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Fan Letters: “Sunderland’s Trafalgar Square takeover killed the atmosphere at Wembley Stadium!”

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Sunderland proudly took over Trafalgar Square again last Saturday night with another red and white party, but RR reader Karl Cockburn believes that the occasion led to a poor atmosphere at Wembley. Email us: RokerReport@yahoo.co.uk!

SAFC

Dear Roker Report,

Firstly I’d like to congratulate Charlton on their promotion to the Championship, in a poor game, their substitutes helped them make a difference and their fans were brilliant.

With regards to our own fans being “quiet” at Wembley v Pompey and Charlton, in my opinion I think the issue lies with the Trafalgar Square takeover the night before. We spend the night chanting and drinking, setting off flares and making our presence known. Although these nights are fantastic and show the passion and commitment from our supporters, I believe it causes a problem for the next day.

I think it drains the energy and buzz from a lot of people, who will wake up the next morning hungover or vocally tired. You see the other teams turn up full of energy and generate a much better atmosphere within the stadium in comparison to ourselves. Maybe I am making an excuse for our fans, but I’d like to know if people agree with me or not.

Karl Cockburn

Ed’s Note [Tom]: Interesting thoughts on the matter. Not sure if that’s the case or if maybe we just don’t have a lot of widely known, catchy chants? At the SoL, the vast majority of the energy comes from the Roker End; breaking up that group into smaller segments doesn’t really help the atmosphere inside Wembley.

Furthermore, the two times we’ve been to Wembley this season, opposition fans have seemingly had one or two chants they keep going the whole game i.e. “Play Up Pompey” (shudders) and Charlton’s rendition of “Allez, Allez, Allez”. Perhaps we need a couple of generic chants that everyone can involve themselves with?

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

Dear Roker Report,

I’m struggling to see why we haven’t started any young players as I thought Bali Mumba could of had a promising season in this division and Kimpioka against Peterborough at the SoL was something different - he offered pace and strength yet we brought in Sterling who is a decent player but didn’t get any game time especially when we had 2 strikers who seemingly can’t score.

Wyke, although improved, is still rubbish and the only reason he is in the team is because of his physicality but against Charlton he got bullied all game. If we put someone with a bit of pace on against them they might have crumbled but instead we brought on Will Grigg who might be the biggest waste of money I’ve ever seen (apart from Rodwell) and Jack Ross’ tactics cost us so many points this season.

We can’t allow McLaughlin to save us every time and then throw the ball to a centre half who can’t pass a ball and I honestly hope we get a decent centre half in and a striker who can score or we are set to stay in league one for too long.

James Blanch

Ed’s Note [Tom]: I do have a tinge of disappointment stemming from the fact we did not utilize some of our younger talents to greater effect this season, but also think there are other mitigating factors that hurt us, like injuries and an inability to adapt tactically.

I’m hoping some analysis this summer will provide Ross with food for thought as to how he can better utilise our current players, younger players, and also offer an idea as to who we need to sign this summer.

I think a change in formation and approach could also work wonders.

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

Dear Roker Report,

It’s hard to look back on this season without a twinge of regret. Failing to gain promotion has been a huge missed opportunity, the Checkatrade Trophy and the failure to build on good early glimpses of youth team players such as Mumba and Kimpioka and not converting them into key squad players. But what would promotion have brought? A squad half completed needing another overhaul just to survive in the Championship? Are we may be better staying in League 1?

I’m Scottish and I heard about Jack Ross before some would have. I seen his St Mirren side a couple of times, the last a 5-0 win vs Raith who had Jean-Yves M’Voto (remember him?) at the heart of our defence. Ross’ side were fast, direct, skilful and pressed when they had to but dropped off when the game dictated it. Early in his Sunderland reign I seen that happening. I noticed the similarities: Power played similarly to Stevie Mallan who got in the box to supplement the striker, Gooch had the freedom in attack and responsibility in defence Morgan was given and Maguire seemed to have the free role Magennis was entrusted with. The problem was it didn’t continue.

A few draws and pressure began to mount. Fans a bit unhappy and the chairman commented that he knew what he was getting with Jack Ross as people told him “we’d be 4-0 up and still attacking”. This was around the time we had a spate of sending offs; Lovren, Oviedo and Power’s few. Did Ross lose his nerve a bit? Suddenly the midfield wasn’t pressing as much, a huge issue for the rest of the season as we lost control so easily in the middle of the park, typified on Sunday. We tried to play a more patient and defensive game with players who wanted to attack. Too often our strikers have looked isolated and moves don’t even start as the ball comes back time and again.

Maja worked and losing him was bad luck. The reason he worked was the key to some of our early form. Maja and Wyke both play with back to goal, but Maja dropped deep and would often run with the ball himself. Both attributes allowed the likes of McGeady to get closer and we could attack from there. Nobody has been close enough to help Wyke with the second ball, when he did win a header. Grigg’s problem is that he doesn’t play to our system. He wants to get behind and stretch a defence. This is great if; 1) there is support getting close to him if he cannot get in on goal 2) we play balls behind defence at a quicker tempo before they are set and ready to defend. We do neither of these things. Losing Maja hurt us. Buying a player who didn’t fit our playing style killed us.

Our midfield has come in for a lot of stick recently, much of it warranted. We haven’t passed into space for runs beyond the defence, perhaps as our wide players are too deep to make those runs. The issue for me has been glaring for months, we are leaving too much space in the middle of the park. Our deeper midfielders are either too deep to win the second ball or too slow to get there. Portsmouth and Barnsley built their seasons on the ability of their midfield to win second balls and limit teams coming through the middle of the park. McGeouch would happily sit in front of the defence allowing his partner to move forward and pick some passes. Injury has hampered his season but I cannot fathom why he has been dropped when fit. Max Power is good but too often ends up wide to aid the winger. That is not a bad thing, being 5 yards away from them is. He needs to move into space, not into an already congested area. Cattermole and Leadbitter have a good range of passing between them but neither are dominating in possession as we need. Is it the lack of movement ahead of them?

In attack we sorely lack a real number 10. I like Honeyman, but he isn’t a number 10. I like him as a deeper midfielder who can supplement the attack and use his energy to harry and harass. Out wide he is good and finding space and getting into the box, but, as a 10, he seems lost. We need to find George’s best position, if he stays, and build on it. Gooch’s form has dropped off massively. He has talent, unpredictability, determination, speed and skill, but, if he cannot gain consistency then he needs to move on. A fit Watmore next season will be huge. Maguire needs to be given freedom to roam and allowed to stay a bit further forward to aid the lone striker, if that remains our formation.

McGeady with be key. If he goes we need a player as good, which won’t be easy. Sadly, we’ve become too reliant on the wing wizard. Ross has made the repeatedly odd decision of putting McGeady into the number 10 role when chasing the game. It doesn’t suit him. I see the logic but it doesn’t work. McGeady thrives wide as he gets some space and can cut in or stay wide. In the middle he just doesn’t look the same. If he stays we need to keep him wide, but we also need to give him help.

Was anyone surprised in the manner of Charlton’s winner? We’ve seen that all season. Our defenders aren’t bad but none dominate. We truly need someone in the mold of Burgess at Portsmouth, a no nonsense defender who will bully strikers and clear it at all costs. Give me a solid centre half over a ball player any day, especially in the position we are in. Defence needs a huge improvement and, if it is, perhaps we will rekindle our early season attacking intent.

We will lose Matthews and Oviedo. Fine. O’Nien should be in midfield so a Right back is needed for me. Left back, assuming James stays, looks good. Our full backs need to be given that freedom to get forward again. With a better heart of defence and a midfield winning balls in the middle of the park then perhaps they can. Our best player this season has, arguably, been Jon McLaughlin, a bit worrying for a team looking for promotion that we’ve relied so heavily on the man between the posts.

Next season we need to see what Robson and Embleton bring to the picture. Mumba needs to get some more game time and Hume needs to make left back his own. Stryjek will be 2nd choice keeper but can Molyneux push himself into the squad? The youth team have a lot to offer. They will make mistakes, fine, but they will be creative, add energy and hopefully push us upwards.

Let’s not kid ourselves, Jack Ross has made mistakes but so have the players and owners. Is there a better candidate? I can’t see one. We need a Jack Ross to believe in himself and his players. If they can’t do what you want then replace them or change what you are trying to achieve. Slow build up won’t work in League One if we don’t dominate midfield and aren’t solid enough defensively.

2018/19 is what it is. It was a rebuilding season and we went to Wembley, twice! Let’s build on the good things, strengthen and go again.

Adam (MackemAds)

Ed’s Note [Tom]: A brilliant summary of the issues we encountered this season, Adam. You’re right that we lost our verve at some point - we were watching some highlights from the opening game of the season in the Roker Report group chat the other day, and the difference between then and now was staggering. Players moving the ball into space before stepping up tempo and playing the ball into space in attacking areas - where did that go?

Maja was a big loss because his movement and ability to distribute effectively (as well as banging in a boatload of goals) meant that whoever was in the ten position had a lot more freedom. Wyke doesn’t offer that, you’re right, neither does Grigg, so we need a true number ten if we are to do better next season.

Moving forward I am intrigued as to how we adapt and who we bring into the club - your point about relying on McGeady is spot on and could potentially answer issues faced by Maguire and Gooch. Are we relying on McGeady to be the sole spark in our attack?