Dear Roker Report,
“Give 100% every game and the fans will love you.”
Must of heard this phrase thousands of times from fans, players and pundits on Sunderland fans. Well I’m sorry it’s the biggest lie on Wearside, and poor George Honeyman is the biggest example I can give of this.
I’ve followed SAFC for 30 years and have seen some of the laziest, frustrating, biggest mercenaries of a footballer you could wish to see and they haven’t had anywhere near as much stick as Honeyman has.
To be honest I’m totally embarrassed by it.
When we got relegated from the Premiership I was quite happy to be honest. All the mercenaries were departing and it seemed like we were starting fresh and we were going to build this new model around young hungry local lads.
We have in a way but it hasn’t quite worked. But I tell you what, give me these lads over any of the rubbish I seen over the last 3/4 years.
Are Honeyman, Gooch, Robson good enough? Yeah I do think so, but the reaction to them when things aren’t going well is well over the top, and because Honeyman is the mouthpiece and genuinely loves the club and I highly doubt anyone wants this club to be more successful than him makes him a scapegoat.
I’ve had to delete a few ‘friends’ off twitter because nearly every day they are tweeting about mainly him, Gooch and Robson saying they aren’t good enough. These people have been to a handful of games over the last 3 years, read a few tweets, jump on them and shout the loudest.
If Honeyman isn’t good enough then so be it. He will eventually get dropped, sold or whatever but don’t just tweet and shout how much you ‘hate’ him. Because to hate him he must be taking the p**s out of our club and that couldn’t be further from the truth.
The phrase people are jumping on is he doesn’t create/score enough. Well he does both. Maybe not 20 goals and 20 assists but he does both.
There isn’t a number 10 in league one that does do that or they wouldn’t be in league one. So remember where we are and trust these lads to deliver.
Ed’s Note [Damian]: I’m one of the group that couldn’t agree more Ricky. I’ve whiled away many hours trying to highlight the intricacies of the young man’s game, or simply emphasising the value of a homegrown talent that successfully competes within the squad, particularly after all the dross you’ve pointed out has come and gone in our recent history. They say “familiarity breeds contempt” and I’d be inclined to believe it was true if I hadn’t seen Lee Cattermole cover himself in sh*t a hundred times yet still come up smelling of roses.
The problem, I think, is two-fold: firstly, all supporters crave success and to enable that as a possibility they have to believe that we can always do better. Potentially, there are better players or just those more suited to the roles in which Honeyman has been utilised, and we could theoretically pursue them. Secondly, social media creates an echo chamber that bounces bad opinions around to eventually land squarely back at the feet of those that conjured them up, for whatever reason that is.
The problem with the first is that none of us are unfamiliar with the situation at Sunderland AFC. We know money is tight, we know we’re in League One and we know intrinsically that any marked improvement is going to come at a relatively high cost.
Since, statistically speaking, Honeyman is one of our most effective central midfielders, if not the most effective, the areas of improvement that should take priority in this squad are not his own. Stewart Donald himself has alluded to this on the Roker Rapport podcast, stating how many central midfielders we have in the same breath as discussing transfers. Replacing Honeyman isn’t something the backroom staff, in all of their not-inconsiderable wisdom, deem necessary, and quite rightly in my opinion.
The second issue is of a much broader spectrum and I’m afraid it runs far deeper than the simple fickleness of football support. Even without the ridiculously negative buffs of social media, being the centre of attention for an apathetic crowd isn’t the best place to be. There’s a spotlight shining on the position of captain within the squad and never more so than when it’s given to a “controversial” figure. As a young man there would always have been inherent doubt from sections of the support that he could handle the job in the way each fan personally deems effective, but wedded with the doubt and insecurity of our fall from grace, that spotlight and the scrutiny it brings make a perfect storm.
Nevertheless, our manager persists with his belief in George Honeyman and once he’s injury free he has every opportunity to sway his detractors. I’m almost glad, in a way, that circumstance sees him keeping his armband and his name on the team sheet, simply so that he has that opportunity. I’m confident that he will.