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Fan Letters: End of season ramblings...

RR reader Simon Hetherington offers up his assessment of the season, indicating that whilst ultimately it ended in disappointment we have lots to build and improve on.

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Ownership

The club was in an absolute free-fall when Donald arrived, both on and off the pitch.

He and his team have, so it seems, done a fantastic job to steady the ship financially, making the club lean and, at least more than the previous ownership, asking the right questions to get the club on the right track to becoming financially stable in the (hopefully not too distant) future.

Their other big win has to be creating an environment which has resulted in the fans wanting to turn up again in numbers, especially the buzz from day one and the amount of season tickets they were able to convince people to buy. 10/10 for off-the-pitch matters.

On the pitch, how much can they be blamed for ultimately missing their goal?

Everyone will have their opinion I’m sure.

They employed who they believed to be the right people for the job and backed them throughout, without getting too involved in the football matters (at least it would seem from the outside). Is that not all we would expect from owners?

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Manager

My personal opinion is that we should keep Jack Ross.

Despite a long list of things that worry me from this season… mainly not having been able to identify his best or preferred players, squad, formation, approach etc. after 60 games… I still think he deserves another chance to get the job done correctly.

He is a young manager and, whilst he has not learnt from mistakes anywhere near quick enough throughout the season, he strikes me as someone who will sit down now and analyse in depth where exactly things have gone wrong throughout the season, where and why points were dropped, and build a plan to rectify that next season.

Whether or not that plan will be successful, who knows?

But surely, for consistency, it’s worth a shot? At least, in my opinion, we should keep faith with him through the start of next season and see where we are after 10 games.

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

Players

This, in my opinion, is where most questions need to be asked and I’m struggling to answer a number of them. Was this squad a 5th placed League One side or have we massively underachieved?

It’s a squad filled with Premier League, Championship, League One (winning) experience; even some international, Champions League and Europa League experience.

Surely those players need to stand up and take a large part of the blame for this season?

I think the squad lacks a lot of qualities, particularly in the centre back position and in pace and power going forward; but still with the budget they absorb as a team and experience they possess, this has to be where fingers are pointed surely?

It will certainly be an interesting summer ahead to see which players we choose to move on, which we can’t keep and what positions the manager feels need reinforcing.

Hopefully it’ll not be as big as a shake up as we’ve seen in recent years, as we know that never helps, but definitely ‘action’ ahead with players moving and definitely gaps to fill.

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Fans

The supporters deserve massive credit for turning out from day one.

Delivering record home attendances for a League One side; selling out away games up and down the country; selling more season tickets than the previous year, despite back to back relegations… the list is endless.

My only concern for our fanbase, not that the fans themselves are to blame, is that we seem to be an incredibly nervous bunch and quick to fall into negative mode.

Like I said, I don’t think the fans are to blame, it’s a result of all of the known let downs in our recent history and fan’s quickly thinking “here we go again”.

I do think however that, regardless of what the Manager might say, it does rub off on the players (again, rightly or wrongly).

It will be interesting to see the attendances next season. I suspect there will be a dip to begin with, but hopefully we get off to a good start and they creep up again as the hope also creeps back in.

Not that I have any answers, but we do need to find a way to improve the atmosphere - not just the singing side of things, but the mindset.

I imagine the only way to really get that going again is to bring some success to the club.

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Other

I think the PR and social media content from the club is streets ahead of previous years - I presume as a result of Charlie’s input/background, but regardless, worth a mention.

The improvement in the SOL also, both the seats and more recently the flag display in the Roker End, are great improvements and steps in the right direction again.

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What’s next?

Christ knows, but I’m sure everyone is in that annual phase – End of May: “2 months without football and SAFC, bliss”; July: “it’s been too long now, roll on August”.

There are loads of unanswered questions and an even longer ramble than expected (queue the shredder), but I’m afraid my less than glittering Sunday league career and Football Manager childhood experiences leaves me a bit short of the knowledge to answer them all!