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Fan Letters: “The majority of the blame belongs with Sunderland’s players, who do not care”

“Players hide. They go missing. They should be demanding the ball and driving forward, playing as if their lives depend on it. But they don’t”, says Benjamin Eckford.

Hibernian v Sunderland - Pre Season Friendly Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I’ve seen a lot of fans calling for the re-installment of Bally, Peter Reid or Kevin Phillips at the club as manager. Whilst I think the club is definitely void of personnel who know anything about the club - and fully believe in each of these individuals having some position at the club - it shouldn't be as manager.

The task is too large to burden Super Kev with as his first job, and we've been there before already with Bally and Reid.

The last two managerial appointments have caused me to distance myself from the club - both of them were as un-inspirational and as clueless as each other.

I personally want to see a manager at the helm that is hungry to create a name for himself in the game, rather than a journeyman manager that's been around and thinks he's already established himself enough to know he'd be safe in getting another job.

I think that Ryan Giggs would be a great appointment. Couple him with Gary Neville as assistant, or Paul Scholes. They'd command respect.

As much as the word "experience" gets thrown around, it means little to nothing without fire and desire. I'm sure they'd install that and I'd love to see them involved with the club.

Jack Farrell

Manchester United v New York Cosmos - Paul Scholes' Testimonial Match
Giggs and Scholes - Are they just what Sunderland need?
Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I was not surprised, and not disappointed, by Simon Grayson’s departure last night.

He showed no sign of being able to turn around our dismal form, and I do not mourn his passing. However, our problems go far deeper than who is the manager.

In my eyes, the most obvious thing to me is our inability to play confidently in front of our own fans. Not that our away performances are much better, but let’s examine our home form, starting from the 2-2 draw with Birmingham on the opening day of the 2010-11 season.

That game included, and right up to last night, I have witnessed 141 home league games. We have won only 37 of them. That is a contemptible 26%. It’s well known that we haven’t won a home game, in league or cup, in 2017. The last time scored first at home was that game, defeating Leicester in December. The last time we came from behind to win at home was 2-1 against Blackburn, in Martin O’Neill’s first game in charge.

Our players have a psychological aversion to playing in front of their own fans. It’s not just the sheer number of home defeats. It’s the manner in which we tamely surrender at any opportunity.

Take last season alone. My suspicions were raised immediately when Middlesbrough effortlessly powered through us, swiftly followed by Lukaku steamrollering over our defence.

Who can forget the Palace game? 2-0 up with 60 minutes gone. We conceded from the kick off, and then proceeded to follow our usual script, losing 2-3, with Palace getting the winner in the 93rd minute. Josh King scored in the 88th minute for Bournemouth. Southampton waltzed through us, adding goals in the 89th and 92nd minutes. Stoke raced into a 0-3 lead within 34 minutes. We pulled level with Arsenal through a well-deserved penalty, only to capitulate 1-4.

We constantly fail to dispatch teams such as Norwich, Burnley, West Brom. Even in cup games, I have sat through home defeats by lower league opposition, such as Notts County, Bolton, Middlesbrough. I remember struggling to barely scrape past Colchester, MK Dons, Peterborough, Carlisle, Kidderminster, Leeds , Shrewsbury and drawing 0-0 with Fulham.

This season I thought would be different. But going 0-1 down against Derby was a wake-up call. Still conceding first in every home game we have played.

We have collected just two points on our own patch this season, losing four home games in a row, with gutless performances every time against Leeds, Sheffield, Forest and Cardiff. A scant point against woeful QPR (who we made look like world-beaters), and then another defeat by Bristol.

Last night we faced the only team below us in the league. We let them take the lead because, well, that’s just what we do. We did what we haven’t done since 11 December 2011 and came from behind to lead at home. But we all knew it couldn’t last. As soon as we took the lead, we allowed Bolton to equalise, and then it was only a matter of time before they re-took the lead. That we managed to equalise was surprising in itself, and that point may be the difference between relegation and survival come the end of the season. But you need to be winning these sorts of games.

Why do we do this? Why does this constantly happen? There’s more to it than the obvious answers such as the players are not good enough, they have been poorly coached and given unworkable tactics.

Those are true, but they don’t account for the nature of our timid performances at the Stadium of Light.

Sunderland fans don’t ask much. We aren’t asking to win the Champions League every season. All we want is 11 players who give 100%, fight for the shirt and look as if they care - a fairly low level of expectation.

We all know that some players can’t handle the pressure of delivery. Brendan Rodgers even brought a professional psychiatrist in at Liverpool to teach the players to deal with their nerves. But that was Liverpool, a team playing in Europe and challenging for the title. At Sunderland the only pressure was to avoid relegation. And yet even that feather-light weight of expectation was too much for them to handle.

Even in the Championship, against a far worse calibre of opposition, we capitulate at the drop of a hat.

Whenever we concede the first goal, which we always do in home games, their heads go down, the crowd gets on their backs and they lack the bottle to do anything about it.

Players hide. They go missing. They should be demanding the ball and driving forward, playing as if their lives depend on it. But they don’t. They don’t want the ball. They misplace passes, they shoot from miles out, they are content to let the opposition have the ball and they are afraid to put in a tackle.

That’s nothing to do with being an untalented footballer. It’s about being a cowardly and spineless human being, which we have witnessed far too much of at the Stadium of Light. The team of 2005-06 were manifestly not good enough, but they never threw in the towel, never hid, never went missing, never gave up the fight to preserve the fans’ dignity.

Today’s lot have.

Grayson didn’t help himself, Short, Bain and Byrne have all piled up mistakes. But the majority of the blame belongs in the dressing room, with players who do not care.

Benjamin Eckford

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