Dear Roker Report,
Sunday was one hell of a kick in the balls to everyone associated with Sunderland AFC. Despite things seemingly turning around off the pitch, it is clear that there is still a lot of work to be done on it.
The club needs to stick with Jack Ross and not because of the “we can’t keep sacking managers” mantra. He is an upcoming manager who I believe will have learnt from his mistakes and is capable of getting us into the Championship. However, talking with fellow supporters after the match I believe the following needs to happen next season:
We need to hit the ground running, with four or five games gone we need to be in the top 2 and stay there. It’s no good being there or there abouts as we have been this season we have to get into the automatic promotion places and remain.
Pace must be injected into the team. Duncan Watmore will return from injury and if he can remain fit will be a key part of the side. But, we need to sign attacking players who are youthful, energetic and will run at defenders.
Creating chances. Both games at Wembley emphasised that the final ball is often missing. People have been critical of Will Grigg since he signed but he needs to be given the opportunity to put the ball in the net.
Maintaining a lead by increasing it. After going 1 nil up the team needs to try and kill opponents off. Absorbing pressure is not a productive way to manage a game and is inviting the opposition to score.
The central defence needs sorting out. Tom Flanagan, Alim Ozturk, Jack Baldwin, Jimmy Dunne and Glenn Loovens really don’t inspire a great deal of confidence and if they didn’t have Jon McLaughlin behind them then things could have been a lot worse. This area of the pitch urgently needs addressing.
Ed’s Note [Gav]: I agree on the defence. The only one I’d keep is Ozturk - the rest can go for me. Loovens will surely retire, Dunne has gone back to Burnley and there’s no way Baldwin and Flanagan are the type of defenders that we actually need. We need some big brick sh*thouses like Barnsley, Portsmouth and Charlton have had this season. I honestly think with a decent defensive pair we’d have gone up automatically.
Dear Roker Report,
Of course I’m disappointed but not surprised.
I spoke to Methven after our draw with Portsmouth (league game at SOL). He asked me what I thought of the game and I said “we played as well as we can and I think we need another season in this division, because we would struggle in the Championship”.
He was taken aback and said he had to disagree. I’ve said for most of the season that Ross’ will not to lose outweighs his will to win, and 19 draws shows that.
He has to change that approach. On paper, we have the players and should be battering most of the lesser clubs in this division. Why blow our budget on Grigg and then blatantly not play him? Grigg has nothing to prove and we should be playing to his strengths. Can you imagine Leicester playing Vardy the way Grigg has been made to play?
Sacking the manager normally solves nothing, so come on Ross, take the blinkers off and let the players show what they can do.
Ed’s Note [Gav]: The approach with Grigg has been strange.
On one hand I feel Grigg’s performances when he has played haven’t been great, but on the other we don’t get the ball in behind or to his feet, where his strengths lie. At Wembley he was made to deal with long balls that were eaten up by the aerially impressive Charlton defenders - it just didn’t make a lot of sense.
If Grigg is to have a successful future here then we need go out and spend some money on signing a proper number ten, like he had at Wigan with Nick Powell.
Dear Roker Report,
After the devastating heartbreak of Sunderland’s cruel defeat, you have to wonder whether the club is cursed. Seconds from extra time and a goal bundled in.
Let’s be honest we didn’t deserve to win, Charlton were marginally better on the day, but the manner of the defeat is the most gut wrenching.
For me there is only one way for the club to go. Youth...... both from within the club and from other clubs around the country. Whether that’s The Dortmund Model or whatever you want to class it as, it has to happen.
We must rid ourselves of the players associated with the clubs decent over the last few years. Whilst they have been good servants and no doubt they have the club at heart, there is no sentiment in football.
Look at the top clubs, once a players sell by date is up they are gone. I don’t feel that’s the case at Sunderland. Cattermole, McGeady, Honeyman, Gooch and Oviedo are cloaked in failure and couldn’t do it this season. They will be no better next.
Players must be judged on what they do.
Charlie Wyke is a striker that doesn’t score goals, not good enough and should go. The defence, well that needs a complete overhaul as Baldwin Ozturk Flanagan and Loovens aren’t good enough. James and the scarlet pimpernel that is Donald Love must go.
All of these players are stopping the development of our youth.
To start with, a decision needs to be made on Jack Ross. If he is staying he must be given 10 games, if we are not top 2 and showing promotion form, he has to go. Secondly O’Nien must be made captain, he lives and breathes the club and is a fans favourite. I’d also play him in midfield.
Thirdly, all of our youngsters Embleton, Robson, Hume, Mumba, Molenuex and Kimpioka must be played. Other players from the youths must be brought through and given a chance. Youth has to be tried, we’ve tried the so called trusted experience and it hasn’t worked, time for change.
Finally recruitment, pace, pace and pace, whether that’s at the front midfield or the back, it must be brought in. The teams we have struggled against this season have pace.
Yes we need physicality but pace is essential. Quick wingers quick forwards and quick defenders, pace covers all sorts of mistakes, we need it.
The definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Time for a new direction, starting with some positive comments from the club, ala Niall Quinn after the 98 defeat to Charlton.
It’s tough at the minute but with the size of the club and with the right model and direction we should smash that league next season.
Ed’s Note [Gav]: O’Nien as captain?! I can certainly think of worse candidates. Maybe one day, but not right now - he needs to be allowed to keep developing and learning without any added pressure, I think, but he’s certainly a fantastic role model for the club.
I understand what you mean by certain players being ‘cloaked in failure’, though I wouldn’t include Gooch and Honeyman in that list. I think that the club can probably accept that there are players on the books now that we can’t afford to keep, and despite being three of our better players I won’t be shocked if Cattermole, Oviedo and McGeady are all out of the door this summer.
Bringing through young players is a sound idea in theory but they should only do so if they’re ready. Ethan Robson and Elliot Embleton have been out on loan this season and have done well, so the next natural step for them to take is to make up part of the first team squad. Kimpioka and Mumba need to go out and prove themselves in men’s football, and they’ll be better players for it as a result.
Dear Roker Report,
I’m writing this letter absolutely gutted like every other Sunderland fan after watching Sunday’s final. The game was televised live in India and it was a long wait since early Sunday morning until the 7.30 pm kick off (local time).
I’m not here to say what went wrong this season, that everyone knows.
What I feel is that we are not yet there quality wise. Winning promotion and being a lower league Championship club doesn’t do any justice to our passionate plans. We should try to get quality young passionate players that will turn out to be above average championship players upon promotion and go on from there.
Our attack was toothless and even if we’d got promoted yesterday there was every chance of a struggling season in the championship with the quality we’ve got. So next season we should smash the league one in and out, qualify as league one champions, that can give a psychological edge to us upon the return to championship.
Let us give the team, management and owners some breathing space now. Our aim is premier league so let us get our basement strong before the much awaited return, we need not only an immediate return but also a prolonged stay in the EPL.
Adarsh - A die hard fan of Sunderland
Ed’s Note [Gav]: It’s an interesting point you make - would we have had enough about us to compete next season? I guess we’ll never know. I looked at the list of teams that are in that division earlier today and was astounded by the quality - it’s a very tough league and without significant investment it’d be fair to assume we’d need to invest heavily to be able to survive.