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Fan Letters: “Does anyone - Jack Ross included - know what Sunderland’s best starting XI is?!”

RR reader Alex Churcher is worried that Sunderland manager Jack Ross never knew what his best team or formation was last season, and ponders what that could mean for the next one. Email:!

Sunderland AFC

Dear Roker Report,

As a passionate lads fan I’ve been through many ups and downs with Sunderland over the years. All of which have made me appreciate the fickleness of football and how fine the margins are between success and failure.

I’m sure if we had won the Checkatrade Trophy and achieved automatic promotion I would be more forgiving to our current manager, but unfortunately this season has to be regarded as a failure. Furthermore that failure, for me, lies squarely at the feet of Jack Ross due to his negative tactics, awful style of play and terrible decision making throughout the season. I genuinely believe 99% of managers would’ve got us promoted with the squad he had at his disposal.

Of course there are holes/weaknesses that could be improved upon, but for me it was the best squad of players ‘on paper’ in the league, and as such should have walked League One at a canter. Instead we stuttered throughout the season, especially after Xmas, playing terrible football 80% of the time.

We only got as far as we did because we have players who, on their day, can change a game with moments of class that belong in the Championship or higher. Throughout the entire season not once did we put together 90 minutes of cohesive football, not once.

I don’t expect to win 5-0 every week, but a few times would’ve been nice given the players we have and the league we are in.

It’s all the more galling considering we started the season promisingly and I’ve seen us play some decent stuff at times. When we get the ball down and pass it we can look good, but all too often we resort to aimless hoof ball and overly defensive tactics.

Now, after 60 odd matches with the current manager, I ask you the following:

What is our best full back pairing?

What is our best centre back pairing?

What is our best central midfield combination?

Who is our best right winger?

Who is our preferred striker?

What is our best formation?

What style of play do we use?

It’s likely the only thing we can all agree on is that McLaughlin is our best keeper and McGeady is our best left winger, but it shouldn’t take a genius to figure that out!

Amazingly after an entire season at the helm, our manager doesn’t have a definitive answer for any of the above questions. He’s lost and has been for a while, desperately tweaking and never settling on any form of consistency.

Even though personally I had lost faith in him midway through the season, if I were the owner I would have backed him until success/failure had been confirmed. He deserved a chance to finish what he’d started, and as I said earlier, football is full of fine margins. But now the dust has settled on what is to be considered a very poor season, I am saddened/frustrated our owners have come out in support of someone who has failed at nearly every aspect of his job thus far.

We shouldn’t keep him in charge simply for consistencies sake, or because we’ve had too much managerial turnover in recent years, or because there’s no one better out there. Sure I’d love Big Sam to return but that’s fantasy given the position we find ourselves in. However even a rookie like Kevin Phillips could do better, and he’d have the crowd onside from day one. I don’t mean to sound elitist but it’s League One for goodness sake! We could take a punt on pretty much anyone in the game and they’d do better than we did this season.

Ultimately Ross should be judged on the job he has done, and in my humble opinion it’s a pretty woeful effort all things considered.

I truly hope he’s able to turn things around and prove me wrong for doubting him, I want the team to succeed as much as anyone. That being said, I fear if he does get us promoted next season (which he definitely should do!), he still won’t have proven he has the tactical nouse to succeed in the Championship. That’s how bad this season has been for me because he’s failed at the barest of bare minimums. If 99% of managers could’ve done better, what does that say about him as our ‘leader’.

Sadly, I cannot see any logic behind so many people supporting him... unless of course they’ve been injected with a healthy dose of blind loyalty, which in fairness we all need in order to keep turning up at the SoL every week!

Fingers crossed for next season and Haway the Lads!

Alex Churcher

Ed’s Note [Gav]: I guess Ross has to prove you wrong, then!He’s going nowhere yet - Stewart Donald confirmed on the recent Roker Rapport Podcast that he’s fully behind Ross and that’s that.

One thing that is certain is that Sunderland fans won’t be so patient if we get off to a bad start or have a bad transfer window, and that’s where the pressure is on Ross. If he can come out of the blocks showing a fighting spirit and showing that he’s willing to learn from his mistakes and change the way we play then I’m certain we can be successful next season, and it’s that what makes me think sticking by him would be a good idea.

I have to comment again on this suggestion that Kevin Phillips would do a better job. Despite the fact he’s a club legend he’s never actually had a job in management! As much as I love the romantic notion of SuperKev becoming our manager one day and being successful, it’s pure fantasy and will never happen unless he gets himself a job in management elsewhere and proves he’s got what it takes.

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

Dear Roker Report,

The funniest thing I heard this week may be all year is the term Steward Donald character what fecking character he has all the character and charm of a brick wall you may I am no way near been a Stewart Donald supporter I just can’t help but feel uneasy from the day .

Mr Donald took over control of great club he’s just fail at every level of BeEnglish a football club owner .

Apart from changing the seats at our football ground .

Then buying a few bags of fish and chips what’s Mr Donald done for our great great club the answer .



James Walton

Ed’s Note [Gav]: I have no words.

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