Dear Roker Report,
The release or Brady’s email to Bally has rightly caused a stir and has been a catalyst for fans wanting to sort out our underlying issues. But it also seems to have created some mixed opinions about what the rotten core is so I wanted to share my opinion.
To me, the rotten core is not a person or group you can point at and say “you’re the poison that’s eroding us from the inside”. It’s not a philosophy or ethos that coaches and managers have instilled in players that have been brought here. It’s certainly not Joyce in the canteen, or any of the other staff who have been at the club for years. I feel it’s more what’s missing from the club, what has already been eroded from its foundations and what the club has been allowed to come for decades.
As a club, we have been reactionary in everything we have done since I started following Sunderland in the 90’s. We’ve sacked manager after manager to get us either a promotion, or to save us from relegation. We’ve reacted to every situation the club has faced, and have shown no proactive long term planning. This has manifested itself over 20 years, through various custodians and resulted in Sunderland, as a club, having no identity other than the fans.
Look at the club right now. We were relegated in 2018 and reacted. We have managed to assemble an ageing L1 squad of players who are already at their professional ceiling. We thought we had the quality in the squad last year that we could just add a released Burton CB (Flanagan), partner him with Peterborough’s 3rd choice CB (Baldwin), add a GK and we’d get promoted. Perhaps we should’ve been promoted, but it should have been absolutely nailed on.
There is probably only a handful of players in this Sunderland squad that could play for us in the championship. If that’s the case and somehow we do get promoted, we react again and sign what’s available at championship level.
What motivation do McGeady, Maguire, Dobson, Power, Grigg, Wyke etc have to get us promoted? None of them will play of us in the championship, so all of them know that this is as good as it gets for them now. The club has no identity to them, it pays their bills handsomely and they can say they’re playing for a big club. That’s the problem.
We have no blueprint for success or where we want to go, other than stating we shouldn’t be where we are. A lot of the current mess stops at Donald, however no owner has curbed this trend and implemented a philosophy or identity to the club from the ground up.
When we sign a manager he should fit our mould, or we should bring a man in who we want to philosophise our club and he should get it. We should sign players for tomorrow and players for now, who want to play for Sunderland and understand the identity all our players should embody.
Perhaps the rotten core is the term we’ve coined to describe a gap in the clubs foundations that has been missing for decades. And perhaps that gap is the clubs identity.
Ed’s Note [Gav]: For me, there’s been nobody tackling the issues head on. Leadership starts at the top and what Sunderland needs is for someone ruthless to dive deep, identify the problems and properly tend to them.
I think the current structure of the club means we can never move forward with a long term plan. There’s no clear on pitch identity, no clear transfer policy and that comes down to a lack of proper footballing people in positions of power off the pitch. We need a Director of Football who will be allowed to present and implement a long-term plan, something fans and players alike can work to in order to progress the club in a manner that ensures we aren’t left short when managers and players move on.
What do we stand for? What are our standards? The key thing that I feel Kieron has identified is that people who have been immensely successful elsewhere subsequently arrived at Sunderland - chiefly, people like Roy Keane and Peter Reid - and instantly the standards at the club rose significantly. What can we learn from that? To be winners we must learn from winners.
I could go on and on but I’d be here all day - ultimately, sorting out the club’s leadership structure should be the first major action from the current owner in the new year.
Dear Roker Report,
Reading Keiron Brady’s email, I feel he has a fantastic insight into what’s been wrong and is wrong at SAFC. Moreover, his proposal to ask former players and management about their perceptions of Sunderland before during and after their time at the club would have been easy to carry out and it could have been done very discreetly. It could still be done discreetly!
It’s becoming more and more obvious that there has been poor practice at all levels of the club for far longer than we thought - Keiron Brady is looking back over something like 30 years? For the record, I’m 27. If the club, or someone at the club, is resisting scrutiny, well what do we expect? We see this everyday in politics and the news. But it has to start with honesty.
This honesty doesn’t have to be unfair or mean. We don’t need show trials and scapegoats. It can be done quietly and discreetly. Professionally. True professionals will already be doing all they can, and be honest to admit when they don’t. Some people might have a rude shock (Jack Rodwell and his loyalty bonus?) but delusion won’t get us anywhere. Nor will big transfer fees, shiny seats or fans choosing the home shirt. None of that is any good if we’re not trying to train a little bit better than yesterday, eat an apple rather than a chocolate bar, play one touch with my wrong foot today. That attitude at all levels, forever and ever, amen.
With good practice and professionalism, and a positive team environment, an average team can punch above its weight - we’ve seen a few examples of that in 30 years I’m sure! But first we need the right people at SAFC, and some people might need to be shown the door, if they’re not honest enough.
I hope Keiron Brady’s ideas get to all the right people - who can then hound out the wrong people.
Ed’s Note [Gav]: Well said!