Dear Roker Report,
The last time we started consecutive seasons with the same manager was under Steve Bruce, who kicked off the campaigns in 09/10, 10/11 and 11/12. He was gone by November 2011 and we’ve had eight managers since (not including caretakers). Not one of them has started two seasons running. Maybe, just maybe, this constant chopping and changing hasn’t helped.
Jack Ross inherited a dysfunctional squad with no recognized goalscorer, no trustworthy keeper, no centre halves, and several wantaway under-performers. The fallacy of the “biggest budget” is that none of our players on Premier League wages would really get into a Premier League side any more.
Ross has made some tactical errors this year, but we’ve definitely suffered from some badly-timed injuries and horrific refereeing. He’s made us almost impossible to beat and exciting in attack. And if we end up in the playoffs, we’ll be the team no-one wants to play.
The Portsmouth result might have put an end to our realistic automatic promotion hopes, but I left in a similar mood to after the ‘98 playoff final. If this group stays together, with a couple of sensible tweaks, then we’re onto something good.
Ed’s Note [TA]: Thanks for writing in Duncan. Although I’m disappointed that we haven’t been able to secure automatic promotion, I agree that this side are more than capable of finding success in the play-offs.
Either way, the ethos of the side is what has impressed me - and I certainly hope Jack Ross can continue to build on the solid foundations he’s produced this season.
Dear Roker Report,
Am I confident about the play-offs?
Not really, no. I agree that we’re tough to beat but all that means is that we can grind out a draw. I don’t think that’s news to anyone this season as we’re the draw specialists! Unfortunately, in the play-offs there has to be a winner so being good at draws isn’t enough. If you don’t actually win the match, you’re into the lottery of penalties and that could always go either way.
The sad fact is that more often than not this season, Ross has set us up not to be beaten and he’s done it quite well because we have very rarely been beaten. The trouble is that he equally doesn’t set us up to win and that’s why we haven’t won anything like enough. Negative tactics and poor team choices have put us into this position and it’s a position we never should have been close to because we should have had enough to easily win the league.
I’m hopeful regarding the play-offs but I’m far from confident. We seem to be unable to beat Portsmouth, so if we play them a penalty shootout seems most likely. We can flip a coin for that match! In their current form, I also have serious doubts we’ll be able to beat Charlton. We try not to be beaten and they try to win. I’d rather be them in that scenario. Doncaster is, therefore, the only team in the play-offs that I don’t particularly fear. No team should find us easy to beat, but I suspect that at least Portsmouth and Charlton will feel we’re unlikely to beat them in normal play. Sadly, we can’t say the same.
The game against Portsmouth also brought up a number of points that I feel typify our season...
Playing 4-2-3-1 generates draws. It has done all season and will continue to do so, yet for some reason known only to him, Ross persists with it. Those draws have killed us this season because draws don’t get you promotion. Lose a third of those draws and win a -third and we’d now be promoted.
For large swathes of this season, O’Nien has been one of the players most likely to make things happen for us in the final third yet Ross insists on playing him out of position at RB. The lad’s done well, but we’re wasting a resource if Matthews is fit and against Portsmouth, clearly Matthews could have played. I would much rather have seen O’Nien in Honeyman’s role against Portsmouth, and I’m 100% sure he would have been more effective.
Honeyman does bring something to the team without a doubt, but him being captain has hindered us because I think that too often he’s been in the team for that reason meaning better players have had to step aside; O’Nien is a possible example and Maguire is another one.
For months now, a number of us have been calling for Ozturk to come back into the team. Yes, early in the season he was a bit of a liability, but it was months ago that he was showing us a very solid player in the Checkatrade Trophy. However, he continued to be overlooked. He is eventually restored to the team after one defensive horror show too many from Ross’ preferred pairing and amazingly we look far more solid in defence. Why did it take so long? The whole thing reminds me of Maguire.
Between Ozturk’s strong performances and O’Nien’s performances that have looked far more solid in attack, I am left more convinced than ever that Ross should have gone 3-5-2. Combine Flanagan’s flexibility, Ozturk’s physicality and Dunne’s height and we’d have had a very solid defensive three with a defensive midfielder to provide support and a link to midfield. O’Nien could have made more of his attacking flair by playing at WB instead of FB and we’d have been playing two strikers, which all of our strikers seem to prefer.
All of the above is down to Ross and while I’d be OK with him as manager next season, I think he needs to take a long, hard look at his performance this season, recognise where he’s gone wrong and undertake to change things next season. The fact is that this is a club and a squad that should have been promoted by now and the fact that we haven’t is largely down to some of the poor choices Ross has made. Regardless of the league we’re in next season, Ross has to do better.
Ed’s Note [TA]: I think much of our issues are easy to identify with hindsight; however, your comments on the 3-5-2 formation are really interesting. I agree that we have looked poor with only two in the middle of the park, yet also threatening with two up top.
The only issue I see is how do we fit the likes of McGeady, Maguire and O’Nien into a formation like that?
Ultimately, I think the ownership are happy with Jack Ross’ progress, and after some self-evaluation this summer, I am interested to see how things evolve next season... wherever we may be.
Dear Roker Report,
As a season ticket holder spending a lot of time in Spain, I rely on the Internet to obtain additional tickets.
For Wembley I ended up paying £45 for an adult ticket for my granddaughter when Ticketmaster would not accept her customer number.
For Peterborough with my grandson I ended up amongst their fans despite using a SAFC link to buy the tickets; my 14 year old and myself were forced by stewards to remove our shirts and threatened with ejection if we cheered our team. We did ask to be relocated but we’re refused.
Neither club can provide me with answers as to why this happened.
Ed’s Note [TA]: Sorry to hear than, Ron. Have you tried getting in touch with Chris Waters, the Head of Supporter Engagement & Supporter Liaison Officer for SAFC? He’s a tremendous fella who does a brilliant job. Maybe he can help you investigate?