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Fan Letters: “No more excuses from Jack Ross - Sunderland must play 4-4-2 to gain promotion!”

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“The “one up front” does not work and has to stop. We need to play 4-4-2 all season and fit a team around that system” says RR reader Kevin Smith. What do you think? Email us: RokerReport@yahoo.co.uk!

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I’ve seen a lot of people over the last few days pointing to the Maja situation as to why we failed to get promoted. On the face of it, we didn’t replace his goals, tactics became negative and therefore we haven’t been promoted.

I believe that’s a very simple way to look at the season and we’ve not given Ross the credit he deserves for what he managed to get out of Maja.

Last summer none of us could’ve been sure that Maja was going to score as many goals as he did, and I’m sure a large part of our fan base wouldn’t have been happy with him starting the season as our first choice striker. We needed a CF in the summer after Asoro and co left, and we only brought in an injured Wyke, which forced Ross to play Maja.

I’ve seen no one give Ross credit for getting the absolute best out of Maja when he was dealt a bad hand in the summer. We’re quick to point the finger now, but he moulded that team to get the best out of Maja (who was technically good and found space in the box). Losing him just completely made Ross change how we played. Hence the 442’s, 433’s and 4231’s with no attacking threat.

Even following this, he managed to improve Wyke given his first appearances for the club were amongst some of the worst we’d seen.

I guess my point here is Ross is a good manger, but needs recruitment and the right recruitment this time to be a success. He can galvanise us and lead us to promotion if he’s given the players he needs.

A side note would be that putting in faith in youth as worked, and will always work as long as we are brave enough to do it. I’d say Hume should be prioritised at LB assuming Oviedo goes, and Robson get a run in CM.

Jack Farrell

Ed’s Note [Gav]: You make a good point about Maja actually, one I’ve not really considered. It’s clear that Maja suited the system we played at the time, and we’ve not replaced the goals he gave us which ultimately hampered our ability to achieve promotion.

Sunderland v Everton: Premier League 2 Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

For too long there has been the attitude at the Stadium of Light that other club’s youngsters must be better than ours. Too many Sterling’s and Dunne’s (I’m sure we can all name a few more from seasons past) have been given game time ahead of our own young talent.

Of course Benji Kimpioka, Bali Mumba, Elliot Embleton and Ethan Robson should be involved next season. To do otherwise makes no sense. Just think of the transfer window energy, pain and money we could have saved by promoting Kimpioka rather than moving for Sterling (Kane must be quaking in his golden boots). Really, if Kimpioka isn’t as good as Sterling don’t offer him a contract.

Involving the youngsters as I understand it is one strategy of the Borussia Dortmund model we are aiming for. It accelerates their development: it adds to their value, saves the club money and motivates those youngsters a season or so behind them in terms of their development. It is also the final job interview for a young professional footballer to be part of Sunderland’s future; if they fail in league one it’s disappointing but at that point offload and move on. We will only ever know if we play them.

There are clearly some positions we need to fill for next season through the transfer market: a centre back, a right back, some physicality and pace in midfield and up front irrespective of who stays and who goes, but commit to these lads for next season; stop the merry go round of rejects and loans from other clubs and focus on a small number of key acquisitions this summer. Lets progress by evolving and building continuity rather than ripping up the plan every summer.

Graeme Wilson

Ed’s Note [Damian]: It’s hard to argue with the logic here Graham: the more game time the young talent gets the more opportunities they have to hone their skills.

Having said that, it’s clear that while there were mistakes made in recruitment there isn’t a doubt in my mind that the club would avoid spending cash if they thought they could avoid it. This is a case of “the chances are there - a playing spot is yours to win or lose.”

If the academy lads keep their heads down and work hard I’ve no doubt they can make a case for themselves in the squad, but looking in from the outside it’s impossible for us to know whether or not they’re ready at this moment in time.

Until they are is it worth taking the risk, or would we be better served trusting that the parent clubs of loanees want their players to develop and believe that they can do so with us while offering something we need?

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

The board tell us everything they’re doing for the club and I’m 100% into whatever investment or choices they make.

For the manager this is basically last-chance saloon.

The “one up front” does not work and has to stop. We need to play 4-4-2 all season and fit a team around that system. If we do that we will be promoted - no play offs - and if we don’t Ross will be gone. The 4-4-2 will put teams to the sword instead of resulting in too many draws.

As for players: one centre half needed, keep Ozturk and keep Oviedo, whatever the wages, because he’s a class player. We need two pacy, young full backs. We should push O’Nien into midfield and with the players we get no more signings needed 2 strikers to compete with Wyke and Grigg up front, preferably fast young strikers to feed off Grigg or Wyke - and also Watmore will be back.

Supporters we were quiet at Wembley but we have been through a lot the past years. Also seeing the one up front for most of the season and how negative it is and negative draws it produced got to us I think. Summary if all above is done the 100 points is in the bag and we go up with a better squad and better investment and better football system and better manager in our eyes.. Louder support as positivity breeds positivity.

Kevin Smith

Ed’s Note [Gav]: I agree that we have to see a more positive brand of football, but this theory that 4-4-2 is the solution to our problems really needs put to bed. We played 4-4-2 on numerous occasions last season - it worked at Accrington, and we scrapped a win at Rochdale, but then fell to bits playing it in every game afterwards and it was scrapped.

In 2019 it’s very difficult to successfully play the version of 4-4-2 that people remember from years gone by.

What I’d actually like to see is for Ross to implement the system that he used as St Mirren manager, the lopsided 5-3-2 formation which would do a good job of masking our weaknesses as a squad whilst also best utilising our strengths. To do this we’ll need to strengthen the core of our side with bigger, more athletic players but it’s not a tough ask and is a system that would see us get the best out of our leaky defence and isolated attack.

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

Dear Roker Report,

I, like everyone one else was gutted over the now common Wembley defeat - this I personally feel, is the managers fault.

Surely signing an injured player (WYKE) at the beginning of the season was a bad move... But he then repeats his mistake and splashes close to 4 million on another injured player in Grigg...?????

I honestly think he cannot correct his mistakes or won’t....

A prime example is the captaincy, Honeyman shouldn’t be even in the side never mind be captain, but Jack Ross knows best....!!!!!

Finally, maybe the most gifted footballer we have on the books (McGeouch) might be given a better chance next season?

Or will JR sell him and make yet another mistake?

Ron Scrafton

Ed’s Note [Gav]: Whilst the manager obviously has a big say on transfers, he’s not solely responsible for them. The club really pushed the boat out to get Grigg on deadline day but I reckon if you had asked Ross at the start of the window he would have preferred to have kept Josh Maja - ultimately, the goalposts shifted, he left and we had to work a way out to replace him.

The Grigg being injured thing was put to bed by Stewart Donald during his appearance on our Podcast earlier this week, when he admitted that whilst Grigg was signed with an ankle niggle, he’s not really been injured for a long while.

If I was going to level any criticism at Jack Ross for his handling of Will Grigg, it’d be with the fact he’s not found a way to get the best out of him. Or Wyke for that matter, whose sole job appears to be as a focal point for long balls forward.

I agree with you on McGeouch though, and I’m baffled how he’s seen as a fifth choice central midfielder in this side. He’s better than all the rest in my opinion, but that’s all it is and I don’t see Jack Ross changing his mind, instead preferring the more vocal players in his position.