enough and were and outfought by a Lincoln side who will surprise a few more big names in the division before spring arrives.
It was also evident from the stands that a massive disconnect exists between the team and the supporters, with many fans arriving late and leaving early. Football fans will forgive many things, but a lack of fight, heart and effort is one thing they will not tolerate, and the Sunderland side embarrassed themselves in front of their travelling support on Saturday.
It leaves the question of who will replace the hapless Ross, and in our opinion, there is only one man currently thought to be in the frame who will instil the passion in the team the supporters rightly demand, once again connect the club to its enormous fanbase and secure the promotion they crave.
That man is currently sat second in the League One table, four points better off than the Black Cats, on a fraction of the budget available at the Stadium of Light, and is current Wycombe Wanderers manager Gareth Ainsworth.
Ainsworth has recently made no secret of his desire to manage at a club with substantial Championship ambitions and was ironically recently linked with the Lincoln job before ruling himself out of contention. However, many Imps fans felt it was only ever clever political manoeuvring by their former player to express an interest in the role to apply pressure on Wycombe’s supporter-owned board to accept foreign investment from an American businessman.
Whether Wycombe accepts the investment or not, and a decision is due soon, the Sunderland job is a different proposition to Lincoln and could be too much of a big club for Ainsworth to turn down, and the Black Cats should test his resolve to stay at Wycombe to the maximum.
If appointed, Sunderland fans will never again be forced to witness such a frail display as they did on Saturday. Ainsworth’s tactics might not be pretty, but if Sunderland fans want promotion this season, then they must accept they are in League One and at times you have to battle and scrap to win crucial points rather than play teams off the park.
Teams have to earn the right to play at any level, and Ainsworth will bring humility and realism to proceedings which appears to be sadly lacking from a club that was so recently in the Premier League and is so obviously struggling to come to terms with their current plight.
Sunderland is a massive club with tremendous support, and they shouldn’t be in League One, but the reality is they are, and Ainsworth will bring a culture of win at all costs the club has been unfortunately lacking for too long.
While his teams might lack Klopp like charisma, he most certainly doesn’t, and he is sure to forge a powerful connection with the club’s vast support, bored with the lack of personality shown by their previous boss.
These are the reason why Sunderland should forget big names with no lower league experience like Big Sam and Roy Keane or romantic appointments such as Kevin Phillips, and appoint Ainsworth to lead the Lads back to their rightful position in the top two tiers of the English game.