Since Sunderland returned to the Premier League in 2007, there seems to have been a spend, spend, spend culture at the Stadium of Light. And where has it got them? Well, they currently sit just three points above the relegation places, which is far from what the Black Cats’ supporters were hoping for this campaign.
With European football the target after last summer’s expenditure, and a top-half finish really the minimum required, it is hard to explain what has gone wrong. Steve Bruce has certainly not got his men performing away from home – with just six points on their travels so far this term. That is criminal for a side that boasts one of the most dangerous forwards in the league in Darren Bent. The purchase of the former Tottenham man for a club record £10 million has proven to be a good buy, despite certain critics highlighting his lack of top-class movement, he always scores goals and has netted 15 times from 25 starts so far. But that hasn’t been enough to stop Sunderland’s slide towards the trap door and they have not won a Premier League match since they defeated Arsenal on November 21.
Once a side gets on such a poor run it can be difficult to change things around and Steve Bruce labelled their recent televised goalless draw with Stoke “abysmal”. Managers are rarely so disparaging of their teams and it shows how bad it has become. It seemed as though the Wearside club were going to finally steal all three points at Fratton Park last Tuesday but a last gasp equaliser for Pompey sent the sizeable travelling army from the North East back home unhappy again. They have not been victorious on the road since August – after spending close to £30 million last summer this is simply unacceptable.
And when added to the money that had been paid out in previous summers since their top-flight return, such as the £9 million for goalkeeper Craig Gordon it makes grim reading. It should prove once and for all that ambition should not merely be related to how much money a club spends, for it does not always work as desired.
And at the end of last season, the Sunderland chief executive, Steve Walton, was cautious about making similar mistakes with incoming players.
He told the guardian: “The club wants to get players in as quickly as possible, but we are also very conscious of the fact that more than anything, we want to get the right players.
“There have been times in the past where this club has maybe rushed into signing players a little too quickly, and both [the chairman] Niall [Quinn] and Steve [Bruce] say the priority is to get the right players in, rather than getting players in quickly just because someone becomes available.
“We invested very heavily last summer hoping to make that next step up in the Premier League. Steve has his ideas about how he wants to improve the playing squad, and the club will be backing him all the way.”
But it seems as though this carefully executed plan has not worked and with the Black Cats facing a trip to Arsenal on Saturday things could get worse yet. And it should be a stark warning to any other clubs that think money alone can buy success.