Dear Roker Report,
After the disappointment of last season, the negativity regarding Jack Ross’s position and the speculation of the ownership of the club dominating the debate, can I inject a touch of fantasy to lighten the mood for the summer so that we can all recharge our batteries and refocus on the coming campaign with the release of the fixtures?
Have you ever wondered: what if?
There are many instances in the past where if a particular event or course of action could have been changed it would have had a profound effect on world history. I’ m not going down that road, what I want to imagine is an event concerning our football club that if we could alter be it, either managerial or game result, how different would Sunderland’s history in terms of success be.
Without the injury to Gary Rowell in the 1978/79 season would promotion have been gained, with Billy Elliott managing the team in the 1st division to who knows what success? The same goes for Ian Porterfield’s car crash in December 1974, which had an impact on the outcome of the end of that season. Career ending injuries to Bobby Park, Kieron Brady and so on - imagine if you could change just one of these - what might have happened?
My own alteration of Sunderland history would be Brian Clough’s injury, Boxing Day 1962. The extra points gained by his goals would have meant we’d have avoided the heart break of the Chelsea defeat, pipping us of promotion. Stan Anderson not being sold to the Mags and Allan Brown developing the youngsters coming through for seasons to come instead of leaving for Sheffield Wednesday.
Pure fantasy I know but while we wait to go again, I fancied a change in the mood from all the doom and gloom.
Ed’s Note [Damian]: We could all use a break from reality Matthew, particularly we hardy few at Roker Report.
What if #cansforyann had worked and we’d signed the best midfield dynamo this side of the Channel? What if someone had had the good sense to offer Virgil Van Djik a competitive contract? What if Sam Allardyce hadn’t been poached by those scoundrels at the Football Association mere months before they cast him aside for a little bit of casual moonlighting?
I suppose football is all about “what if?” though isn’t it? That’s the chief reason we get up and go to the games, spending hundreds if not thousands of pounds a year following around a group of individuals that we have no control or influence over, standing in the rain and the cold or the beating sun, waiting and hoping something magical happens. Something fantastical.
I dare say you can continue to wonder my friend. What if someone manages to finally set Will Grigg on fire? What if we unearth a truly rare gem whilst digging around in the lower leagues? What if we finally get in a player that can head the sodding ball? In dreams we can make the Stadium of Light a fortress; a place no opponent wishes to tread. With a clean slate and determined investors, it’s all still in front of us, and until it becomes impossible that we can ever achieve our true potential as an institution, it might just as well be right around the corner.
I’ll drink to that!
Dear Roker Report,
I read with a mixture of anger,george bemusement and resignation the continued car crash that is SAFC. Whatever is going on behind the scenes is of interest but I’m much more concerned about what goes on on the grass on a Saturday or a Wednesday night.
We are destined to fail again this year, and here is why.
1. We have a poor and tactically inept manager. Jack comes across as a nice guy but that doesn’t win football matches. He sets up not to lose and whilst that is good in the Premiership, the lower the league the more important it is to win. Winning 3 and losing 3 gets us 50% more return than a 6 game unbeaten run. Yet he persists in not going for it. Fatal mistake.
2. Too many players are simply not good enough yet he persists with them. Honeyman should not ever play for us but he does and more worryingly was made captain. He has yet to find his level. It’s probably Northern League. He hides in plain sight too often and in the latter part of the season missed chances and also cost us defensively.
3. Ross’s signings (goalkeeper apart) have been awful. Central defenders who are physically weak and a multi million pound goal machine who embodies the phrase of the farm animal and the banjo.
Moving him out when we are mid table in January will be too late. Time to go, Mr Ross.
Paul the Mackem
Ed’s Note [Damian]: You aren’t the first gentleman I’ve agreed with when it comes to the crippling state of anxiety that watching a Jack Ross substitution can bring on. In many ways I’d have to completely concur, particularly with regards to setting up to not lose. We need to have courage on the pitch even if it means taking a hit.
When it comes to your other points though I have to disagree. The George Honeyman conundrum is something that’s been pretty contentious this past season, so I’ll wax lyrical about that for a moment if I may.
I think Honeyman is - more than anything - a victim of his own relative success. An academy product born just close enough to Sunderland to readily be considered one of our own, it goes without saying that he’s been working towards the spot he holds now for a long old time. I think there’s a reason he’s managed it. I also think the reason it’s so easy to summon up his name in negative terms because of the spotlight shined on him, and under that kind of scrutiny none of our players are worth more than League One, not really.
Statistics can be both soulless and misleading, but we can’t ignore his 6 goals and 3 assists this season, without some of which we arguably wouldn’t have been in a play off spot in the first place. Beyond the numbers though is where I think Honeyman has the most impact, though his position is such that if he does his job properly you should rarely notice him on the pitch - though I’ll happily point out that he goes like a diesel engine and regularly recycles play, even if he didn’t have the best finish to the season.
I think there’s a lot to be said for passion and commitment in the modern game, and particularly when it comes to how we as fans perceive those that represent us all on the pitch. It’s clearly something that matters a great deal to the manager who, from experience, knows the value of having a wise head that can command respect in the dressing room, yet also have the youthful exuberance (and dare I say a degree of naiveté) that can really fire up a group of players running on empty. We like to think that galvanising the players is a job for the manager, and while I’d agree to a point, it’s logical that players would look around them at their peers and expect an equal to stand up and say what needs to be said. It’s become clear through sheer process of elimination that Honeyman is one of those players.
There’s a great deal we don’t know about the precise reasons Honeyman is captain of the squad. For myself, if you can leave Lee Barry Cattermole as skipper year after year in spite of being distinctly average at best and at worst a liability, merely because he shouts and gets angry a lot, you don’t have to go out of your way to justify giving the armband to someone like George Honeyman. His ability is often on display and his commitment is unquestionable. If the team believes in him, I’ve seen enough of him to feel confident that at the bare minimum he’s as qualified as any to be on that pitch and in that armband.
Dear Roker Report,
I always wondered if the sale of the club to Donald and Methven included the ground.
If so, they got an absolute bargain. If not, do they rent it from Ellis?
Ed’s Note [Damian]: I do believe the only property that didn’t change hands is the Hilton Garden Inn, which is still owned by Ellis Short. To the best of my knowledge Sunderland AFC own the Stadium of Light and the Academy of Light, and by proxy the owner of Sunderland AFC owns them too.