We get it, we really do. You get drunk, you start to air some grievances at your employer and your colleagues, it happens. We don’t do that at The18 per se, because we love each other and you shouldn’t do that, but we totally get it when you’re a Sunderland employee.
Can you imagine how stressful working for Sunderland must be? Every year, your company is sometimes weeks, sometimes days from going under. There’s no stability, and you’re micromanaged by David Moyes. You have to watch the company visionaries do things like spend $13 million on Jozy Altidore.
You’d get frustrated and adding alcohol to that highly combustable confluence of things could prove disastrous. For Sunderland midfielder Darron Gibson, that proved to be exactly the case.
Gibson was filmed calling his teammates “f**king s**t” while admitting to being “off [his] face” under the influence of alcohol. This all transpired hours after Sunderland had been rocked 0-5 at the Stadium of Light in a friendly match against Celtic with Gibson appearing as a 77th-minute substitute.
“We’re f**king s**t. Of course I am [bothered]. I don’t want to be s**t,” Gibson said. “There are too many people at the club who don’t give a f**k.”
Today, the club confirmed they were opening disciplinary proceedings against Gibson via an official statement that managed to misspell the player’s name. For Sunderland supporters, it’s an unvaried continuation of Dante’s first circle of hell.
For a number of reasons, this latest incident shows that things could still manage to get a whole lot worse before they manage to get better for the Black Cats.
Back in 2013, former manager Paolo Di Canio declared the club’s senior professionals as “arrogant and ignorant” while promising a radical revamp of the squad, but he lost the dressing room while imposing fines for “forgetting to attend weekly charity shirt-signing sessions, arriving late for team meetings, shunning afternoon treatment from physiotherapists, calling in sick but avoiding the club doctor’s calls, and appearing hungover at training.”
Rumors of a “drinking culture” have been doing the rounds for years now, particularly after The Guardian’s Secret Footballer (an anonymous Premier League player that wrote a weekly column) wrote: “There are problems at Sunderland — big problems. The squad simply aren’t good enough on the pitch and, of even greater concern, they have too many players that do not have enough respect for the game. It is no secret in football circles that there is a drinking culture at Sunderland that extends right through the core of the team.”
Gibson only joined Sunderland in January, so this all predates him, but his rant fits perfectly into the narrative surrounding the club. Gibson defends his actions by saying, “Right, I might be off my face in here but I still want to play for Sunderland. The rest of them f**king don’t though, the rest of them don’t.”
For Sunderland fans, this is the worst kind of double-edged sword. Your 29-year-old midfield veteran is getting hammered after matches with the season beginning in a few days, and, according to Gibson, players like Lamine Kone, Wahbi Khazri and Jeremain Lens just don’t want to be there, period.
Sunderland’s fight to return to the Premier League already looks doomed. The club had four players score more than one league goal last season — not one of them returns for the Championship campaign.
Their best player, goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, joined Everton for $40 million. The only real positive for the club so far is that David Moyes left in May, but that’s really it. Simon Grayson has become the Black Cats eighth manager in six years.
The likes of Asamoah Gyan, Connor Wickham and Jack Rodwell stand as testaments to the club’s disastrous transfer moves over the past few seasons, and that disastrous approach could continue to haunt the club for some time to come.
Sunderland begin their Championship campaign on Friday against Derby Country.