Dear Roker Report,
I’ve been reading a lot about our younger players and the need to loan some of them out and this is a subject I’ve written to you about before. I’d have to say that I don’t think we’re doing ourselves any favours and more accurately, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot. In many respects, I think we’re a League One club that still has a Premier League mentality.
Let’s take Embleton as an example. Had we been in the Championship or Premiership we wouldn’t have been loaning him to any team below League One, so why are we doing it now?
The same would apply to Kimpioka and Mumba either this season or next. Every time they’ve been involved in our first team, they’ve certainly not looked out of place and that tells me we need to keep them here next season, not loan them out to somebody else.
In recent weeks we’ve heard an awful lot about our young prospects leaving and others stalling on new contracts but quite honestly, who can blame them?
This is exactly why our younger players seem to be happy to leave rather than stay - we’re just not inclined to give them a chance. My impression is that with Sunderland, we see loans as essential as we naturally assume that these young players aren’t good enough because we’re a ‘big club’ but right now, we’re not.
We have a big stadium and a big crowd and a history of being a big club but right now we’re a League One club with Championship aspirations and all of these players I’ve mentioned are League One players with Championship (or higher) aspirations.
Did ANY of the players we brought in on loan this season really add more than we would have had from Embleton, Kimpioka and Mumba? I honestly don’t think so and if that’s the case, we’re not doing ourselves any favours.
The fabled ‘Dortmund model’ is our future and our salvation so we have to do more than talk about it if it is going to work. I can’t see either Dortmund or Ajax bringing in the loan players we did this season and I equally don’t see either Dortmund or Ajax farming them out next season to clubs even further down the football pyramid than us. I’ve said it before and it’s still true that while a young player at clubs like Dortmund and Ajax have a better and faster route into their first teams than youngsters at Sunderland, we’ll never make this ‘Dortmund model’ work for us.
The fact is that we HAVE to use these players, we have to recruit with the aim of using this model and we have to devote our entire operation, from the youngest prospects to the first team players, to developing a clear style of football that is identifiably ‘Sunderland’ as only then will we secure our long term future.
Ed’s Note [Gav]: For me - and I wrote about this extensively on the site yesterday - you have to judge each player individually rather than talking about them as a group, and consider that the best thing FOR THE PLAYER and their development is to let them progress steadily.
Elliot Embleton was ready to play first team football this season, but since we couldn’t guarantee he’d start many games (don’t forget he would have realistically been competing either with Aiden McGeady on the left, or Max Power in the middle) he was allowed to leave and go out on loan at Grimsby, where he was one of their best players and most definitely benefited from the experience.
Now, after playing a full season of competitive football for the first time, Embleton is ready to return to Sunderland and genuinely contend for a spot in our starting XI.
Because we couldn’t guarantee him those minutes LAST season, he went elsewhere and proved himself as capable. I think that this is crucial to the development and progression of ALL young players, and is the logical progression path that we should have in place for every young player that we see as having the potential to play first team football at Sunderland.
I don’t agree with your stance on the loanees either. How many of the young players we brought in on loan played regular first team football? Jerome Sinclair couldn’t get a sniff and was sent back to Watford early, Lewis Morgan flitted in and out of the side, Kazaiah Sterling barely made the matchday squads and Jimmy Dunne was merely backup and actually found himself behind Alim Ozturk in the pecking order come season’s end.
Ultimately, all it proves is that those players were brought in to plug the gaps and add competition for places, and nothing more.
Let’s say we didn’t loan Morgan and kept Embleton - how much would he have benefited from playing a role largely outside of the starting XI in comparison to the experience he gained from playing every single week in League Two?
Ultimately we need to accept that this is the most logical path for developing your best young players. I firmly believe that they will not be ready to play first team football here until they’ve gone elsewhere and proven they can mix it in men’s football.
I’d be disappointed if Bali Mumba and Benji Kimpioka were considered first-teamers at the start of next season because it’s clear that they’re still too young and raw, and need a season away from Sunderland where they can play 30 or 40 games of competitive football.
They need to go and get some experience of playing for half a season or so, prove themselves as capable and then come back as better players who are more ready to play for our first team. It’s logical and, in my opinion, is the best thing for their development.
Dear Roker Report,
Heart breaking end to the season probably the worst we played all season. At the start of season after the Scunthorpe game I thought we were going to walk this league - how wrong I was.
Mistake one: making Honeyman club captain - to me there was better experienced candidates at the club; he showed zilch leadership skills. He’s got plenty of heart but not good enough.
Mistake two: selling Maja, and the replacements have either been injured or been to inexperienced.
Mistake three: tactics. Not pushing on when taking the lead in matches trying to defend when obviously we didn’t have the players to do this.
Mistake four: recruitment. Signing Leadbitter made no sense, we had four similar players in the squad we needed pace and physical presence in the team.
The cure needed is a change in tactics and the need for pace and more strength in the team - too many times we were bullied during games.
This year the manager will live or die by the sword, he has the opportunity to put his stamp on the team by the players he signs. Big decisions need to be made, I think Gooch and Honeyman have had there chance and blown it and it’s time to move on.
The defence needs two solid centre halves - Baldwin must be history, not mentioned after the Coventry game - Ross obviously doesn’t fancy him.
The fans backed the team to the hilt this season and deserve to watch good football, so come on Stewart and Charlie, fund the manager to the max lets see a hundred point season.
Ed’s Note [Gav]: I’ll address each of your four points individually.
1) Honeyman as captain. I don’t believe this was detrimental to our season - perhaps people don’t really understand what the role of club captain entails. In fact, the job of captain is arguably a larger one off the pitch that we as fans have absolutely no idea about. On the pitch, I’d be disappointed if our team only had one person considered as a ‘leader’ - in fact, in games we have players all over the park who take up leadership roles in the side and just because Honeyman wears the armband, it does not mean he’s the man everyone looks to for guidance.
2) Selling Maja. I agree, this in hindsight was a huge mistake and it would have made more sense to keep him until his contract was up, thus saving ourselves £3m or so when signing Will Grigg. I say this with the benefit of hindsight though, as at the time I was happy with the business that we’d done. Ultimately, Grigg has not yet met expectation, nor did he replace the goals we lost when Maja left.
3) Tactics. I felt that as the season progressed, Ross reverted further and further back into his shell and became more reliant on safety than he had done in the first half of the season. We had the players to play a more expansive style but he often preferred to play a long ball style which occasionally worked but was not pretty on the eye. We became too reliant on the individual quality of Aiden McGeady, and players like Lynden Gooch appeared to suffer as his game became less about taking his man on and crossing the ball and, instead, working hard up and down as we aimed to contain our opponents and cover for the fact certain players weren’t necessarily the best defensively.
4) Recruitment. This is where I feel we got it badly wrong, and failed to address the issues that looked obvious to us in January when we were desperate for power and pace all over the park. Tony Coton and Richard Hill, in my view, failed. The messing around of Lyle Taylor came back to bite us on the arse as he went on to become the best player in the division, possessing qualities that the rest of our attackers ultimately lack.
Dear Roker Report,
One reason I think the atmosphere at games, home usually, is the lack of decent chants we have. “Sunderland till I die” .... ”are by far the greatest team”...... ”we’ll keep the red flag” seem the only options these days and a verse and a half of each doesn’t really generate much.
What was that Charlton bounced along to?
Wish we had a catchy one like that.
Ed’s Note [Gav]: I’d love us to have some originality. Get creative with our chants, accept that in order to craft an atmosphere in 2019 you need to be open to trying new things, and go from there. Sadly it seems Sunderland supporters are unwilling to do so, so I expect the atmosphere at games will only continue to get worse.
Dear Roker Report,
On how many fans were there [at Wembley] - 40k Charlton, 34k Sunderland.
How many would Charlton have had there if it was played at say Newcastle or Leeds, and had been there twice?
I think half.
We did great for the venue and the two times we were there, get real statisticians.
Ed’s Note [Gav]: I agree. I absolutely skinted myself to be there and I have no doubt that many thousands of others did the same, all on just over a week’s notice.