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Fan Letters: “Forget physicality - Sunderland need to sign and develop technical players!”

“Fans need to stop calling for signings which are ‘big’ and ‘physical’, and back the manager to develop a system using technical players which allows us to play better football” says RR reader Jay Hughes. Email us:!

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Fans need to stop calling for signings which are ‘big’ and ‘physical’, and back the manager to develop a system using technical players which allows us to play better football.

The argument that league 1 is physical, so we need physical players, is too short sighted. Ultimately the reason it’s so physical is because that’s where players in that mould peak. There’s a reason the more physical teams are stuck in mid table. We need players who can develop and compete in the leagues above.

Our best players; McGeady, O’Nien, Leadbitter, Catts, aren’t 6ft+ monsters. Their intelligence and technique is what made them stand out. We should be aiming to sign, or better yet develop from the academy, players who can play technical football. I would argue we should prioritise this vision, even if in the short term it means we don’t get promoted.

Jay Hughes

Ed’s Note [Gav]: Completely disagree. Had Sunderland had 5/6 physical players in their armoury this season we would have gone up, I completely believe that. We drew far too many games and in many of them we were drawn into physical battles that we struggled to compete in.

None of our midfielders are above 6ft, and in games against ‘weaker’ opposition it often showed (Wycombe at home and Scunthorpe away are two that spring to mind).

The methodical, technical style that works at the top end of the Championship does not work in League One. You have to be prepared to out-battle teams before you outwit them.

Gillingham v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I totally hold the blame on Jack Ross shoulders he is the one who picks the team’s week in week out .His tactics and team choice through out the season has been wrong from start to finish you always do your homework first before playing certain teams or watch videos to see where there strengths are and weaknesses and put out a team to exploit the opposition

Too many times throughout the season he played the same team regardless of who we were playing ,a perfect example was against Coventry where we were completely out played by the pace of the front men of Coventry and the defenders we had playing that day couldn’t cope

Neil Turnbull

Ed’s Note [Gav]: Well, what I would say is that I’m pretty sure Jack Ross will have watched tapes of the opposition teams in the build up to games, it’s pretty standard stuff.

Ultimately I think two things hamstrung Ross as the season wore on - poor recruitment, in which we never addressed the key issues the squad faced with a lack of pace and physicality, and the fact he became less willing to take risks with his team selections. He got comfortable playing with Cattermole, Honeyman and Leadbitter, while the fact McGeady kept pulling us out of bad situations with his individual quality quickly became a crutch for a more pragmatic style of play.

Ross has to go away and learn from his mistakes. He has to have a style of play in mind that will get the best out of the two strikers he has, and has to sign players who will offer this team the type of physicality and pace it was missing last season. If he does then I have no doubt we’ll get promoted.

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

Dear Roker Report,

My dad took me to my first match in the 1950s and I’m fast approaching my 69th birthday. Always gone to the match and been a season ticket holder for nearly half a century. But that doesn’t make my opinion any more valid than anyone else. But here’s couple of brief and random post-Wembley thoughts.

I had an amazing panoramic view of Wembley from my seat virtually on the half way line in the 3rd row of the top shelf. They may have sold slightly more tickets, but there was just as many empty seats on the Charlton side of the stadium. So lets stop beating ourselves up about it.

As for vocal support, can you imagine Liverpool deciding to ‘build an atmosphere’ in Anfield by playing ear-bleedingly loud, boringly repetitive drum and base instead of letting the Kop sing “You’ll never walk alone”. The fans are drowned out at SOL, so its no wonder the singing has died a death.

But on that subject, I hated the incessant Charlton drum. Proper football fans just don’t need that crap (or worse still a band).

I’m still totally baffled how or why a whole team decided to fall back after being gifted that fluke goal so early. Surely every instinct would have been to put a visibly nervous defence under more pressure. How does a whole team decide to retreat and just wait for the opposition to re-organise?. Its completely counter-intuitive, so the instruction must have come from the bench.

If you have 2 small & lightweight midfielders who’s overall contribution is so similar that shouldn’t ever be picked in the same team, why on earth would you substitute your most likely goalscorer instead?

Despite many frustrations I’m still opposed to sacking the manager so quickly. He needs bigger, faster, stronger players up the backbone of the team. Coventry weren’t a highly skilled team but they repeatedly ran 5 or 6 players straight through our midfield. We need some of that physicality – now! If he gets those resources, he can be given specific realistic objectives to be measured against. So I welcome the chairman’s 100 points target.

Mike Ellison

Ed’s Note [Gav]: Agree with most of that, though I do think we have to bring ourselves into the 21st century with regards to how we build an atmosphere (though not necessarily through drums!) and that our fanbase ought to embrace modern methods as most other clubs around the country and world do.

That aside, I feel your point on physicality is bang on. Regular readers of fan letters must be sick of me going on about it but it’s because it’s true - we are desperately lacking in athletic, big players who will compliment the smaller more technical players well.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I have been a Sunderland supporter for 33 years despite being from Newcastle and growing up and living in Leeds. My children are all Sunderland supporters too and I took them to their first game on Boxing Day where they met Charlie Methven, George Honeyman, Adam Matthews and Ethan Robson. What an amazing experience.

The only disappointment was Charlie said that I should buy my kids some new shirts which I can’t afford, a little bit of understanding of what the fans go through to support the club goes a very long way.

The fans who made it to Wembley twice are genuinely skint and disappointed. The line up was defensive in a must win game. The bench did not include the pace of Watmore or Gooch but instead a loan player who has left.

Charlton had injury prone Williams who ran at us caused us problems and won them free kicks. I really like Jack Ross and think he is the right man for the job but he needs to learn a lesson from last season, 19 draws if we had killed only 4 of them games off and lost 4 trying we would of been promoted easily with the difference, Luton had a far weaker team but they kept on going and going even if they were 3 0 up they wanted a fourth.

Our defence has been weak this season so don’t sit back when we are 1-0 up inviting teams to equalise - next season we need to push on. Sunderland till I die.

John McVitte

Ed’s Note [Gav]: I was disappointed with the team that started the game. All it did was tell me that we had no intention of going out to attack Charlton, and the early goal probably compounded that feeling in Jack Ross’ mind as it gave us something to defend and cling on to. I’d have much rather seen us go out there and have a go, and if we had lost the game then fair enough - at least we tried. The fact we barely had a shot on target was galling.

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