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Fan Letters: “Sunderland are as good as down - let’s plan for next season and play more U23s!”

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“Chris Coleman should play some more of the youngsters in the last few games. After all, they could well form the basis of our squad from the start of season 2018/19”, writes RR reader Andrew Cockburn. Got something to say? Email us: RokerReport@yahoo.co.uk - we’ll include your message in the next edition.

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Dear Roker Report,

Wouldn’t you just know it? Trust the “Suicide squad” to go and do it again (or rather NOT do it again), in another game which had to be won.

And while I hate to single out individual players for criticism, it was Jason Steele’s moment of madness which effectively handicapped us/ended our hopes of taking any reward from QPR. In fact, Steele’s unnecessary dismissal really typifies our season to date, i.e. “a comedy of errors”, one with possible long as opposed to short-term (pun intended) term implications.

I heard it claimed in some quarters that we needed four points minimum from the games v Villa & QPR, but our unfortunate record is played two, lost two, and not even a solitary goal to show for our efforts (if one can indeed call them that).

The big question now is, just what next?

True - we’re still only four points from safety, when any other time/with a similar run of form to that of late we’d surely have been more or less dead and buried by now. But even though there is still at least a mathematical chance of survival, realistically I don’t think we have a snowball in hell’s chance. For having now failed to win in nine League games/having won only five League games all season, are we really, in the last nine games, going to see a dramatic turnaround/world-beating performances from a group of players who’ve embarrassed not only themselves, but short-changed their long-suffering fans all season?

That being the case, would it not be better just to forfeit the rest of the season right now, in view of the somewhat inevitable, just to save us from any further embarrassment?

I think that at the very least, Chris Coleman should play some more of the youngsters in the last few games. After all, they could well form the basis of our squad from the start of season 2018/19.

I’ve heard comparisons made of the current scenario to the last time we were relegated to the third tier way back in 1987, but in my view at least, the events of the ill-fated 1986/87 campaign under the leadership of “he who is perhaps best not named“, do seem like a tea party compared to the current shambles which masquerades as Sunderland AFC.

We did of course bounce back at the first time of asking from the backwaters of (old) Division Three as undisputed champions, but should the worst come to the worst in May, and all things considered, what guarantee would there be of a repeat in 2018/19, indeed, that the club wouldn’t be set back even further - League Two perhaps?

After all, look what happened to both Coventry and Portsmouth in recent times (no real complaints re: the former mind, bearing in mind the controversial events of 19th May 1977, “what goes around, comes around“ etc.), but the demise of both these clubs were amidst similar financial situations to our own, which should perhaps serve as a rather chilling warning of what may lie ahead.

Then of course just to add insult to injury, our beloved club have recently announced that they intend to close the Premier Concourse and relocate fans elsewhere next season.

Par for the course I guess, but if you ask me, they may as well go full circle and close the whole ground, leading us to possibly ground-share with Hartlepool, Gateshead or some other local lower/non-League side starting in 2018/19. After all, such venues may well end up being be appropriate crowd-wise, while should the current spiral of descent continue, we may well end up meeting the aforementioned clubs as League equals in the not-too-distant-future. Sobering thoughts indeed.

Andrew Cockburn

Ed’s note: As always from you, Andrew, a very well-rounded set of thoughts. It’s difficult to truly condemn the team to relegation when the other teams around us keep ‘dangling a carrot’ for us (as Chris Coleman so eloquently put it). But, a win for Barnsley in midweek would widen the gap further, and more than likely see us off.

I agree with your comment about what Coleman should do between now and the end of the season. For me, even if he doesn’t want to admit it, he probably knows we are down. Starting the lads that will be here next season will at least bring some good feeling.