Sunderland have had a rough go of things over the past couple of years, steadily sliding down towards the foot of the Premier League, getting relegated in shambolic fashion, and, less than a week before the start of their Championship campaign, one of their most experienced players has lambasted the club and several of its players. The only way that things could get worse for the Black Cats is if their fierce rivals Newcastle United gained promotion to the top flight… oh, wait…
The failures of Sunderland A.F.C have been well documented in recent years. The purpose of this article is to look in more detail at the rant, or more specifically, the drunken rant, of midfielder Darron Gibson. On the surface of it, it’s a nightmare situation for Sunderland. An experienced midfielder got drunk after a 5-0 defeat and slurred a explicit rant towards disgruntled fans. The player has faced an internal investigation by his club for his antics, and his new manager, Simon Grayson, has expressed his unhappiness towards the player. Even neutrals up and down the country have criticised the Irishman for his drunken barrage.
Personally, I am glad to see Darron Gibson speak his mind. Far too often do we see footballers kept on a short leash, speaking only what they are told to. This can range from Wayne Rooney reeling off the same generic post match interview week after week, to Victor Anichebe tweeting “Can you tweet something like this” prior to his entirely original message to the fans. This is a man who is unhappy, and is simply trying to explain to the supporters that he understands their frustration.
Before I go on, I do need to stress that having this rant whilst obviously heavily drunk was stupid. It took away any credibility and poignancy of his argument. I do believe that footballers have the right to go and socialise, and if that involves having a couple of beers then so be it. But to get hammered and then mix with your own fans after a loss was not the brightest move for Darron Gibson.
Whilst his words were slurred, the venom that was behind them was stone-cold sober. He stated that Sunderland were “fucking shit.” Darron’s drunken state has detracted from the trueness of these words. While you can polish them up to sell to a more PC audience, the message is there, Sunderland are “fucking shit.” Relegated in a toothless fashion, with only the goals of Jermain Defoe to give them any sense of hope to cling on to, the Black Cats ten year stint in the top flight came to an embarrassing end. With the Championship as much stronger division than it was ten years ago, and a squad with pitiful morale, Sunderland look more likely to emulate Aston Villa last season rather than their resurgent rivals Newcastle United.
A fan asked if Gibson was bothered by the situation, which the midfielder exploded the retort of “of course I am. I don’t want to be shit. There are too many people at the club who don’t give a fuck.” This remark, while not entirely surprising, was probably the most damning thing that Darron said. Fans can argue, with no real justification, who cares, who tries etc. But when a current player states that some lads aren’t up for the fight then what are fans supposed to think? Fans pay their hard earned money to watch their team compete. They can’t expect Sunderland to win every game, but they can surely expect the players to try.
Gibson initially refused to say who wasn’t up for the challenge, but countered this by asking fans to give him the names of some players. He confirmed that Lamine Kone, Jeremain Lens and Wahbi Khazri were all slackers.
As I said at the beginning of this article, I don’t condone the drunk nature of this rant. What I do absolutely condone is his displeasure, and his publicising of it. He is a man who has played alongside Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney, Nemanja Vidic and Michael Carrick. Winners. Professionals. Men that gave 110% every minute of every game. Now he is at Sunderland, playing alongside guys who just don’t have that fire in their belly. It must be frustrating, it must drive him crazy seeing the weak mentality of some of his team mates.
He should have had the conversation with the manager, or the captain, or the players in question. He should not have made the issue public, and certainly not intoxicated, hours after a 5-0 thrashing. But I am glad that Darron Gibson had his rant. He is a proper professional. He has accepted the fact that he isn’t playing at Old Trafford any more, but he has that Manchester United experience, and wants to instil a strong mentality at the club that he plays for now. He wants those that don’t have it in them to buck up or get out.
Simon Grayson has, probably quite rightly, slammed Darron Gibson, insisted on an internal investigation and made sure that Sunderland fans know that he is unhappy with the situation that has unfolded. While the situation needed addressing, I cannot help but feel that the problem is far bigger than Gibson’s drunken rant. He ranted because he cares, and, as was the whole point of the rant, not enough people at that club do. They are rotten from the inside and need significant change, or could very realistically be facing a double relegation.
I know that I should not be condoning Darron Gibson in any form, it was a totally idiotic thing to do. I just sympathise with him. The team that I support suffered relegation in 2016 and was filled with talentless, wage-robbing hacks, with only one or two genuine caring players. If any of those who cared had called out the wasters back then in the manner that Gibson did then I would have been happy enough. The problem with Sunderland is not Darron Gibson, it is the fact that the club has become so rotten, so cancerous, even, that a model professional like Gibson has become enraged enough to act this way.