This is the end - Why Sunderland have to act now on doomed Michael Beale tenure

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The Black Cats boss is under pressure from supporters after a poor start to life on Wearside.

I've been thinking about death a lot this weekend. Partially because, for whatever reason, my daydreaming brain went off on a pointless tangent during a meatball-deprived trip to IKEA on Saturday afternoon and I've since been singing, 'Boom boom boom boom, windows in a tomb; that's a mausoleum, they're dead and we can see 'em' to the tune of We Like To Party by The Vengaboys for the past 48 hours straight, and partially because I had to endure 90 minutes of Michael Beale's zombified Sunderland on Friday evening.

Death, of course, is the final ending. I'm not sure what, if anything, happens afterwards, but certainly, it is a full stop to this particular mortal coil. Before we fist bump its bony knuckles, however, we have to go through a thousand little endings first. Some are hard to stomach, sad goodbyes and periods of enforced transition. Others are cause for celebration, acts of levity and mercy. Having now watched seven matches of Beale's tenure, I am morosely convinced that it is time to put an end to this specific drab madness. I am, regrettably, #BealeOut.

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I need you to know that I wanted to give him every chance. Like just about every other Mackem on the planet, I was wretchedly underwhelmed by his appointment, but I was also willing to be proven wrong. There have even been moments, fleeting and naive, where I began to think it could work. The New Year's Day win over Preston North End springs to mind, as do the seven minutes or so during which Beale's side led away at Ipswich Town.

But the crushing weight has become too much to excuse or bear. There have been too many miserable stumbles already, too many post-match interviews in which his young squad, or the disgruntled fanbase, or the frugal owners who inexplicably threw him a bone in the first place have been hurled under the bus in the name of self-preservation. The tactical cowardice of the Tyne-Wear Derby defeat alone was a proverbial nail in the coffin, and things have only spiralled since then. Beale is a canal boat captain headed towards an iceberg. I see no way that he turns this around.

In fact, I am increasingly of the belief that he is a Scooby-Doo villain, and that if the prosthetic heft of his doughy mask were ripped away, we would find little Lee Johnson babbling a constant stream of nonsensical business-savvy jargon beneath. There is no common sense or substance, only hollow platitudes, the monotony of bafflement, and an unhealthy fixation with quarter-zip fleeces. It's little wonder that Sunderland are still yet to sign any players this January; the entire transfer budget has probably been blown on subscriptions to The High Performance Podcast with Jake Humphrey.

This is not some hysterical temper tantrum either; the hard evidence makes for unforgivable reading. Since his arrival, Beale has averaged one point per game. Not only is that relegation dogfight form, it is also a significant regression from the 1.46 PPG his predecessor, Tony Mowbray, was recording prior to his sacking.

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Beale has blunted an already dulled attack to a rubbery nullity too. Of the five Championship matches in which Sunderland have registered their lowest xG this season, four have come under the current head coach. The one exception is the heavy home defeat against Middlesbrough under Mowbray, in which they played half of the match with 10 men.

In essence, the Black Cats' attempts at perforating stubborn defences are like shadow puppetry - pretty enough, but entirely two-dimensional and prone to vanish entirely as soon as a light is shone on them. For all of the propagandistic narrative we have been force-fed about Beale and his superlative coaching genius, Sunderland are sorely lacking in any kind of identity or tangible plan beyond shunting the ball out to Jack Clarke and crossing their fingers.

But for everything that is going wrong on the pitch, the most cardinal of sins committed by Beale is the manner in which he has soured an entire fanbase against him in a single calendar month. Last season there was no team in the Championship as pleasing on the eye or as characterised by giddy optimism as Sunderland were. Even the bad times were laced with an illicit excitement, as if the club was trespassing after dark somewhere it had no right to be.

Naturally, that has shifted expectations in recent months, some would argue unjustly. But no realistic Sunderland fan is asking for anything more than a manager who coaxes the best out of this fizzing, prodigious dressing room. In direct contrast to last season, there is a numbness to the Black Cats, a creeping despondency that hangs in the air like a toxic smog. The fans want decency, humanity, accountability - not a rejected candidate from The Apprentice who probably has the word 'SYNERGY' tattooed across his midriff in Thug Life scripture. I bet he doesn't even like Revels. Things are getting so bad under Beale that it feels as if we are being sabotaged from the inside, as if there is a mole in our midst.

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And still the club will traipse on with him at the helm because it is far too soon for them to publicly admit that they have made a glaring error of judgement. We will be told that the work behind closed doors is of an elite standard, and that there are certain persistent concerns that simply cannot be solved right now, despite visible evidence to the contrary. The Stadium of Light is swiftly being turned into a cult of no personality.

How and when this sorry affair will properly unravel is not precisely obvious, but astute, decisive ownership would be to recognise that Sunderland as a club are already being dragged into the final throes of an imbecilic situation and act accordingly. I'm sorry it has to be this way, but there is no alternative. #BealeOut.

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