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Fan Letters: RR reader John says ‘the heart has been ripped out of our club’

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Too many players and managers coming through the revolving SOL door are to blame for our demise, says John. But can the new ownership stop the rot?

Sunderland v Swansea City - Premier League Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I knew League One was a poor standard, however this judgement was always clouded by the pre and post match pints. Now, watching from home with no company has made me realise that the standard and enjoyment of League One football is horrific.

The social side of the match has always been a huge thing for me. This lockdown has made me wonder if I even enjoy watching Sunderland play at all?! Even watching the stream at the moment seems like a chore. At the end (or midway through) you can switch off the laptop and that’s it, move on with your day.

Hopefully we are allowed back in this season. It will be interesting to see what our attendences are like. Will the gap have made fans eager to return? Or will they have found other things to do?

Testing times!

Matt Jackson

Ed’s Note [Martin]: To be honest Matt, bar Sunderland games I’ve barely watched any football over the past year – I find it a very dull spectacle without the supporters in the ground. As we’ve experienced, when you boil it down to the actual sport, it’s not half as appealing – League One or not.

I suspect, when we can get back to the stadium, it’ll be packed. Not because we’ve missed watching League One football in the flesh, but because we’ve missed the whole matchday experience, which ultimately is what it’s all about.

Oxford United v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Let us in!
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Having supported Sunderland all of my life and attending matches since 1971 I feel as though the heart has been ripped out of our club. Too many players and managers have come in and just not got it. We demand commitment and effort. The last player to come in and get what an honour it is to play for the club was Kevin Ball. Bally would run through a brick wall and over burning hot coals for us. Other players have come in and performed well for us, Quinn, Phillips etc but not to the level of commitment that was shown by Bally.

I hope and pray that the new ownership will come in and get us back to where we belong.

The first job for the management team need to do is get us out of this division and build our club up to one that can get into the Premier League as soon as possible.

Europe in five years?

John Tweddle

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Thanks for the email, John. I agree that the constant chopping and changing of managers and players over the past two decades has been a major factor in our decline. Bally was certainly a great exponent of what we like in players – I think you’re doing a disservice to people such as Quinn, though. I think he was equally as committed, just showed it differently.

That commitment comes from a number of things, but longevity at a club helps massively. I think from a societal point of view people are after instant gratification – players, as well as fans. Today, I doubt a player from the south would stay at SAFC for a decade. His agent would probably have gone after a quick payday, blaming the south/north divide as a reason for not settling!

I’ve long believed we’ve missed a huge trick not having Bally officially involved in the football side of the club – if you’re missing pride and standards, he’s the ideal person to enforce them.

Hull City v Sunderland - Premier League
Bally’s still a popular face at SAFC, and there’s a good reason for that.
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Like so many others, for the first time I feel ashamed of our ground and pitch.

It’s not fit for a first class club to have.

Jessica Scott

Ed’s Note [Martin]: I agree Jessica. As we discussed on last week’s podcast, it’s symbolic of the neglect the club’s endured over the past couple of years. If you keep cutting corners you’ll soon have nothing left.

Sunderland v Plymouth Argyle - Sky Bet League 1
The state of the SOL pitch is a cause for concern
Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I’m a regular reader of your pages. I’d like to put it out there to the few fans remaining at SAFC – I’m 73 years young and have seen an awful lot of players bought in, or home grown. Have any of you seen an up-and-coming striker, or know of one from our young guns, that would improve the first team?

Surely there must be one or two in there?

Just querying.

Yours in football,

James Airey

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Thanks for reading James, greatly appreciated! In terms of young strikers at the club, unfortunately, we’ve got rid of a few over the last season or two. Sam Greenwood and Joe Hugill immediately spring to mind as two who we should have elevated to the first team and instead they’re plying their trade in Premier League clubs’ youth teams. As far as players we have go, I’d like to see Mitch Curry given a chance from the bench – he looks pacey, direct and can finish, judging by the clips we’ve seen of the under-23s. The other one, of course, is Kimpioka. It’s a real shame he picked up an injury shortly after his return. He looked bang in form and could have been a good addition to our striking options this season.

Sunderland v Leicester City U21: Leasing.com Cup Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images