Opinion: Can relegation benefit Sunderland?
Photo: Sunderland AFC

It has been another horrific start to the season up in the north-east for Sunderland - the Black Cats currently sit second-bottom in the Premier League table with just six points and one victory to their name.

They have already been through one manager this campaign too, with Sam Allardyce coming in at the Stadium of Light to replace last season’s hero, Dick Advocaat.

The 2015-16 season seems set up to be yet another case of the same for the Wearsiders as, for the past few years, they have brought in a new coach and managed to survive by the skin of their teeth, and fans will be hoping that history will repeat itself once again.

However, the question is, would a possible relegation be beneficial for Sunderland Football Club in the long term?

End the vicious cycle

The vicious cycle of sacking and surviving reared its ugly head way back towards the end of the 2012/13 season when then manager Martin O’Neill was relieved of his duties after a poor performance against Manchester United.

Sunderland were in need of a miracle to survive and started the vicious snowball rolling down the hill with Paolo Di Canio at the end of March.

The former Swindon Town manager was a controversial appointment within itself for his political beliefs, but he did the job and kept Sunderland afloat. He didn’t last very long after that though, being sacked after just five games in the new campaign.

With Sunderland struggling the hierarchy tried the trick once again and pulled it off once again, with Gus Poyet delivering safety and a League Cup final appearance as the cherry on top of the cake.

The former manager of Brighton & Hove Albion looked the real deal and capable of finally breaking the dreaded curse but, once again, when results turned sour with one win in 12, he was given the boot.

With their growing reputation of hiring and firing it seemed many managers out of the game wouldn’t touch the club with a barge pole.

Step forward Advocaat. A cultured manager around Europe, he, like his predecessors, managed the impossible and saved the club from third certain relegation.

It looked like Dick had done the right thing as he walked away after completing his objective and it seemed like a dawn would be rising over Wearside. However, Advocaat then had a major change of heart as he took the job on a permanent basis at the beginning of the current season.

Just like the managers before him though, it didn’t go well, and after the 2-2 draw with West Ham United he decided to call time on his stay in the North-East.

Now with Allardyce is at the helm, it seems that Sunderland may finally have some sort of stable balance in the managerial department, but doesn’t seem to have translated onto the pitch as of yet as they still have only one win to their name.

I personally believe that the luck that Sunderland have had in the last few years has been exceptional and it does seem like it will run out.

Will it be this season? Who knows, but, when it does, it will bring an end this vicious cycle and I believe that they have all tools they need if relegation did loom.

Sam the man

If Sunderland were to go down this season, the big positive would be Allardyce's presence. 

Obviously the objective for the 2016-17 season would be to instantly regain promotion and Allardyce is arguably one of, if not the best in the England to help deliver.

Allardyce's style of play has been labelled many things over the years, but one cannot argue about his success with clubs like Bolton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers and West Ham.

He had a slip up with Sunderland’s bitter rivals Newcastle United, but he has proven nine times out of 10 that he is a quality coach.

The prime example of his craftsmanship came during his time with the Hammers. After their relegation from the top flight, the London-based club turned to Allardyce, who was looking to rebuild himself as well after his dismissal at Blackburn.

He was tasked with returning the club to the top flight of English football and promised that while playing attractive football. Allardyce managed it at the first attempt too as his side defeated Blackpool 2-1 in the 2012 Championship Play-Off Final.

They may have slightly backtracked on the attractive style of play in their first season back in the top flight, but managed to finish in a solid 10th position regardless.

That’s where West Ham floated for the next two seasons before Allardyce left, but with the exceptional start Slaven Bilic has made it is hard to argue that the ground work wasn’t laid by Big Sam.

Allardyce has shown that he has the credentials to take a relegated side and make them better than they ever were on their return to top flight, and, if Sunderland did go down, there is a very high chance that lightning could strike twice.

Big fish in a small pond

The Championship has a growing reputation as one of the hardest and the most entertaining leagues on the continent, with predicting results proving difficult week-on-week.

However, clubs that have dropped down a tier have proven to be stronger out of the 24 with the increasing size of the parachute payments, and if Sunderland were to drop down they would arguably be the biggest side in the league.

The Black Cats have one of the largest stadiums in the country, with a 49,000 capacity at the Stadium of Light, and with the squad that they have at the moment it would make them instant contenders to take the Championship trophy.

Get rid of dead weight

The drop into the second tier would also present an opportunity to allow the club to get rid of players that are surplus to requirements.  

Sunderland have been one of the biggest spenders in the top-flight in the last five seasons, splashing out a reported £118.43 million on players, and arguably half those signings have failed to have a major impact.

Two prime examples of this needless overspending have been Steven Fletcher and Adam Johnson. Both have had their good patches while on Wearside, but have the millions that were paid for them been justified?

Fletcher made his move to the North-East back in 2012 from Wolverhampton Wanderers for a hefty £12 million. Injuries has seriously hampered his time, but has only managed 23 goals in his four years - one less than in his two year tenure in Wolverhampton.

Sunderland-born Johnson, on the other hand, proved another hefty buy as he was brought in from Manchester City for a price of £10 million.

Very much like Fletcher, it is difficult to see how he has paid off such a substantial amount of money with his performances. Johnson has performed well in patches but has failed to do so consistently - definitely not regularly enough to justify his price tag, at least.

Relegation would almost certainly result in the likes of these players leaving, as Championship wages would prove a difficult amount for the lives that they are accustomed too.

It’s not all doom and gloom though as this would not only free up the wage bill but will give an opportunity for the youth talent that Sunderland have to prominently shine through.

Sunderland Under-21’s are one of the best in country, currently sitting atop of the Under-21 league and through to the knockout stages of the Premier League International Cup.

The likes of Duncan Watmore have already broke through this season and look to be staying long-term, and with players such as Jordan Pickford, Lynden Gooch and Mikael Mandron all still on the brink, the future looks very bright.

Financial low blow not all bad

Obviously the biggest blow with dropping down a league comes financially.

The amount of money that clubs receive through Premier League television rights is mind blowing, with a new £4 billion deal to begin next season, and relegation would mean the pockets would have to be tightened massively.

Some of the financial blow would still be softened by the parachute payments Sunderland would receive, with the amount growing year after year, which would put them in a much better position than most of the clubs in the second tier.

Future is bright

I strongly believe that there will be three worse teams than Sunderland come May and that the Black Cats will survive relegation once again.

However, regardless of the season's outcome, there is sure to be a massive overhaul given the club's poor recent years and I believe Allardyce is the right man to oversee all of this.

Whatever the outcome though, whether the team go down or do manage to survive again, I finally believe that the future looks bright for Sunderland Football Club with the manager they have and the young prospects coming through.