Dear Roker Report,
Having had a few days to come down from the absorbing, concerning and finally euphoric events of transfer deadline day, I remain delighted with the job that Stewart Donald, Jack Ross, Tony Coton et al have done in strengthening the squad for the run in - most critically of course, the signing of Grigg to hopefully replace the goals we are looking for following the cross-channel departure of Maja.
As pleased as I am with the business conducted, one lingering doubt remains - can we keep Will Grigg on fire?
Last year at the behest of my better half, I installed a wood burning stove in our home. Never having any experience with such a contraption previously, it took some time to master the primitive manly pursuit of making fire. What became abundantly clear quickly was that the quality of the flame depends upon the quality of the fuel. My plans to burn cereal boxes, tree prunings and cheap netty bagged petrol station logs went up in smoke, literally, and I quickly learned that only be feeding the fire good quality kiln dried logs would the fire really burn bright.
Much has been made of the ridiculous obsession with some lower league “statisticians” with metrics such “xG” and the fact that Sunderland, by these measures, should be nearer the bottom of the league than the top. Now, I personally believe that football is far too complex and intricate an art to reduce it to such statistical analysis, but I think we can mostly agree that Sunderland do not create enough chances.
Josh Maja’s unique skill has masked this problem so far this season - with many of his goals coming from self-created situations that could be described as half-chances at best, and poor Charlie Wyke is now feeling the wrath of the boo-boys despite being fed off scraps.
£3 million for Grigg raised a lot of eyebrows, but it will be a bargain if he gets the goals that secure our return to the championship - but, like my stove - his fire will only be able to burn if it is fed with quality, not dross.
I trust Jack Ross and hope he has the answer, but my fear is that unless we can find a way to unlock the creativity in or forward thinking players, Will Grigg’s fire might be starved before it even gets burning.....
Paul (Armchair SAFC Fan, Chester le Street)
Ed’s Note [Gav]: It’s a very valid point that you make. Sunderland have not been good enough from a creative standpoint over the last few months and if we are going to get anything from Grigg, we have to focus on creating chances.
Last week, against the worst team in the league, we had just two shots on target. It was enough to win the game, but ultimately that is not sustainable. We can’t rely on Aiden McGeady to do what he did against Wimbledon in every game, that goes without saying.
We’ve just spent a considerable amount of money on a striker who has proven he can score a boatload of goals at this level, so failing to build the team around getting the best from him would be stupid. If we do the sensible thing and set up in a way that plays to the considerable advantage you have in playing Will Grigg up front, we’ll go up.
Easier said than done, of course.
Dear Roker Report,
I have never felt the need to give my unqualified opinion in writing until this season.
The amount of negative comments by some fans is staggering. We are riding high in the league that we are in, we are unbeaten at the SoL, we have managed to get owners that understand a business model, we have brought talent into the squad this window, we have a manager that is articulate, intelligent and hungry for success.... I could go on.
Why can’t some fans never see the positive, see where we are going and have an appreciation of the effort and commitment by all those at the club?
I am lucky I am in the south west corner, the south stand is next to me so the atmosphere is always amazing, but going by what has been said this isn’t yet the case all over the stadium.
Supporters need to get behind their club and support (the clue is in the name). We need to get behind whoever JR puts on that pitch, that is the only way for us to become the 12th man!
That’s just my couple of pence worth.
Ed’s Note [Gav]: Yep, I completely agree. It’s no coincidence that we’ve received a tonne of letters like yours this week. People - myself included - are sick of going to games and hearing people unnecessarily berate the team and moan about nonexistent problems.
My stance is always the same - criticise when its warranted, but always consider both sides of the argument before doing so. Sometimes is just feels like people are critical for the sake of it.