Sunderland boss Alex Neil has issued a reality check ahead of the club’s play-off semi final against Sheffield Wednesday tonight, saying that they must accept they are a League One club if they are to progress forwards.
The Black Cats are often labelled as too big for the third tier by many fans and pundits, and whilst there may be some truth in that, Neil seems frustrated by the idea.
“Well, it is a League One club. This is the bit that irritates me.” Neil replied when asked about the size of Sunderland, via The Northern Echo.
“People keep telling me we are not a League One club. Yeah? You are in League One.
“If you want to talk about the infrastructure, the fans base the stadium, are they League One standard? No.
“But the simple fact is that at the moment the club is a League One club.”
Sunderland will certainly be hoping to change that though, starting tonight when they take on Sheffield Wednesday in the League One play-off semi-finals.
Neil says that unless grasp the reality of where they are, they will not be able to progress to where they want to be.
“Unless you get a reality of where you are, you don’t know how you can get where you want to go.” Neil continued.
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“That is something I have been drilling into people since I came in.
“People say we have got the best squad in the league. I say: no we haven’t because we are sixth. Which means at the moment we are sixth best squad in the league. You need to earn the right to get out of the league.
“We aspire to be a Championship team, and we have games ahead that can enable us to do that.”
You can see where Alex Neil is coming from here – or at least what he is trying to do.
He isn’t saying that Sunderland aren’t a massive club, simply that they aren’t one on the pitch at present.
It is clearly his belief that some at the club do not realise this, and he believes that only in realising this, can the club achieve its’ goal of getting back to the second-tier.
That being said, given they are in the play-offs at the moment, they do have the chance to get out of the third tier.
Sunderland fans will no doubt be hoping the club do not fall short in the play-offs for the third time in four seasons.