Dear Roker Report,
Nothing much surprises me in this barmy world right now, but I was taken aback reading Sam L’s claim yesterday as part of your Fan Letters mailbag that Jack Ross should be considered “weak”?!
Jack is doing a cracking job. I will bet that most supporters believe he is the breath of fresh air we wanted and needed. We don’t have the divine right to win every game, even in League One. We have to earn it, we still have players to come back, our players are playing twice a week every week and yet the fixtures are piling up - all while Jack tries to build a team around young players he’s trying to keep.
We have fight and spirit now under Jack that we haven’t seen in years! I could go on - but do I really need to?! If anyone can get us up this year, Jack Ross and his staff will!
Robert Crosby (Nottingham)
Ed’s Note [Gav]: You’re absolutely bang on Robert - I think we found the only bloke with something bad to say about Jack Ross yesterday when we received that letter. But, we have to offer this platform to all Sunderland supporters, regardless of whether or not we agree!
Jack Ross is undoubtedly doing a great job, and I just can’t wait to see what he does in January will some extra room to maneuvre. He’s had enough time to properly assess where the strengths and weaknesses of his squad are and, with a successful transfer window, we can only hope that we truly kick on and stamp some authority on this league.
Dear Roker Report,
I’m stunned that any fan would criticise Jack Ross as he’s the best manager we’ve had since Peter Reid in my opinion. He doesn’t get everything right but which manager does? We’ve had plenty ‘top’ managers over recent years who have been utterly hopeless compared to Ross. As well as getting our top young players tied down to contracts, I’d like to see Ross tied down to a longer contract asap.
As for the squad, it is strong for this league but it’s far from consistent across the entire squad. I think we probably have the strongest midfield in the division by some margin and a very capable strike force as well as a top goalkeeper but there are areas where we desperately need to improve. There’s no doubt we need another striker as Maja is young and will be distracted by his contract negotiations. His performances certainly seem to have tailed off recently and I feel the two are connected. Wyke has ability but based on the few games he played earlier in the season, I don’t think Ross is sure how to use him as when he was in the team, we didn’t perform that well. Sinclair is our only other option and although he works hard, he doesn’t appear to be a goal scorer.
Our defence also looks fragile far too often and our options here are very limited. Some of our defenders just don’t seem to be good enough and those we do use have clear limitations. At the very least we need another central defender. I think that sometimes our defence has been made to look better than it is simply because we’ve been able to outscore the opposition and we have a really good keeper who is able to save us from their mistakes and shortcomings.
Ed’s Note [Gav]: I agree with your assertion that we have the strongest midfield in the league, but the problem has been keeping them all fit and free from suspension. I honestly think we have suffered from Lee Cattermole’s absence recently, and I reckon the version of Max Power we saw before his Oxford red card probably won’t come back out until he’s truly comfortable playing in his own skin again.
In terms of improvements, I think that there are three gaping holes in the squad.
We need another right back to compete with Adam Matthews who, despite being one of our better players, struggles to stay fit. We need a centre forward who is of genuine Championship quality - you can see why Sunderland’s recruitment team chased Billy Sharp in the summer because, if there’s one thing we’ve not had all season its a prolific striker who you can depend upon to adapt their game based on the style of opponent. Maja has an inconsistent all-round game (despite his huge upside, potential and goalscoring efforts), Sinclair just never looks like scoring, we don’t know what to expect from Watmore and Charlie Wyke just hasn’t been fit. Then, I think we need a central defender - one who has power and height, and is a threat in both boxes.
If we add three good players who can perform in those roles in January, I don’t see how this team doesn’t get promoted. Right now, I’m content but not sure if we are good enough to topple Portsmouth over the next 27 games.