Dear Roker Report,
A recent comment on your website said: ‘As we learned in the Premier League, throwing money at it doesn’t necessarily guarantee you success.’ I think we learned this a lot more recently than that!
We only have to go back as far as January to find us wasting a massive amount of money by League 1 standards on an injured player who was worth nothing close to that much money and has largely failed since he arrived. It is exactly the lesson we should have learned from the Short era but apparently we haven’t and it really does have to stop.
We weren’t going to be taken advantage of by other clubs but we were. We weren’t going to pay over the odds for players anymore yet we did. We weren’t going to sell our most promising assets for a pittance but we did (Nelson) and we were going to give youth a chance but we haven’t (Kimpioka and Mumba).
That last point brings me to another issue that I find deeply disturbing - our so-called ‘Dortmund model’. How can we possibly follow this model successfully when we throw away assets like Nelson? How can we hope to follow this model if our young prospects aren’t allowed to break into the squad even when the older players aren’t performing? How can we follow this model when all of our best youth prospects are being poached by other clubs? How can we follow this model when our development squad is performing so poorly?
With the problems we’ve faced this season we haven’t discussed this issue much but it seems to me that if we are to be successful in the long term, it is absolutely vital that this element of our club works properly and at the moment it simply isn’t. Another example we would do well to consider is Ajax because if Sunderland are to succeed, it is by following the example of teams like Dortmund and Ajax, not Manchester City and Liverpool. Would Ajax have spent £4m on Grigg? I seriously doubt it and that’s exactly my point. They would coach and nurture their own talent and that is exactly what we should be doing.
I think some very serious and urgent questions need to be asked of our youth and development set-up and we need to make sure we have the right staff and right systems in place NOW so that we can start our own production line of profitable talent. That just isn’t happening at the moment. I’m a huge fan of Donald and I think he’s made incredible progress but this element of the club needs urgent attention.
The staff in place at the moment aren’t good enough, there isn’t enough joined-up thinking between the first team and the development squads and our younger players are unlikely to see their future with us if there is no clear route to the first team. Let’s face it, if you were a young player, would you see your chances as better at Ajax or Sunderland? Ajax are a winning team and a team in the Champions League yet their youth still have a better chance of progression than they would at Sunderland in League 1. That simply isn’t good enough. so that there is continuity
Next season, I want to see us give youth far more of a chance before wasting money on crocked players. I want to see Sunderland develop a clear style of play AND have the players to make the most of that style but more importantly, I want to see the youth players also playing to the same football philosophy. I do NOT want to see our youth prospects disappearing to teams like Manchester United because they can’t see a credible future at Sunderland. If Sunderland are to survive and prosper, we need our youth and we need to be a club that first and foremost backs our youth.
Ed’s Note [Gav]: Fantastic argument and one I can definitely relate to.
Andrew Nelson isn’t a great example though, for whilst I think he definitely deserved a chance here he’s shown at Dundee that whilst he’s a capable goalscorer he’s also not able to stay free from injury.
I hope he goes on to be a success in the game but when you see how infrequently they’ve used Kaz Sterling and Benji Kimpioka since Nelson left that he was perhaps right to move on for his own sake and his own career.
But, your general point is pertinent. Sunderland have a category one academy but we’re hearing rumours almost every week that we’ve got teenage prospects heading off all over the place to join the academies of other clubs - another, Logan Pye, was linked to Manchester United in the national press this weekend.
We’re hoping to speak with Stewart Donald again on the Podcast at the end of the season and I’ll be keen to hear more about why so many of these players appear to be leaving Sunderland, and to hear what our strategy relating to youth development in the future actually is. Are we happy to let players leave if it means the club net a six figure sum as a result before they’ve even been through our scholarship programme?
Questions that we’ll hopefully hear the answer to soon.
Dear Roker Report,
As a Sunderland supporter for over sixty years I’ve seen a lot but have always kept the faith. This season we entered another new era, and I was as optimistic as everyone, with a new owner etc, and we had smiles on our faces again.
But, reflecting now on the season, I feel that it’s ended in huge disappointment.
We had a budget and opportunity to get a team automatic promotion, but I can only think of two of the new players brought in that have impressed. Our goalkeeper has been terrific and O’Nien looks a good prospect. Thank goodness we’ve had Aiden McGeady.
But the stars have been the supporters, both home and away. If a player can’t raise his game for that then he never will.
There have been some terrible defensive mistakes and Jack Ross still doesn’t know who his best formation is. Tactically Ross has been out of his depth. And who made George Honeyman captain? He shouldn’t even be in the team. He and Gooch look like little schoolboys getting pushed off the ball every time.
If we do get promoted that team wouldn’t cope - so, big decisions ahead for the owners.
Ken - Peterlee
Ed’s Note [Gav]: You make some salient points Ken but I have to take you up on one thing - the season isn’t over yet so how can you say it’s ended in disappointment?!
Ultimately we can still be promoted, and if we manage to go up we’ll be far from disappointed. I get that most fans feel we should have had enough to get promoted automatically, and that may well be true, but for every argument I’ve seen I’ve also seen a fair comment about why we our budget and club size doesn’t necessarily mean we should expect success.
I’m actually a little on the fence - whilst I can recognise that we’ve spent a fortune on new players and have a massive squad, I also think that our recruitment has been largely poor and we’ve not necessarily spent wisely or recruited the right type of players.