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Fan Letters: Sunderland owners have proven their worth already - do we demand too much too soon?

“Why are so many supporters less sympathetic and perhaps less understanding towards where this club was when they bought it, and where it is at right now?” asks RR reader Craig Scott. Got an opinion? Share it with us -!

Dear Roker Report,

I’m writing to ask you for your opinion on why you think there are so many supporters who do not seem to be behind what the current owners are trying to do with the club.

From what I can see - they’re in a pretty tough spot whereby they must cut costs wherever they can while trying to keep us competitive in League One. And in fairness you can probably say that they’ve done a decent job of that. We had a strong squad last season (perhaps even on the heavy side, hence the need to cut players this summer), spent big on signing Will Grigg, and backed the manager with the funds he needed to add to his squad with good quality. The big criticism would be that our recruitment wasn’t great, and that the manager didn’t get enough out of the players he had, but I’m not sure how much of that blame deserves to be appropriated to our owners.

I’m guessing you can tell that I am sympathetic towards the situation they inherited, and I think I’m a rational person/fan. Why are so many supporters less sympathetic and perhaps less understanding towards where this club was when they bought it, and where it is at right now? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts/hearing whether you agree with my viewpoint.

Craig Scott

Ed’s Note [Damian]: It’s a big question Craig, and one I’ve striven to answer on many occasions.

I imagine the owners would agree with your assessment: namely that they’ve supported the backroom staff and enabled the recruitment team to do their job, whilst working towards the sustainable model that we all pined for in our yo-yo, see-saw, rollercoaster ride in the bottom end of the Premier League.

Because it’s such a big question you’ll have to forgive me if I don’t cover it entirely here - it would take a book or seven to truly identify and explain the myriad factors involved in the reasoning of those that see the current owners as an establishment to be suspicious of. Having said that, I’m of the opinion that a great deal is made of instant gratification, or lack thereof, in modern football and modern life in general. I’m not saying that to expect immediate success - or at least the evidence of sturdy progress - is an ignoble desire, but rather that it can be hard to define, chiefly because it depends entirely on personal perspective and the demands of each supporter/customer as an individual.

The overarching want of Sunderland supporters is a return for their investment of time and money, in the form of bragging rights among the supporters of other clubs. That’s the end-game when it comes to following the footy. Our society teaches that reward is often worth risk, and that money solves most problems, and so the answer seems quite simple to those who aren’t familiarised with the painstaking detail of day to day operations. While this is true on paper, much like the winning formula for a team it isn’t a simple problem to work with. It won’t ever be as simple as saying “look, we’ve got McGeady, we’ve got Leadbitter, we’ve got Grigg; let’s go f*****g win something!” It’s a solid theory on paper but a thousand uncontrollable factors are involved in the real-terms equation, as there are in recruitment and most aspects of general club management.

This is something that, as customers, we might difficult to come to terms with.

As customers we’re told we’re part of the club, and that our opinion matters. This sentiment only runs skin-deep though, for while we are indeed a vital component of the continuing existence of Sunderland AFC, we are in fact relatively ignorant of those intricacies that might prevent our desires being immediately realised. This isn’t something that’s always foremost in our thoughts when we’re being told that it’s “one club, your club”. The aim of those words are psychological in nature, and that’s because they conjure false notions of what is expected of us as fans.

The narrative is that we stand together and fall together - that every bit of effort we put in will be returned. The reality is that we pay to sustain the opportunity for our club to thrive under the guidance of someone else. To not trust the owners with that task - particularly with little to no evidence suggesting that they aren’t up to the task - is, then, unreasonable. Again, particularly considering that the opposite of the above is true; the owners have hauled the club back from a financial brink that it wouldn’t have survived tumbling off.

Are they the best people in the whole world to bring Sunderland AFC the success fans crave? Who knows? Time will tell. We can say with certainty that nowhere near enough time has passed to judge that they aren’t. Missing out on promotion at the first time of asking is a failure of sorts for everyone involved with the club at management level, but it can’t be said that the owners haven’t made a case for their aptitude and willingness, and invariably the buck truly stops on the pitch and in the dressing room - a place no owner goes to.

In a year’s time perhaps we may feel the righteous desire to challenge their suitability in our wider future as a club (hopefully not) but looking at the story so far they’ve done enough to have earned a little more trust and a little more patience, in my humble opinion. We fought relegation after relegation and each time we survived by the skin of our teeth and came back baying for big bags of cash to bandage up the wounds, and when eventually there was no more money to patch us up we succumbed to the cumulative effects of a war of attrition. We know for certain that throwing money at our problems is like pissing into the tide and expecting it to turn, so we should be open-minded when we’ve got committed people coming at it from another angle. For now, at least.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I have already stated in earlier mails that Bryan Oviedo is the only real choice for that position, however we must get rid of him because of the astronomical wages he’s being paid for a third tier footballer.

That leaves us with Denver Hume, unfortunately. He’s okay going forward even though he only has a left foot (as his right is for standing only) but he simply can’t defend, and as a full back that is the priority.

Again last night [against Belenenses] he got turned inside out for their goal, and it will happen throughout the season if he is playing there.

So... what will Jack Ross do?

The policy is 1 out 1 in, if Oviedo leaves then he must get a decent left back to be first choice. I’m sure a good free agent on a quarter of Oviedo’s wages will be better than Hume.

Ron Scrafton

Ed’s Note [Damian]: I wouldn’t be so sure of that Ron.

Our full back spots are becoming infamously problematic now. We’ve struggled for years to put solid, owned players in that position and inevitably we either end up with a talented (or not) loanee, or a mediocre full-timer. I’m not Oviedo’s biggest fan and it’s accurate to say that he’s so-so since his initial performance on first arriving, and as one of the highest earning players I completely agree that we need shot of him before the window is done.

When it comes to Denver Hume though I’m quite excited at the prospect of giving him the opportunity to fight for that spot. I’ve seen a little bit of him in his various appearances for the U23s and seniors, and I find him quite exciting. Admittedly his performance hasn’t been wonderful in pre-season so far but not many in the squad can claim otherwise.

I think there’s evident talent there and that the circumstances the club are in will provide ample opportunity to demonstrate said talent, but he has to take the chance. I wouldn’t be adverse to competition for him and I don’t think that’s going to be Brian Oviedo going into the season, so it’ll be interesting to see who they bring in.

Portsmouth v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Play-off - Semi Final - Second Leg - Fratton Park Photo by Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty Images

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