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Fan Letters: Does Sunderland’s fanbase have a problem with being abusive/overstepping the mark?

RR reader Martin has highlighted the issue of some of his fellow Sunderland fans overstepping the mark and being abusive, instead of respectfully critical. Is it an issue that needs to be addressed? Email us:!

Bolton Wanderers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Leauge One Photo by Tim Markland/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Charlie Methven has recently been quoted as saying that Stewart Donald has stopped attending games and public engagements due to the abuse his has receiving online. Why anybody thinks it is acceptable to spout bile to another individual on social media is beyond me anyway, but if the culprits happen to be genuine Sunderland fans it would be even more baffling.

Debate over the job the pair are doing at the moment is commonplace but I write here not about that, more the worrying trend that seems to be creeping into some sections of our fan base. For as long as I have supported the club, and particularly during the recent Premier League seasons when so many took us to the cleaners, it was always said that if people gave their all for the club they would be appreciated and backed to the hilt. Now though, that does not always seem to be the case; not only has Donald been getting grief but Jack Ross was starting to get a unfair level of stick before he left the club and there was footage doing the rounds shortly before his departure of Tom Flanagan being abused whilst he signed autographs for fans.

It is perhaps understandable that there is an undercurrent of negativity about the place as some still come to terms with a terrible period in our history and the fact that the turnaround might not be as straight forward as they hoped, and as a result things will get said in the heat of the moment. Particularly in the case of the Flanagan incident this was not the issue though, and going on like that is of no use to the club.

I do not for one moment think we should simply accept failure, and the supporters are not to be blamed in anyway for our current situation. Sunderland’s greatest strength however has always been its fans and whilst attendances have remained impressive, actual support is not always as obvious as is sometimes made out. Players, staff and owners are making mistakes at times and do have their limits no doubt, but I do not feel there is a lack of effort on anybody’s part and if we can make the most of the other advantages we have those efforts will be more likely to succeed.

At some other clubs, the behaviour of supporters is such that it probably puts off potential investors. Again through Methven this week we know now a little more of FPP Sunderland and how they wish to go forward with the club - and if those plans get carried along by true backing from the stands it could only be the start.

Martin Norman

Ed’s Note [Gav]: I don’t think you could have put it much better Martin - there’s a clear difference between holding people to account, and being abusive. That Tom Flanagan video you refer to is one of the worst things I’ve seen regarding our support in years - I was doubled over with cringe and embarrassment when I saw it, and I sincerely hope that if anyone ever hears or sees one of our supporters behaving like that again, they’d promptly call them out on it and make sure they knew it wasn’t acceptable.

Frankly, I gave up believing the “all we ask is for is effort and hard work” mantra when I saw the abuse levelled regularly at George Honeyman last season. If all we cared about was effort then Honeyman wouldn’t have been belittled and abused like he was for simply not being good enough in the eyes of some, because for all his ills he was perhaps the hardest working player at the club - and I feel we’ve suffered a bit from his departure this season.

I don’t doubt that people have made mistakes, but criticism should never descend into abuse. There’s plenty of room for measured debate around the club’s business and I think that the more people realise this, the better the relationship between fans and the players, management and owners will be as a whole.

Sunderland v Portsmouth - Sky Bet League One Play-Off: First Leg Photo bt Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Just a few observations after our win against Southend...

1. The worst game I’ve ever attended.

2. Luke o’nein the 1 and only who deserves any commendment

3. If only Denver Hume could head a ball and use his right foot

4.If only SAFC had a half decent right full back

A lot to work on for P. P.

Ron Scrafton

Ed’s Note [Gav]: The worst game you’ve ever attended? Come on Ron! We won 1-0. You must have seen worse... but I’ll allow you your right to an opinion! Regarding your second point, I’d disagree - Denver Hume was fantastic, and George Dobson probably had his best game for us. Willis and Lynch at the back were solid. Our keeper kept his first clean sheet of the season and appears to have bucked his ideas up and taken criticism on board.

If Denver Hume could do everything I suspect he wouldn’t be playing for Sunderland in League One, and I think it’s unfair to single him out for criticism. He was my man of the match and I think he’s looked three times the player since Parkinson arrived. I’m just glad to see a young academy graduate getting and taking his chance in the first team.

Re: our right backs, we’ve got one but he’s not really a right back! Luke O’Nien is Mr Dependable and can play numerous positions, which is a problem. I think we have to make signing a right back our priority in January, so that Luke can flourish elsewhere. Conor McLaughlin is not up to it in my view. He might be a steady-away defender but he’s useless to us going forward and I think that, having listened to Parkinson talk about why we need to see quality delivery from out wide, McLaughlin just isn’t the type of right back we need.

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