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Fan Letters: Back or sack - what should Sunderland do with Jack?

“My message to supporters is ‘look at the bigger picture’ as to whether to replace Jack Ross with a hasty decision” writes RR reader Matthew Stan. Do you think the manager will get Sunderland promoted? Email us:!

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

It is inevitable following a disappointment that the immediate reaction of most supporters is to call for the manager to be replaced. They question his tactics and decisions and express a variety of opinions as to what they would have done to change the outcome.

As their club has a big part to play in their lives they are perfectly entitled but are free of any criticism as in their view they get everything right. If only this was true for managers.

How ever we know this is unrealistic in the world of football and the nature of being human is they can’t get everything 100% right and are prone to making mistakes. It takes a lot of character to willingly subject yourself to scrutiny every week in front of supporters and the media, be it the press or analysis from ex-players on TV or Radio.

Most commentators state a manager needs a minimum of three transfer windows (18 months) to start to shape the team but in the present time this is a luxury owners and supporters are not prepared to give. There are many examples in the past where the chairman/board showed patience in the face of mounting pressure to sack the manager and were rewarded for their loyalty (Alex Ferguson). This of course does not mean not taking action when clearly the wrong appointment has been made (Paolo Di Canio).

I have been a supporter of Sunderland since my first game, Jim Baxter’s home debut August 1965 and have experienced the ecstasy of the 73 cup win to the agony of too many to mention over the years. I have cried tears of joy (sadly not enough) and the bitter tears of crushing disappointment (far to many). The one thing I have learnt is I have to accept the consequences of the decisions the club has made regarding managers whether good or bad over the years.

Len Shackleton dedicated a blank page in his autobiography to the football knowledge of chairman which sums up the frustration of being powerless on the impact their decisions have for the club. At the end of the season, before my time, George Hardwick was relieved from his job after arriving during the campaign and securing safety. We will never know the outcome if he had been given the opportunity to build a team instead of his replacement Ian McColl but it couldn’t have been worse. The same when Billy Elliot took the reins mid-season when Jimmy Adamson left and was not offered the post for failing to secure promotion. Would he have done a better job than Ken Knighton who was sacked the following season after taking the club up?

My message to supporters is ‘look at the bigger picture’ as to whether to replace Jack Ross with a hasty decision. After the turmoil of back to back relegations a period of stability is called for, give him the chance to turn the club around and build the team again.

Only time will tell if he is the right man.

Matthew Stan

Ed’s Note [Gav]: I have to agree. I won’t claim to be Jack Ross’s biggest fan but at the same time I think he’s had a difficult job on his hands this year and, with the groundwork now in place, he needs to have another summer to make further adjustments to his side.

As you say, time will tell if he’s the right man but the cries of the fans wanting to see someone new in charge this summer will only fall on deaf ears - Stewart Donald wants him to remain in charge and we have to accept that decision. Ross and the players need our support if next season is to be a successful one.

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

Dear Roker Report,

Regarding the points raised by Jeff Smithson and particularly the Ed’s Note by Damian, I have one comment.

I read that Donald & Co purchased SAFC from Ellis Short for £5m plus the Parachute Payments from the Premier League. That is like the purchase of Manchester United by the Glazers who mortgaged the club.

Whilst it is good that Stewart Donald stepped in to save our club from the spiralling decline of the previous decade, the parachute payments were the investment the club needed. Indeed they should have been the investment the owner keeps telling us the club now needs.

Whilst I agree with Ed’s Note that the owners are entitled to pocket proceeds from any sale, the Parachute Payments appear to have been treated as a free loan to enable them to purchase the club. On this basis I suggest that portion of funds should be retained by the club.

Of course if the existing owners are to remain at the club with a reduced % ownership then the I would expect them to receive no payment. Instead any new party buying into the club should contribute funds equivalent to their % ownership.

Am I missing something?

M Forster

Ed’s Note [Gav]: Hi Martin - I actually cleared this up in yesterday’s edition of Fan Letters but, for the benefit of those that missed it, here’s what I said.

Without getting into the ins and outs of accountancy and financial jargon (because quite frankly, as a layman, I don’t fully understand it) let’s put this into pretty basic terms.

When Stewart Donald took over as majority owner of Sunderland AFC it was in the worst financial position of any club in the EFL. Twelve months later, this is the ONLY club in the EFL that is debt free, one which has a queue of potential investors waiting eagerly to get involved with what is now an entirely solvent business.

Re: that parachute money (£25m or so) - it was always part of the deal that Ellis would take it. Ellis already desperately needed that money to pay down the crippling bank debt, so that 25 million was going to go to SBC whoever happened to be owner in June 2018. It is also worth appreciating that this - helping make a relegated club less insolvent - is precisely the point of parachute payments. The fact that Ellis paid off an additional £150million is a MASSIVE bonus for us, but that £25million was always going to go on the relegation hangover, WHOEVER was the club owner.

That much has been made clear repeatedly by both Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven in various interviews they’ve conducted both with Roker Report and other outlets over the last year.

All Ellis wanted for his shares in the club was around £15m, which he was duly paid by Donald. He wanted the £25m in parachute payments. In return he wrote off a substantial chunk of the club’s debt to both himself and the bank, SBC, which is why we are now a fully solvent club.

Fair trade?

In addition - the club were paying £8m just in interest to SBC prior to Donald’s ownership. Sunderland’s entire ticketing revenue totals somewhere in the region of £8m. In effect, all the money the fans were putting into the club through attending games totalled the amount that we were paying in interest on our bank loans. Obviously now that’s not the case, and that £8m of money injected into the club’s coffers by the supporters over the course of the season goes straight back into the club where, in years previous, it was going straight back out.

I’ll also add that the club was losing £25million a year when Donald took it over, and he stuck his personal neck on the line with the EFL to the tune of £50million which is what it would have cost him if he failed to turn the club around.

So, with all said and done, Stewart Donald stands to retain a stake in the club whilst also selling off the majority of his shares, thus making a profit on his original outlay, whilst bringing on board investors that twelve months ago wouldn’t have touched us with a barge pole.

He deserves credit for being able to turn the club around in such a significant manner in such a short space of time, not further questioning of his morals and abuse because the evidence shows us he’s done such a good job that we are now able to move forward at pace as a club.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

After the bitter disappointment of the play offs (interrupting my honeymoon, which didn’t go down well with the new missus) I am now starting to look forward to the new season, especially when I’m reading RR regarding new signings, these are the things that get the interest back again.

I know we were all cheesed off after Wembley, but I can’t help thinking that we could be at the beginning of a new and better chapter in our illustrious history, so haway lads and lasses let’s all get behind the lads again and hope for the best.

PS - on the subject of signings and Wembley... there was a young kid at Wembley cheering on the lads, goes by the name of Lewis Ritson, captain of Hull City’s U23 team. I watched Lewis playing SAFC U23s in January 2018 he was by far the best player on the pitch (just saying like).

Keep up the good work Lads.

Keith Mensforth

Ed’s Note [Damian]: Keep reading and we’ll keep writing, Keith.

At the end of the day you can’t do anything but keep your chin up and hope for the best. As my old man used to say: “gotta laugh before you cry”. I’m sure there’s plenty of both in store for us all, and that’s the way we like it isn’t it.

I’ll keep an eye out for this Ritson chap and we’ll see if your crystal ball works! Congratulations on your wedding, and enjoy what the future holds. Salute!

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