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Fan Letters: “I’m concerned by the sheer lack of non-British players at Sunderland!”

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“Players with flair generally comes at a price in English football. I’m concerned that Sunderland have no system in place to spot talents around the globe” writes RR reader Adarsh Dinesh. What do you think? Email us: RokerReport@Yahoo.co.uk!

Dear Roker Report,

My previous message to Roker Report was back in the heady days of Autumn 2018, when it seemed likely that SAFC would return to the Championship on first time of asking.

Despite the disappointments at Wembley, I enjoyed watching 50-odd matches, and only listening to those televised in the U.K., through the streaming link. A few weeks ago, a Lads’ follower in the Caribbean complained about having to choose between video and audio. It took me just a few weeks to realize you can easily have both. One just needs to separately right click on both features on the SAFC site. Then you can watch the streamed video, while listening to the play-by-play. They may be slightly out of synch though. This year’s international service appears to have been improved over last years, with a running score, occasional replays, and the entire match available to re-watch.

Leaving the vagaries of far-away support, I want to state my appreciation for the services provided by your splendid group of local supporters.

Each morning (around noon in Sunderland), Roker Report is usually the first site I access for news. All of your regular contributors seem to deal with the ups and downs of following the fortunes of the Black Cats with a measure of good sense.

As an example, I could mention Gav’s article on the departure of Robbin Ruiter; and there are many other analyses, by various authors, that are just as cogent.

Besides reading the Report, I try to avoid missing any Roker Rapport podcasts. In addition to using the computer, I am also set up to listen on my cell phone.

Keep up the good work! We can all hope to be entering a season of automatic promotion.

Craig Grape

Ed’s Note [Gav]: Thanks so much for taking the time to say that Craig, it honestly means the world. What people outside of our group probably don’t realise is just how much work goes in behind the scenes to ensure what we’re putting out is of good, varied quality as we attempt to cover every angle from the perspective of the average Sunderland fan. Stay tuned as we roll out even more ideas over the coming year!

Roker Rapport Podcast

Dear Roker Report,

Plans for the new season are well and truly on and I think the squad is getting into good shape. With Oviedo leaving, buying a left back and a number ten should probably complete the squad with 3-5-2 the preferred formation this season. A pacy winger who could take on people could be a luxury.

Through this letter I’m not trying to put on a negative thought.

I’m concerned by the sheer lack of non British players in our squad as it would have helped us to unearth better value for money that we have always had over the years, like Zenden, Kirchhoff, M’Vila to name few.

Players with flair generally comes at a price in English football. I’m concerned that Sunderland have no system in place to spot talents around the globe. That would genuinely help our club to be self sufficient in terms of players up to an extent.

Adarsh Dinesh

Ed’s Note [Damian]: Namaste Adarsh!

As it happens we have no less than 20 British players in our first team squad and 4 of the transfers in so far are indeed British, and so I take your point to some extent.

Is there an argument for “britishness”, as David Moyes put it? I’m not convinced. Don’t get me wrong - there should be a backbone to any team and one would think that in Britain it would be a British backbone, but in truth that’s more about a strange kind of aesthetic than any tactical decision, and tactically is how teams should really be built.

On the financial side of things it’s true that you can pick up bargains from abroad, but as you say this requires an extensive scouting network with solid resources and dependable staff. The issue here is that Sunderland AFC have lived for many years now in a state of flux and that affects every facet of life at the club. Stability is part of the design going forward and hopefully we can watch our scouting network grow into the kind of model that will benefit us financially and on the pitch.

Equally there are other issues with foreign players that can be just as damaging as the details of their contract. Homesickness is a massive problem among that category, for example. Often when players are brought in from abroad the club will be providing accommodation for themselves and their families, and any number of unforeseen psychological setbacks can come to the fore, rendering a player that seemed prolific in France into a stumbling fool in England as he struggles to balance his new life. It isn’t something you can adequately plan for or compensate for without an elite infrastructure. It may not even be worth the hassle for someone coming in to a contract with League One wages.

The left back is liked a cursed role for Sunderland, in that we never seem capable of truly filling it. Our best left backs in recent years have been brought in on loan and the only mainstay of any debatable quality would be Patrick van Aanholt, who we made a killing on in a rare display of shrewd business.

When all is said and done I believe we can (and have) improve the squad with localised players that will suit the environment and have only to focus on keeping the standard of their game as high as possible. I don’t think we’ve ruled out foreign players but I think it would be fair to say that for where we are we’re bringing in the right sort of people to help us push forward.

Sunderland v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

It was interesting to read on Roker Report people’s different views on team selections and tactics for the forthcoming season. I would like to see Sunderland adapt a 3-4-1-2 system.

To begin with I would play the same back three that played against Heerenveen. But provided everyone is fit I would play Maguire in the middle with either McGeouch or Dobson. O’Nien on the right of midfield with Hume on left. McGeady behind two strikers.

I feel Grigg needs a striking partner, either Wyke or McNulty.

Watmore, Gooch, Honeyman, Power, Leadbitter, Embleton to contest places on the bench.

David Paterson

Ed’s Note [Gav]: I’ve thought over this long and hard, and long term I guess it’s impossible to say “this should be Sunderland’s team” because ultimately our perception of a player can change on the back of one poor performance.

For the weekend I’d be tempted to go with the following: J McLaughlin; C McLaughlin, Willis, Flanagan; O’Nien, Dobson, Power, Hume; Embleton, McGeady; McNulty.

I’m basing that mainly on pre-season performances. McNulty scoring a hattrick yesterday is reason enough to start him over Wyke or Grigg, neither of whom have hit the back of the net in our practice games. I stewed over who should partner George Dobson in the middle but ultimately settled on Max Power, as I feel someone with leadership qualities needs to start the match and Power is a better option than Grant Leadbitter at this stage.