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Fan Letters: Was selling Josh Maja a big factor behind Sunderland failing to get promoted?

RR reader Dave Hawell feels the reason why Sunderland drew so many games in the second half of the season was due to selling top scorer Josh Maja in January to Bordeaux. Email:!

Gillingham v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I am quite surprised that our PR expert, Mr Methven, finds the need to have a dig at the fans of the club after the weekend disappointment. Having been to six of our Wembley failures, including both this year, I totally understand why some people have decided not to come south.

The obviously better and more loyal Charlton fans (average attendance under 15000) have a tube trip across London to get to the match.

I agree that they did support their team well on the day but I don’t need one of our wealthy owners having a go at the best part of our continuously underachieving football club.

Peter Laverick

Ed’s Note [Gav]: I haven’t heard the interview fully yet but did see some of the reaction on social media, and it evidently rubbed people up the wrong way. According to another RR writer it was apparently recorded at Wembley in the aftermath of the game when emotions were running high, and I wonder if Charlie might regret the tone of what he said slightly.

To me, 34,000 or so Sunderland fans making the long trip south on 8 days notice at a huge cost to them for this game is the definition of loyalty. I know it cost me a lot of money and many others will have skinted themselves in order to be there.

Had we not played in the Checkatrade game just a few months ago I think there may have been a greater appetite from people who were unsure about going.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

What’s the point of sacking another manager?

Given where we were at start of season, to finish 6th was still an achievement. Yes, bitterly disappointing but we don’t have a divine right to be higher in football than where we are.

The players simply are not good enough and we were rotten to the core and are just starting to grow fresh again. Remember Man City - where are they now?

We have a decent owner and manager.

Rome was not built in a day and neither will Sunderland.

Edward Scott

Ed’s Note [Gav]: After the game on Sunday I was pretty p*ssed off with Ross and said brazenly that I wouldn’t bat an eyelid if he was sacked.

I’ve mellowed slightly since then and think he should be given another shot at this over the summer, but knowing that a poor start won’t be tolerated. It won’t be said publicly but I wonder if the club’s owners feel the same and know that not starting the season in promotion form could equate to making plans to change the manager.

Still, that’s a long way away and Ross should be suitably armed with the tools to ensure his squad is good enough to compete at the top end of the table next season.

Portsmouth v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Play-Off: Second Leg Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Once again the knives are out. Sunderland AFC fell at the final hurdle when trying to regain its place in the Championship. Supporters have short memories regarding the state of the club and where it was heading. The club had just been relegated to division one, saddled with enormous debt, a chairman who wished to sell and had no interest, insufficient players and no manager.

Stewart Donald and Jack Ross stepped in and completely turned the club around. Stewart Donald totally understands the passion and desires of the supporters and has fully bought into it. He is very open and fully supportive of the manager and staff and has actually made the club debt free which is testimony to his ability and expertise.

Jack Ross has built a squad from nothing, at the start of the summer not even having enough players to play a practice match. Also he had to deal with the prima donnas, purchases of previous managers failing to even appear for pre-season training. I think he has done brilliantly to achieve what he has considering the circumstances and mess the club was left in.

If you look at the season as a whole we only lost five games all season which no other team could match but drew 19. I believe the draws were our downfall but related totally to Josh Maja’s departure. Before December 26th we only drew 7 games but after that we drew 12 mainly due to the failure of Wyke and Grigg to perform who only managed four each. Five wins instead or draws an extra 10 points we would have won the league.

With the right recruitment in the summer I am sure Jack Ross will achieve automatic promotion but what he and Stewart need is everybody’s total support. That means cut the negativity, support the team and the management to the hilt and get right behind them. Otherwise you doom and gloom mongers should be careful what you wish for, it may end up with another relegation.

For goodness sake stop the whinging, support the club to the hilt, and let them get on with it.

Dave Haswell

Ed’s Note [Gav]: Re: your point on Maja - I think you’re spot on. Stewart Donald admitted during his appearance this week on the Roker Rapport Podcast that his one big regret was Maja leaving when he did, and that he wished he could have done more to hold on to him as, in hindsight, it’s clear we missed him dearly and that we never replaced his goals.

But, such is life. Nobody was upset when we signed Grigg and it just hasn’t worked out. He’s got to buck his ideas up next season and that’s fine, but ultimately he never replaced the goals we lost when Josh Maja went to Bordeaux, and that’s potentially a massive reason why we drew so many games.

Sunderland v Wycombe Wanderers - Sky Bet League One Photo by Harriet Lander/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Long time reader, first time writing in.

So yeah, to say the season was a disappointment would be an understatement. Two trips to Wembley, no success. Too many draws, etc etc.

I’ve seen lots of negativity on social media lately and it feels unwarranted. I get it that we’re all mad things didn’t work out. It happens. Growing up in America, Wisconsin in particular, I’m kinda used to it from the state’s sports teams. Outside of the Packers, none of them have had any sustained success and have been downright abysmal at times over the last 15 to 20 years.

What people need to keep in perspective is that the good times have been restored, even if we’re in a league that people feel is “beneath us”.

The team is winning again, we have ownership that cares, has a sound plan and put the financial end of it back in order for the most part. We also need to quit bitching about the manager. It takes more than a single season for things to take root and players to fully adapt. Not to mention now that Mr. Ross will have a full off season to evaluate the players, scout the ones he wants and identify targets, he can do his job to the fullest. If by this time next year we’ve still drawn too many games and are not promoted, then sack him. Otherwise back off, let things happen and have some faith!

Whew! I feel better!

Anyway, looking ahead, there’s still work to do. The squad does need strengthening in the midfield and at the back. We could use another striker or two to push Grigg and Wyke. We otherwise have a very solid team that needs out backing.

In the mean time let’s celebrate what’s been achieved this season on and off the pitch, take some time to relax and chill. Come August let’s enjoy another go at League One and see what happens!

Azlyn Marie

Ed’s Note [Gav]: The way we recruit this summer will define the path we take. People within the club have admitted that our recruitment was not good enough last season and they can’t afford to have another bad transfer window. We’ve got a fair few players who are out of contract, loanees returning and then high earners who they may want to shift along in order to create room on our wage bill - the room that creates means that, naturally, significant reinforcements are likely needed.

We have to add pace, power, height and athleticism. I sound like a broken record but I’ve been saying this for years and this year it’s really rankled that we’ve had the chance to add players who possess those attributes but ultimately haven’t brought them to the club.

I don’t envy the task of the men at the helm!

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