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Fan Letters: “No club - Sunderland included - is too good or too big to go down to League One!”

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“If the nightmare did become reality, then I fear the way back may not be so easy this time round” says Roker Report reader Andrew Cockburn. Got something to say? Email us: RokerReport@yahoo.co.uk - we’ll include your message in the next edition.

League One
EFL

Dear Roker Report,

I’ve been reflecting on where it’s all gone wrong for Sunderland.

Firstly - and I tweet this regularly - I do not blame Martin Bain one bit. In fact, I believe that we have an excellent chief executive and indeed manager, and it’s clear that they work equally well together - which is extremely important.

This decay has been set in for many years, based on poor decision making at the highest level. The issue with that is that this guy actually owns the club and unless he gets what he wants, he’ll sit back in the US and keep writing the ‘small change’ cheques to keep the club operating... for a while. Recruitment has been the major issue - sure every club makes the odd mistake, even the best of the best - but we continually do it, whether that be player recruitment, managers, chief executives or whatever.

Roberto de Fanti cost us millions with ridiculously poor signings and even more outrageous contracts being offered to bad players. Lee Congerton was responsible for the contract and no relegation clause “negotiated” with Jack Rodwell. As for Margaret Byrne... the less said the better.

Yet it’s Bain that is faced with trying to sort the Rodwell mess, Bain that was left writing the £8m transfer fee cheque for Ricky Alvarez. Undoubtedly he’ll have inherited many, many more issues that we are not privy too. He is facing these without support either morally or financially from our owner. If he walks away - and why wouldn’t he - what calibre of candidate would be attracted to the role? And let’s say, for example, he doesn’t work well with Coleman... then what?

Quinny is not coming back. No one is chomping at the bit ready to take ownership away from Short. Stop digging out people who have impossible jobs and show that we are brilliant supporters.

This in itself is difficult - the side which is clearly not good enough leaves you demoralised. At the weekend I saw absolutely brilliant support from supporters of a side who were 2-0 down at home - not Sunderland and our ‘fantastic’ supporters but Leeds, whose fans sang constantly and twirled their scarves - it was absolutely brilliant.

Why can’t we do that?

Paul Wood

Ed’s note: My problem with your support of Martin Bain is that we’ve actually seen a rapid decline of the football club’s fortunes since he took his position as CEO. We’ve been through a number of managers, far too many players, have been relegated with another practically on the horizon, countless good people have lost their jobs, the matchday experience has deteriorated to the point that most die-hards no longer want to attend any more - and you want people to sing and twirl their scarves when we’re 2-0 down?

Come off it mate.

Sunderland v Chelsea - Premier League Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I guess it was somewhat inevitable that after gaining a (hard-earned & deserved?) point at Bristol City, that our side would perform one of their “customary tricks“, by coming undone in the next game. One step forward, two back, or should that be several steps back, as has appeared to have been the case for some time now?

Some folk no doubt perhaps thought that the second-half fight back/point at Bristol represented a genuine turning point in our season, however, together with one or two other rather rare bright spots this season, and in view of the bigger picture, it really only served to “paper over the cracks” as it were. For on the evidence of the first-half at Bristol, I felt that the team may as well have forfeited the second-half and jumped back on the team coach back home, though I (and no doubt many others) ended up being pleasantly surprised. But yet again this proved to be false optimism, for on the evidence of Saturday’s latest farce v Brentford, perhaps we may be better off forfeiting the rest of the season full stop, for after yet another embarrassing home defeat, one must surely ask, is survival REALLY a realistic outcome come May?

Of course, I in no way hold Chris Coleman to blame for our current situation, even though his tactics and/or team selections at times have been a shade questionable, though in view of what he’s got to work with maybe that is not such a surprise, in fact maybe we’re lucky not to be more or less relegated even now, what with fourteen games still to go. Perhaps one thing in our favour is the fact that the current situation at the bottom of the Championship is still wide open, however, its decent performances/wins which ultimately achieve success, survival or whatever, in which case/in view of our record to date, the outlook looks rather bleak.

All then a very sorry state of affairs indeed, but perhaps somewhat inevitable, what after several years of non-achievement at best. For Sunderland AFC is becoming more of an embarrassment, joke club, circus, call-it-what you like by the day, all the result of neglect & incompetence at their very best, if very and best are indeed the correct words to use.

It is of course thirty years since we won the (old) Third Division at a canter, something most of us with the Black Cat’s interests at heart no doubt hoped to never again experience, but sadly, it looks as if history of sorts may be about to repeat. When we went down to the (old) third way back in 1987, largely thanks to the efforts of “he-who-is-best-not-named”, the club was a shambles, but some rather astute appointments/signings enabled us to get back on the road to recovery, and while we went on to experience some better/good times, it seems that the club never genuinely learned from it’s many mistakes, with subsequent opportunities for progress being squandered, i.e. the rather fortuitous “back door” promotion of 1990, and the back-to-back seventh-placed Premiership finishes in 2000 & 2001 under Peter Reid.

And once the rot starts/“the snowball gathers pace” as it were, they can be hard to stop, so all things considered, if the worst came to the worst come May, would we be so lucky this time round in terms of a much-needed revival? For with a board with, it seems, little if any real interest in the club, a mish-mash of a playing squad, possibly also administration on the horizon just for good measure, we’d be more or less starting from scratch in the truest sense, were League One football to become a nightmarish reality. In which case, just who would be willing to risk their reputation, by taking on the task of even attempting to set the embarrassment which masquerades as SAFC on the long, hard road back to respectability, and dare I say, some LONG-OVERDUE success?

I’ll be honest, for being something of an eternal SAFC optimist, I still cling to the hope that Chris Coleman can somehow, some way, achieve what would seem to be a unlikely miracle of sorts, though I don’t for one second envy his task. In fact, a glance at the fixture list sees us face Champions-elect Wolves at home in the final game of the season at The SOL - imagine then a rather nerve-jangling but still rather familiar last-day scenario, this time that we needed to win to survive/have a chance of survival, whereas Wolves needed three points to be sure of the Championship?

No club is too good or big to go down, or indeed slide all the way, as Portsmouth found out not too long ago. So if the nightmare did become reality, then I fear the way back may not be so easy this time round. In fact, instead of Middlesbrough our local derbies may well be v Gateshead, Hartlepool and South Shields in the not-too-distant future (no disrespected intended to those clubs of course). Food for thought indeed.

Andrew Cockburn