Dear Roker Report
Now that our season has been decided by some folks in suits at a meeting rather than on the pitch, thoughts turn to how our preparations and pre-season will pan out ahead of a third season in League One.
Not being in the play offs should give the club extra time to plan and recruit and time for new players to gel and be match ready for the first league game.
Our crack recruitment team should already have agreed a plan with Parkinson and Rodwell and have a list of players, with alternatives, that need to be signed to fit the style of play he thinks will get us promoted. Presumably Coton, Hill and others have been scouting all season and know exactly what’s out there and are like caged tigers ready to act.
But that’s never quite how it works at Sunderland. I’ll make a prediction it’ll go more like this.
Loan players, short term contract players plus McLaughlin and Mumba will disappear pretty quickly. We’ll have a wafer thin squad within a couple of weeks and it’ll stay like that for ages while fans are told to be patient because it’s all a bit hard to make signings. Even though our rivals never seem to find it that tough.
Meanwhile instead of doing the obvious thing by signing up Bailey Wright on a permanent contract it’ll drag on for weeks, predictably with a last minute hitch as a Championship club steps in while we hum and har about a few hundred quid.
Decisions about contract extensions for Watmore and Maguire will take too long and, whether we want to keep them or not, we’ll risk other clubs, picking them up as we do our usual dithering about. If so, stick a fiver on at least one or both of them scoring against us next season.
There’s going to be endless speculation about Will Grigg’s future which will probably go right through to transfer deadline day when we’ll give him away for pennies and it’ll be too late to bring anyone in (or we’ll do the usual panic loan for a player that eventually never makes an appearance or plays the last 20 minutes of a cup game and looks half decent).
The Marcus Maddison saga is likely to be the ongoing summer media story. Unless the club is quickly sold and new owners splash some cash, it seems very unlikely we’d pay his higher wages even though he could be the investment we need to get us out this league by providing reliable service for a half decent centre forward (providing we sign one of those as well). Instead of contacting him now to see what he’d want and deciding early whether to sign him, the Club will happily drag it out as a ‘will he, won’t he’ situation could sell a few extra season cards to hopeful fans, then obviously he’ll go to a rival club, and score against us again next season!
Fans will be watching the Luke O’Nien situation very closely. It’s an obvious test of the clubs overall intention. Unless I’ve missed a club announcement, nobody seems 100% certain if his contract extension clause has actually been triggered/signed. He’s exactly what we need on the pitch and around the club and the powers-that-be should be doing everything to keep him rather than cash in for a relatively small amount and sign a run of the mill replacement. I’ve still got a horrible suspicion he’ll end up back at Wycombe and, yep you’ve guessed it, will score against us next season.
Get ready for us to be linked with exciting young players to loan from Premiership clubs, free scoring forwards like Shankland, a ‘wonderkid’ from somewhere foreign and loads of others that we all think could do well but are only linked because their agent is trying to use us to blag a deal with another club. After all that, we’ll sign six or seven out of contract journeyman players that most of us haven’t heard of but nearly all used to play for Parkinson at Bolton or somewhere. If that happens then sack the whole recruitment team.
Usually we’re still trying to sign players when the pre-season friendlies start, only have half a squad, draft in youngsters who’re never seen again, then sign players last minute who don’t know the system, haven’t played together and don’t know their teammates names. We absolutely have to avoid that happening this year.
Surely this pre-season we should be playing a lot more friendlies and playing them against strong opposition like Championship or Scottish Premier League sides not just the likes of Gateshead and Hartlepool. Playing more games at home and letting fans in for a fiver would get players used to the stadium, the routine and having to be competitive in front of the fans as well as bringing in some cash.
The manager should be close to knowing his first choice side who are properly match ready by the first game of the League season. The 2013 Asia Trophy 3-1 win against Tottenham (remember Cabral, Karlsson) was the one time in years that preseason felt positive, but turned out we were the first team in history to peak before the season even started!
I’m hoping all of the above will be wrong and it’ll be different this Summer. Maybe the dream team of Parkinson, Rodwell, Hill and Coton have a cunning pre-season plan?
It’s hard but Keep the faith!
Ed’s Note [Tom]: Hahaha! This is brilliant, Nige. I will definitely be bookmarking this and having a look at it again before the end of the summer. It’s difficult to be excited about much at the minute, but this certainly cheered me up. Hope you’re safe and well.