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SIMON BIRD: Relegated Sunderland in such a mess they may not return to the Premier League for years

Date Posted,April 30, 2017

What a mess Sunderland are in.

On and off the pitch, the clear-up job starts now and it’s on such a scale it could take years for them to return to the Premier League.

The raw stats accompanying their relegation are frightening.

A wage bill of £83million, debts of £110m, but TV income plunging to £40m next season.

On the pitch, there are few assets to sell for big money – Jordan Pickford, Didier Ndong and Lamine Kone being the pick. Of this season’s motley crew, who Moyes never thought were good enough, nine players are out of contract and the three loan signings aren’t worth keeping.

Come August, whoever is manager will be left with a skeleton squad — and not much cash to spend on new faces.

Hours after their long-certain drop was finally confirmed with Saturday’s home loss to Bournemouth, owner Ellis Short admitted “mistakes” in player recruitment has been made.

When will these two watch another top flight game at the Stadium of Light? (Photo: Reuters)
#Gutted (Photo: PA Wire)

In a statement, there was no mention of boss David Moyes, who is having a good think about his own future.

It’s going to take a lump of cash loaned by billionaire Short – like Mike Ashley did up the road at Newcastle – to give any manager a chance next season.

But most fans think Moyes should quit, and he’s clearly pondering it. He has done little to earn another season in charge, yet still might be the best man to clear up the long-term mess.

A half-full Stadium of Light witnessed the inevitable happen with Josh King’s winner in the 88th minute. The official crowd of 38,394 can be regarded as an alternative fact.

At their lowest moment, there was some dignity in skipper John O’Shea’s assessment.

There is a human side to severe relegation cutbacks, as it means job losses for club staff.

Top-scorer Defoe has a clause allowing him to leave on a free after relegation (Photo: Getty)

“I know the attitude and graft and decency of the people around the place and this is not a nice feeling,” defender O’Shea, perhaps a future manager, said.

There was a poignancy and defiance as the home fans chanted: “I’m Sunderland ‘til I die.”

Quite right too.

They’ve kept at it through thin and thinner as the club has circled the drain but avoided the drop in the four previous seasons, and will be there to see the upturn when it comes.

With a human touch, Moyes said: “My emotions are more thinking about the people of this area. They’re the ones who I feel for.

“It feels worse because I just have the feeling of letting people down. That’s the disappointment. But there has been a lot of good managers relegated, and I’ll use it as something to motivate myself. But I really hoped that this situation wouldn’t come.”

However questionable his performance, Moyes rightly says relegation can’t all be laid at his door.

Saturday saw just the latest in five years of head in hands moments for Sunderland (Photo: Sunderland AFC via Getty)

He’s called the season with honesty and candour since parachuting in when England whisked last season’s saviour Sam Allardyce away in late July, admitting relegation was a possibility as early as August, when perhaps some managerial bluff and belligerence was needed.

What next?

Moyes needs to see if he and managing director Martin Bain have enough scope to concoct a plan that gives him a chance of early momentum next season, that can become a push for promotion.

He added: “I’m going to sit down with Ellis, and I’ll sit down with Martin, and have a talk with them over the coming days and weeks.

“At the moment, I’m fine, I’m just trying to take it in. It’s not nice, and it doesn’t feel good. More importantly, I feel bad for the punters who are not going to see their team in the Premier League next year.

Moyes might be the best best for the rebuild to come but will he choose to stay? (Photo: Action Images via Reuters)

“We now know we have to put a plan in place, and I have to look and see there’s a plan to get us bouncing back up.

“I think everyone is aware of the (financial) situation. When I came in I used the word rebuilding, and I don’t think anybody should really be changing that word.

“I think most people are aware that there is more to do from top to bottom.”

O’Shea is out of contract but wants to stay with the club he has served since a 2011 move from Manchester United.

The 35-year-old said: “I’ve really enjoyed being here every year. It’s a great place.

“The people around the place, the club, the Sunderland family outside and inside, whether at the training ground or Black Cats House, the decency amongst the people is very special and it’s something I definitely want to continue with. But it’s not up to me.”

Striker Victor Anichebe is among a string of players out of contract this summer (Photo: Reuters)

The direction Sunderland AFC take over the next decade – further decline, or a fightback – is in the hands of Ellis Short.

THE DETAILS OF SUNDERLAND’S LOOMING CLEAROUT

OUT OF CONTRACT Jan Kirchhoff, Victor Anichebe, Joleon Lescott, John O’Shea, Seb Larsson, Steven Pienaar, George Honeyman, Will Buckley.

RETURN TO SENDER (Failed loanees) Adnan Januzaj, Jason Denayer, Javier Manquillo.

ASSETS TO BE SOLD (With valuations) Pickford (£25million), Lamine Kone (£12m), Wahbi Khazri (£5m), Didier Ndong (£15m), Fabio Borini (£5m), Jack Rodwell (£3m).

AVAILABLE ON A FREE Jermain Defoe.

HOW’S THE WAGE BILL? Sunderland have regularly claimed players have clauses that will halve their salaries in the event of relegation.

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