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Who’s to blame for Sunderland’s promotion failure this season? Fans react to play-off loss

“He (Jack Ross) needs to be asked why the winning approach that characterised our start to the season was abandoned because since then, we went steadily downhill” writes RR reader Andrew White.

Charlton Athletic v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Play-off Final Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

As much as this is heartbreaking, the ultimate result of the play-off final is a fair reflection of our team and our season. We didn’t deserve to go up and I never really thought we would once we blew the run-in; I just had the blind hope of a fan who knows this club deserves more. So, where did it go wrong? For me there are three key reasons we just weren’t good enough.


I think we brought in some really good players while spending relatively little, but the whole process was a scattergun approach. We’ve ended up with a goalkeeper who deserves to be a division higher and will probably attract some interest in the summer, but we have a defence that is very poor indeed. Given that we need Oviedo’s wages off the books and O’Nien is a midfielder, I can’t think of anyone in our defence that I’d be in a rush to keep. If pushed I suppose I’d name James and Hume but that’s it. The defence needs a complete overhaul.

We have some great players in midfield but they’re all too similar and frankly, I think Ross has suffered from too much choice. Our strikers are another area that needs investment. Wyke looks OK but he’s NOT a lone striker, and we can only hope that next season Grigg shows he’s worth even half what we paid for him. In all areas, we lack pace, height and physicality.


Ross has largely stuck to 4-2-3-1 this season, regardless of the fact that it has never looked like a good fit for our players. It helps to offer some protection to our weak defence, but it doesn’t really offer any threat up front. The statistics suggest that isn’t the case but that only shows how misleading statistics can be. Our tactical approach has made draws more likely and ultimately we were undone by too many draws. Ross has to do better and be less rigid but he also needs a more balanced team. He needs to be asked why the winning approach that characterised our start to the season was abandoned because since then, we went steadily downhill.


We’re supposedly following the ‘Dortmund model’ but the reality is that this year has been similar to many previous seasons in that we haven’t followed this model at all. We’ve sent some of our best players out on loan and those who have stayed have been side-lined while we brought in players on loan from other clubs who offered us nothing extra. Players like Kimpioka and Mumba really should have been used more this season and the same could be said for a number of others. Based on this season, I wouldn’t see my future at the club if I was a player like Kimpioka or Mumba. And if they leave for a pittance, we only have ourselves to blame. It’s a sad state of affairs when a young player at Sunderland in League One has less chance of being brought into the first team than a young player at Ajax who play in the Champions League!

The difference between now and 1998 is that back then we had a VERY good side that just needed to be tweaked, but right now we have a side that looks nothing particularly special and needs a lot of work and investment if it is to be anywhere near promotion next season.

Andrew White

Editor’s note [TA]: I penned a piece not long ago talking about the need for a technical director of some sort - somebody who knows what Jack Ross wants from his side and can attract good players to bring success.

I’m hopeful that we can bounce back this summer and crack on next season; that being said, I expect a few turbulent weeks ahead as moving parts create problems for the club.

Charlton Athletic v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Play-off Final Photo by James Chance/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

That was quite a culmination to an already dramatic season. Sunderland did not achieve promotion. The club has been turned around and redirected. One year of rebuilding though is not enough time to rebuild a club that has decayed over many years. Yet, there is new hope, and this must be remembered and appreciated for what it is.

Despite us coming so close, I must say in some ways it might be good for us. If we are brutally honest, I would say both Portsmouth and Charlton have more players that are talented, hungry, and ready for the Championship than us. Honestly, we have had few players that have retained their position in the side consistently, even when healthy, other than McLaughlin.

The side needs to be rebuilt and thinned out. In the Championship, we might have really struggled because we neither have prolific strikers, nor a solid defense, and both of those things are essential to Championship success - especially for newly promoted teams.

But, it has been a wonderful feeling to finally win some games, and to feel as if there are better things to come. Let us hope, plans are in place, and this coming summer, since the ownership and manager are settled, there will be quick and efficient action that will drive us onward and upwards.

Thanks for all the work you all do.

Cordially Yours,

Colter L. Lasley

Editor’s note [TA]: I admire your optimism, and I agree that this season has been a refreshing one in terms of seeing our side win more games than they lose - even if we did our best to draw an inordinate amount of games!

I agree that this summer will be another summer of rebuilding - hopefully Stewart Donald and his team already have a plan of action in terms of their hopes for the future of the club. We’ve lacked direction at times this season, but that is something to work on.

Thanks for getting in touch!

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