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Fan Letters: Readers discuss whether someone like Mike Ashley would be welcome at Sunderland

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Udo and Kenny would welcome Mike Ashley to Sunderland, and Robert thinks player safety should determine fate of League One. Got something to say? Email us: RokerReport@Yahoo.co.uk!

Newcastle United v Leicester City - Premier League Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I agree wholeheartedly with your contributors who say that we should end the League One season now. It is NOT safe to play football and it saddens me to hear Jim Rodwell or anyone else who might purport to speak on behalf of our club using the kind of unpleasant - and, in fact, quite insulting and inflammatory - language on the club website against other League One clubs who want to finish the season now! Jim runs the risk, in his very first test, of placing us on the wrong side of the argument both practically and morally.

SAFC have furloughed players. That doesn’t sit well with many of us. Now I hear Jim arguing that League One MUST be played to a conclusion?? Jim, there is more to life than money! If the antics of this government help create a second ‘spike’ in the virus, it is entirely possibly that supporters who are apparently healthy now may find themselves in the unfortunate position where they become infected. Some may even not survive to be in their seats next season. Let’s hope not, but let’s also get a grip on what’s important just now.

If we stay in League One for another season, then that’s because we deserve to. We had our chance to be higher than this. We sacked a decent guy in Jack Ross when his side was in the top six (I don’t buy the argument that we picked a manager in him who was inexperienced in England - so was Alex Ferguson and so was Bill Shankly until both ventured south!). He was doing just fine until we lost Josh Maja!

Phil Parkinson’s side took time to evolve. We are where we are. I don’t blame him. I just want us to be grown up about a public health crisis during which we need to focus on preserving lives so that as many of us can watch football again when it’s safe for us to!

Robert Crosby

Ed’s Note [Rich]: The first responsibility of an employer is always to ensure the safety of their employees, and you’re right, Robert, that there is no feasible prospect of League 1 returning safely in the near future.

Footballers are workers who provide us with entertainment. They are relatively well paid to do so, but the principle that universal workers rights cannot be exchanged for enumeration applies to them as much as anyone else. They are people with families, their health and safety is simply more important than our desire to watch football or conclude a competition.

The suggestion by Sunderland AFC, in their statement this week, that that other clubs in League 1 have freely chosen to end the season early, rather than being left with no choice due to the public health and financial implications of doing so, is cynical almost in the extreme.

It has only the short-term interests of our three shareholders, rather than the interests of the workers and the game as a whole, in mind. It uses the emotions of our fans, and the idea of sporting integrity, as cover for a gamble that we can achieve promotion in the final nine games of the season. As it is clear that the cost of testing alone would be enough to send many cash-strapped clubs into administration if not liquidation, the lack of solitary shown by Sunderland and the other five promotion-seeking League 1 clubs who seek to pay games behind closed doors is truly galling.

Football should return only when the safety of every workers involved, and sustainability of every club, can be ensured. England is not in the same situation as Germany, where well funded public services have resulted in a relatively low death rate from Covid-19. From my vantage point, still under lockdown in Wales, I fear that there is a dangerous assumption in English football that we can simply replicate what the Bundesliga has achieved without any of the same external conditions in place.

Soccer - Notts County Press Conference - Ray Trew - Meadow Lane
New Sunderland CEO, Jim Rodwell (left), who issued the statement calling for the continuation of League 1 this week
Photo by Andrew Matthews - PA Images via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Ashley? Take him anytime. Yes, he had his altercations with the deluded lot up the road. But they have been a Premiership side most of the time, they are now exactly where we ever aspire to be – a middle of the road PL side. Do not talk about titles to me – 10-15th in the PL, only the occasional flirt with the relegation zone, and I would be deliriously happy. And with their assured status, good ground, good crowds NUFC are now destined for the big money take-over. Congratulations, Mike Ashley. He is an owner, who refuses to spend stupid money. Ellis Short did, and when he lost his appetite we crashed through the divisions. Please Mike, do come, bring us back to the PL and when you sell, we will not begrudge you a bumper profit. Our third rate owner with nothing to offer than empty PR claptrap blew promotion last season (remember Maja), let the club pay for his own take-over and now asks for a 35 million golden handshake as reward for total failure. Collins, Cowie, Short, Donald – yes I omitted Bob Murray and Saint Niall of course – no wonder this once famous old club is in such a sorry state.

Udo Marin

Newcastle United v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Mark Leech Sports Photography/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I would say yes.

What the deluded Black & Whites seem to forget is that Mike Ashley saved them from, going bust after the club were left penniless after the Sir John Hall, Douglas Hall and Freddie Shepherd Era.

These are the guys who humiliated their star striker in the Sunday papers, took the p**s out of Bobby Robson before sacking him and then removing a load of cash out of the club before selling it to Ashley.

The fans bleating on about Ashley not spending money when the evidence is there season after season. He might not have put in as much money to the transfer market but it took him six years to pay off the players on large and lucrative contracts that were nowhere near the team. Even last year when they spend the best part of £80 million on two strikers that could not hit a barn door from four places, they were shouting at Ashley to spend more.

They are paying the Ginger Whinger £75,000 a week and he is not even got a squad number. If you were Mike Ashley would you plough anymore money in?

He could buy Sunderland for £50 million. The stadium, training ground everything lock stock and barrel, and make a lot of money. But also I believe he could make the team established in the Premier League.

However if he did or whoever we get, the fans need to stop this persistent moan about changing managers etc etc. Even after we finished 7th twice under Reid and 10th under Bruce, you got the groups with no understanding demanding more and more.

Get real. I would have Mike Ashley tomorrow.

Kenny Hilton

Ed’s Note [Rich]: Udo and Kenny, I couldn’t disagree with you both more.

Sunderland AFC is our club. Owners should be custodians who hold this beloved community asset in their hands temporarily, seek to improve it and secure it for the enjoyment of future generations. We, as a fanbase, should be interested in getting the very best person or people to take on this role, rather than settling for the next sugar daddy to come along.

You are both right that, on one level, Mike Ashley has done a remarkable job in ensuring that Newcastle United have survived in the Premier League for the vast majority of his time in charge. I am all for clubs cutting their cloth according to their means. But has many a Mag will tell you, he has not invested significant amounts of the revenue generated in their playing squad to allow their managers much opportunity to achieve more than this. Between 2008 and 2015, for example, Newcastle had a net spend on players per season of £700,000, at a time when Premier League TV incomes skyrocketed.

Mike Ashley runs Sports Direct - a functional purveyor of cheep sportswear that serves a purpose but little more - in much the same way. He has done well to establish himself as the go-to example of a fat-cat employer who works his staff to the bone for as little money as he can get away with. The way that Ashley has governed Newcastle United has been reflected his approach to business in general - the constructive dismissal of Kevin Keegan as manager, and a series of opaque transfer dealings demonstrating that his ‘wide boy’ persona is more than a facade.

It is easy, and sometimes fun, to look at Newcastle fans complaining about the way their club was run by Ashley and think “you don’t know how good you’ve got it”. But this cannot be a race to the bottom. Ashley is a man who has consistently been shown to put profit before people and we would do well to resist the temptation to jump on the first passing boat in our quest to escape from our currently sinking ship.

Surely we can do better than that.

Sunderland’s chairman Niall Quinn (C) ta Photo credit should read GRAHAM STUART/AFP via Getty Images