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Sunderland fans fear injuries to key players will lead to the drop - and FanZone's Cats blogger Michael Graham is struggling to stay positive.

Last Updated: 28/03/13 at 13:36 Post Comment   

Cattermole and Fletcher: Seasons are over

Cattermole and Fletcher: Seasons are over

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It is a football fact that is largely unknown beyond Wearside, but Sunderland's official club motto is 'Consectatio Excellentiae' - roughly translated as 'in pursuit of excellence'.

Given the two record-breakingly humiliating relegations that have followed since those words first adorned the Sunderland crest in 1997 - not to mention the apparently endless stream of wasted investment and generally uninspiring times - I don't really know if it was intended to be ironic or not. It probably couldn't have been more so even if it was planned, though.

Personally, I have always lived by another doctrine whilst following this utterly unfathomable football club - just when you think things can only get better, they suddenly get worse.

It is, admittedly, a worst-case scenario contingency plan. I learned a long time ago that the only possible way to survive the torture of being a Sunderland fan is to expect the worst at all times. Thankfully, more often than not, the club manages to trundle along in its trademark breakneck crawl averting catastrophe.

Just occasionally, though, the proverbial finds its way on to a direct collision course with the fan, and you find things panning out in precisely the way for which you felt compelled to prepare yourself.

Obviously, this is one of those times.

With the team's bottom team next to play, you thought things could only get better after the dismal performance at home to Fulham - it got worse. The defeat to Queens Park Rangers was a veritable debacle, but with a generally travel sick Norwich next up at hope, you thought things could only get better - once again the performance only got worse.

This week, without a game due to the international break, we were almost certain things couldn't get any worse even if they wanted to - only to see top-scorer Steven Fletcher stretchered with his leg in a brace whilst playing for Scotland and be ruled out for the rest of the season.

When you add that to the already daunting situation of having the worst form in the whole Premier League, being perched precariously above the relegation zone, and a visit of the Champions-in-wait next up, it is enough to worry even the most optimistic of fans.

On the surface at least, amidst the stifling paranoia which engulfs us right now, there is still plenty in the club's favour here.

Firstly, our fate - whatever it may be - rests in our own hands. You can talk about momentum, form, quality, games in hand and anything else you want, but no club currently in the bottom three wouldn't trade places in the table with Sunderland right now.

Would we swap QPR's recent good form, Reading's new-manager bounce, or Wigan's momentum for the points that we currently have on the board either? I certainly wouldn't.

Additionally, although Steven Fletcher is a massive asset to the Sunderland attack, with James McClean, Adam Johnson, Stephane Sessegnon, and Danny Graham - a 12-goal striker himself last season and someone who could seamlessly slot into the lone-forward system to which side is now likely to revert - there is no shortage of attacking talent to call upon.

Yet take to the message boards, Twitter, or pubs around Wearside and you will find nothing but doom, gloom, and prophesies of impending certain disaster. The rhetoric is very much one of 'we are all but relegated, just have to accept it'.

As a natural optimist when it comes to my football, I found that difficult to accept. I implored positivity and terrace defiance.

Then it dawned on me that I had forgotten the golden rule of supporting Sunderland. Do I think that we are going down? No. I think the chances are enough points will be scraped together to just about avoid the drop.

I dare not allow myself to think things can only get better, though, because frankly this is brown trousers time and we simply can't afford things to get any worse.

Follow Michael on Twitter at @Capt_Fishpaste.

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