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Captain's Blog (Lite): Fletcher Goals Put Doubters In Their Place

This week's Captain's Blog (sort of anyway) has some advice for those still concerned at the fee paid for Steven Fletcher.
This week's Captain's Blog (sort of anyway) has some advice for those still concerned at the fee paid for Steven Fletcher.

Well, this is different. With Michael Graham taking a much deserved break from Roker Report writing activities this week, we had a certain 'Captain's Blog' spot up for grabs between the rest of us.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I found myself entrusted with taking over Mike's mantle. 'Captain's Blog', as many of you will no doubt know, is a sort of sounding board, where our resident wordsmith provides his views on a pertinent Sunderland topic - often upsetting a few people along the way.

Now, I should stress that Mike was sure to tell me that this piece didn't have to be a "rant" per se. More times than most, 'Captain's Blog' has been an insightful look into a particular area of the red and white world, drawing plaudits and constructive arguments without fanning any flames. Yet, after the weekend just gone, I couldn't quite help myself...

Eight million pounds, hmm, that's about right - probably. Ten million pounds? No thanks. Twelve? Get lost! Fifteen?! Get. The hell. OUT.

Eventually, Steven Fletcher signed for Sunderland for a fee of reportedly around £12m, somewhere in the middle of the numbers bandied about all summer. While plenty on Wearside were just relieved to see Martin O'Neill finally getting his man, there was still a section of the red and white "support" that saw fit to write off the new striker without giving him a fair crack of the whip.

How sizeable that section was is anyone's guess. The modern era and the rise of the Internet has many laudable features - the proliferation of football messageboards is not one of them. Such forums give otherwise silent doubters a mouthpiece to broadcast their views far and wide, be they serious views or ones aimed solely at riling fellow posters.

Of course, to purge such messageboards of their more negative voices would be counter-intuitive. Nowhere other than football are opinions so divergent; debating the various facets of the game is what makes us all love it so much.

Yet, there seems to be a nasty undercurrent that is ever closer to the surface nowadays. I am in no way saying this is limited to Sunderland AFC - one need only look at a Liverpool forum for proof of that - but it is clear that there are plenty willing to attack the club at the first sign of (perceived) trouble.

Though O'Neill's popularity as manager seems about the only thing all Sunderland fans can agree on with any semblance of unanimity, that didn't stop there being critics even before the transfer window had reached its most active stage.

The signing of Louis Saha was met by some with dismay - apparently a strikeforce that previously consisted of three players under the age of 22 would not benefit from the experience of a man who has seen pretty much everything top level English football has to offer. Carlos Cuéllar, too, barely had his foot in the door before negative sounds could be heard emanating from steaming keyboards. Bought on a free, the acquisition of the Spaniard was seen in some quarters as proof of Ellis Short's tightening of the pursestrings.

How laughable it is, then, that those same critics then saw fit to lambast the fee paid for Fletcher. The stunning signing of Adam Johnson appeased many, but plenty still added the caveat that it merely offset the signing of the "overpriced" Fletcher.

Things got worse following the win over Morecambe in the middle of last week. Many fans, rightly, were encouraging by both the result and the performance - with Johnson impressing in particular. Fletcher did not have an especially good game, looking short on match fitness, but few saw much to worry about. Some, though, still managed to find fault. No sooner had the full-time whistle blown than certain supposed fans had dashed to their computers, hoping to be the first to denounce Fletcher as doomed to failure on Wearside. As stated, this is in no way reflective of the majority of Sunderland fans - but there is a small segment of the support that is utterly pathetic in its actions.

How nice Saturday was. Two chances, two goals. In a ten minute period before half-time, Steven Fletcher did not fully justify the outlay on him - that will be assessed at season's end - but he did make the best start possible. It is unlikely that Fletcher knows much about any of the doubting voices but, if he did, that was the perfect way to silence them.

In the grand scheme of things, this isn't really a big problem. Every club has its idiots. For the most part, Sunderland fans are a sensible bunch; cautious because of so many false dawns in the past, but willing to give anyone a fair chance.

To that small minority, however, we can only hope Fletcher continues to shove their comments back down their throats. In truth, they are not fans of the club - merely doom merchants who revel in predicting the worst, and grin smugly if it ever comes to that. They are the sort who turn up to a game once in a blue moon only to moan throughout, boo at the first sign of trouble and, of course, leave early.

If Sunderland are to go anywhere in the future, they need the full backing of a fanbase that has seen plenty of heartbreak in the past. When you consider the abominations of the nineteen and fifteen point seasons that have occurred within the last decade, moaning extensively about the signing of a proven Premier League striker is, quite simply, embarrassing.

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