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Fan Letters: George Honeyman Edition - Sunderland skipper seems destined to divide fan opinion!

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We’ve been bombarded with emails about George Honeyman so have popped them all in one place, with RR co-editor Damian Brown in charge of the responses. One thing’s for sure - the Sunderland skipper seems destined to divide opinion!

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

In reply to Damian re George Honeyman

Sorry but you really don’t know anything about Football

“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...”

If you watch a football match and you don’t notice a player it means they have not been involved because they are not good enough and it has past them by, however in the case of George Honeyman, who is the worst player ever to play for Sunderland, I do notice him!, I notice the umptieth time he has given the ball away, I notice him failing to close a player down, I notice him giving away a free kick, I notice him trying to pick a “fight” when he has the referee and all his team mates around him.

The weak Sunderland fans who have supported and encouraged him to date should hang their heads in shame and they are just as much to blame for the rock bottom standards which has lead to our worst ever downfall , Honeyman is a symbol of the worst 3 years in the History of the club and those weak minded fans who churn out “he’s a local lad who works hard!!!!!!”...…………………..HELLO! he’s rubbish so therefore his work rate is immaterial.

The situation at Sunderland football club suits Honeyman because no other professional club would be interested in him and we are the only gullible club to give him a professional contract and we made him captain!

Get a grip! He’s useless!

P Leed

Ed’s Note [Damian]: Well, yer dar’s been on the old John Smith’s hasn’t he.

How on earth you have the gall to declare that fans should hang their heads in shame for supporting the manager’s choice is beyond me, but I’m used to dealing with idiots so I’ll indulge you with a response you frankly don’t deserve.

I like to think I know a little bit about football, P, though perhaps not as much as your illustrious self.

Let’s discuss the role of a central midfielder for a moment, because I feel that’s something we could perhaps use a refresher course in, and let’s just pretend it’s because I like to type.

Traditionally, the aim of a central midfielder is to fulfil more than one duty, depending on the instruction of their coach; to contribute to both attack and defence to varying degrees. In my opinion the key focus of a central midfielder’s role should be to cause interruption to the opponents play by acting as a sort of break-water between oncoming players and their own compatriots, and to then contribute wherever possible to the attack via selective passing forward, or to be the immediate point of damage control should we lose possession. Feel free to ask a footballer about this, should you ever come across one.

George Honeyman does his job as a central midfielder, and he does it well. I couldn’t point to his most recent performances as the highlights of his career, but beyond John McLaughlin I would argue that can’t be said about anyone on the team given recent performances and results. I have seen with my own eyes George Honeyman retrieve the ball when possession is lost (including when he has, quite humanly, lost it himself); I have seen him disrupt the opposition and recycle play into the attack; I have seen him score; I have seen him assist; I have seen him command. All with my own two eyes. I do wear reading glasses but they aren’t milk bottles.

The biggest issue in this argument is that it’s akin to the old saying “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, and to truly highlight the benefits I see in utilising Honeyman - of which I believe there are many - I would have to delve into the cold world of statistics. I would have to drag up heat maps, a good two years of statistical analysis of the young man’s tenure in the senior team, not to mention at least two years analysis of those around him and who came before him for the sake of a fair comparison, and even the stats of players in the league around him. That’s a lot of time and effort to ‘prove’ something I already know to be true.

As you can probably imagine I’m not prepared to do that in the space I allot myself to respond to these missives - but more importantly, I don’t believe I have to justify my opinion on this player to the grand extent you might wish when his manager and his team support him in the role he does, and I would say the same to any fan that convinces themselves that the results we’ve suffered in the past two seasons are down to the allegedly poor performance of a genuinely decent player that’s worked his arse off to be where he is, in front of thousands of eyes that can see it whenever they choose. I would encourage you to seek those statistics I mentioned above to make yourself feel better about the fact that Honeyman likely isn’t going anywhere.

NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

The reply (Damian) to the quite ridiculous condemnation of George Honeyman was extremely well worded and addressed.

Comparing him to the eternally (why) lauded Barry Cattermole was genius and backs up my argument for the past 10years.

LC has found his level in Div 1, shouty, clumsy, ineffective and lazy.

GH has given 14 years to SAFC and would run through brick walls for the club, not just verbally as LC trots out every pre-season, but literally. Compare him and LC at Wembley in play-off final as see who goes missing and who is still charging back to cover and forwards to create.

As for being anonymous, there’s another midfielder who just gets on with the job and goes unnoticed, has a great engine, 100% commitment but is rarely mentioned and that is Dylan McGeogh.

The sooner SAFC rids themselves of LC and invests in footballers the better.

Harry McQuillan

Ed’s Note [Damian]: You’re right to mention McGeouch in the same breath as discussing the real responsibilities of his position, Harry, because he is indeed an example of the kind of often understated contribution that it demands. Why he hasn’t featured more is a fair question and one that can be placed on the long list of tactical queries I’d reluctantly ask Jack Ross if I were ever forced into a situation where I felt I had the tactical acumen to openly question him on such matters. Probably with a fair amount of drink in me, but that would imply he’s been drinking too, and who knows where that would end up?

Maybe we’d become fast friends and he’d invite me to peruse his notebook before a match day? Or maybe I’d be banned from ever entering the Black Cats bar or any other club-funded event, bloodied and bruised in body and ego? Let’s hope we never find out.

I would of course tend to agree with your agreement, and so we concur. In Cattermole’s defence his role isn’t one shared with Honeyman, but pound for pound I know who the better investment is. Players like Honeyman will form the backbone of our team for years to come, and while I’m completely against supporting someone for the sake of the greater good, I can’t imagine how we would be well served seeing the back of an academy product that’s proven he deserves and wants to be where he is.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I read with interest the article from Paul the mackem about George Honeyman. Absolutely shocking article, I’m guessing he’ll be one of the fans who afforded Jordan Henderson the same treatment when he played for lad. I do happen to agree Honeymans form dipped, possibly because of the responsibility of taking on the captaincy, who knows but you know what at least he had the bollocks to take it on under what had to be the most difficult situation in the history of our club, Cattermole at apparently requested that he wanted relieving of the duties so he could concentrate on playing , arguably he had his best season in a Sunderland shirt. So to the haters out there give the kid a chance, he’s 100% red n white and he deserves better from some of our supporters.

Nigel Taylor

Ed’s Note [Damian]: Well said Nigel.

Dear Roker Report,

Football is a game of opinions which everyone is entitled to, but since the playoff final last month I keep reading some very negative and some comments which are just simply abuse directed at George Honeyman.

We are talking about a young man who has been in the Sunderland Academy since being a little lad who now finds himself captain of the good ship Sunderland. I have read a few letters sent to your good selves questioning his ability to be playing in league one and one person even suggesting the Northern League is his standard (I refer you to my opening line about opinions). Jack Ross came into the club last year and has decided to make him captain of the team which I was surprised at. But you have to ask yourself why, he has obviously seen something in the lad which prompted Jack to give him the armband and he more than likely spoke to people within the club as well about him.

I get the impression that the reason why so much negativity is aimed at him is because people don’t want him to be captain and would prefer Lee Cattermole to be leading the team out, I would wonder how many of these people were part of the fans who suggested that Lee Cattermole should never play for the club again after his many sending offs in the early part of his career or have they forgot about that? Don’t get me wrong I am a big Lee Cattermole fan and I hope he is still playing for us next season.

I have read comments about him not cutting people in half in games and screaming and shouting orders at his players and he lacks the aggression Mr Cattermole shows, being an ex Naval man I can honestly say that a good captain surrounds himself with a couple of lieutenants (Cattermole and Leadbitter) who will do his shouting and screaming to the other ranks around him while the skipper keeps a cool calm head and leads by example (except Wycombe away when he flipped his lid).

Moving onto the point of his ability in this league I believe he is more than capable of playing at this level, the lad has never put a foot wrong in any of the games he has played always grafts his stones off for 90 minutes doesn’t do anything fancy but he grafts and covers every blade of grass.

All in all I think the amount of negativity aimed at him is way off the mark, we have an academy product who is a Sunderland fan leading the team people should get behind him and give all there support rather than making the negative comments that they are but its there opinions at the end of the day.

Rant and opinions over.

Iain Macphail

Ed’s Note [Damian]: Fandom is fickle Iain my friend, and never so much as in football. One man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure, etc.

I wouldn’t say that Honeyman has never put a foot wrong because he has, and that’s part and parcel of being a human and being a footballer. If the instances whereby he’s done so are worth focusing on it should the aftermath that we appraise; where he busts a gut to get to the ball he lost, or screams in frustration at his mistake. As you say: we should focus on his obvious and apparent charisma and leadership as he commands and compels those around him. We should trust that he has earned his armband, not because Ross is an unquestionable genius, but because for years and years we supported Lee Cattermole purely for the fact that he shouts a lot and looks angry.

I wonder sometimes if we think we’re beyond that fickle nature because of our self-perception that we’re right, such and such is wrong, etc. In the end we can only say what we see, and it seems some of us can see his qualities and some can’t. As you say - everyone has an opinion. Having it doesn’t make it right though, particularly if you can’t remember how you got it in the first place.

Dear Roker Report,

I disagree strongly with Paul the Mackem’s damning comments about Messers Ross and Honeyman.

I work for a trade union and one of the many things that has taught me is that there is always more to someone else’s job than you think there is - and not least when none of us can possibly know every fact of what has been going off behind closed doors at SAFC over the past 18 months or so.

I have seen many managers pass through at Roker Park and the Stadium of Light who appeared to have little clue let alone anything that looked like a plan. We can easily forget that Jack Ross inherited a scratch squad and had to build it up again in next to no time. We can argue about the odd signing’s worth and team selection but that doesn’t take away from the fact that I believe this guy DOES have a plan. I also think he’s clued up enough to learn from his mistakes.

I’m getting bored with the negative juggernaut that some seem determined to build against Honeyman. I know some have to have a ‘boo boy’, but I honestly think that those who don’t see what he gives the team (and why Ross picked him to be captain) may be asking the wrong questions!

Robert Crosby

Ed’s Note [Damian]: I feel like I’ve somewhat answered one or two of your points in an earlier response above, but suffice it to say I tend to concur. Particularly the idea about people watching a completely different team to you. It’s a common occurrence on a match day, in the pub or in the stands or in the living room, that I’ll find someone that disagrees with me on who should have done what or when.

In the end the only person’s opinion which truly matters is that of the boss man, the gaffer. It’ll be interesting to see how this transfer window pans out, just as a kind of barometer on whether or not Ross was forced to choose from slim pickings in the midfield, or that the places on the team sheet have been truly earned. It’s apparent to you and I that it’s the latter, but I would be curious to see what kind of competition Honeyman has - if any - in the upcoming season.

Negativity is draining, mentally and physically. I can understand it when there’s nothing to be positive about but even before our fate in League One was sealed there was of course a raft of it. I’ve heard it say that some Sunderland fans are inherently and willfully negative, and I’m inclined to agree. Ordinarily I tend to empathise but the ceaseless fatalism is something that feels like nails on a chalkboard to me.

Dear Roker Report,

George Honeyman has been discussed half to death for almost 12 months and I’m sick of it. I seem to be part of a small group speaking in his defence (the Roundtable discussion did point out some merits while saying “must do better”) and I’m honestly wondering if some of his detractors watch the same team. The comment threads make lamentable reading.

Some of the criticism is “he’s too small, lazy, doesn’t care”. A lot of this smacks of Mag/Man U style arrogance, “we should be winning the league, get rid of this useless lot”. Would they hand out the same abuse to McGeady when he dithers and loses the ball? Who knows what effect this negativity can have on a player? Yet if Honeyman has a drop in form, it’ll be “see, told you he was rubbish”, without thinking of the impact they might have had on his self-belief.

I’d love to know, apart from the goals/assists stats, how his stats match up. I’m confident his passing, tackling, metres run etc. would be amongst the highest in the team. Honeyman for me, does all the simple passing, support play, tracking back, all the important bits of playing football in fact, and does it well. I’m certain we’ve played better with him than without him - do the stats/results match that?

Honeyman wasn’t my player of the season, but he was an integral part of the side in my eyes and presumably in Jack Ross’s eyes. We don’t see what goes on behind the scenes, but he presumably is a leader in the dressing room and in training. Like Cattermole and Leadbitter no doubt are. There’s a bigger picture and if our captain doesn’t grab the headlines because he played the pass before the pass before the assist, or because he made the dummy run down the side so the striker can have space to shoot - quite frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.

George, if you’re reading this, you’re bloody great; take the football lessons from people you respect and forget the rest.

Chris Pearson

Ed’s Note [Damian]: I mentioned in the first response of this article that I would encourage the gentleman to seek out those stats; heat maps, miles covered, comparisons between players from other teams and players around him, comparisons made between others in the role, etc.

I really wish I had them to hand to simply stop this argument dead in it’s tracks, but the issue there is that Premier League football is covered by a thousand different media outlets and dozens of organisations that focus on statistical analysis, which due to their abundance can typically be accessed for free or a relative pittance. League One is a very different story, because while there are sites that hold some of that relevant information they’re actually rather specialist and cost an obscene amount of money for a subscription.

Being a not-for-profit fan outlet with just enough moolah to keep the lights on, Roker Report simply doesn’t have ready access to those kind of details. In an ideal world I’d point to a link and that would be enough to quieten most detractors, but it simply isn’t feasible because the interest isn’t there.

Of course, most Sunderland fans watch as many games as they possibly can, and so they can trust with their own eyes what they see. Clearly though, as also mentioned above, we see what we want to see and refuse to let other opinions (and sometimes even what’s in front of us) spoil the opinion we’ve gleefully decided to keep, regardless of any evidence to the contrary.

When all is said and done I’m confident George Honeyman will weather this storm, though I have to admit it makes me angry that some are so willing to turn on their own purely to have an emotional outlet and a paper face to throw darts at. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that promotion will see the vast majority of his detractors crawl under a rock and try to forget they ever waxed lyrical about his supposed misgivings in the first place.

Here’s hoping!