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Fan Letters: “The loan system is the best option in this window!”

In this Fan Letters we have a bit of nostalgia discussing the impact of the old leather ball, how best to use the loan system and Sunderland’s deficiencies in the final third! If you have something to say, drop us an email at!

Sunderland v Middlesbrough - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Something different from my usual rants...

This might be interesting to our young fans. When I was growing up in the 50’s in Malta we used to play football with a laced leather ball which had a bladder inside. We used to blow it up with a bicycle air pump, and after we had laced it, we used to rub it with lard to make softer and wipe it off, so that it won’t slip out of the goalkeeper’s hands.

Mind, it was heavy, especially when you head it on the lace it was a bit painful. I assume at the time it was the same over here in the UK. I’m sure our fans of my generation will remember this bit of nostalgia.

What I’m getting at is, that with a few of our famous ex-footballers suffering and passing away with dementia, it makes you wonder if heading that type of football contributed to the illness.

Can’t remember whether the FA, the medical experts or the media mentioning the old leather football when there was talk about banning kids from heading the ball.

P.S. What’s wrong with these so called fans of big clubs? Lose one game and they start abusing their own players. They should try and support a club like ours to see what years of hurt feels like. Glory hunters.


Anthony DeGiovanni

Ed’s Note [Chris]: A landmark study at the University of Glasgow released their findings in late 2019 which discovered a five-fold increase in the risk of Alzheimer’s, a four-fold increase in motor neurone disease and a two-fold increase in Parkinson’s.

The report, however was unable to establish if it was the result of repeated concussions, heading the old leather footballs or some other cause.

The FA have set up a task force with the aim of establishing in more detail the cause, but although I was too young to head a ball you have described Anthony, it would not be surprising if it contributed towards some of the findings.

Jeff Astle
Former West Bromwich Albion striker Jeff Astle died in 2002 of what a coroner described as an “industrial disease” partly caused by heading heavy footballs
Photo by A. Jones/Express/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Rumours of Ross Stewart linked to Sunderland, I’ve never heard of the lad, but seems wrong option, tall, skinny and looks to lightweight to me.

The team needs pace to me, why not enquire about Asoro at Swansea? Has not had one minute with his current loan side and apparently they want to send him back. Better the devil you know than take a risk on a player that is a unknown quantity and currently injured.

To improve the squad and push on, he has to add strength and pace let’s get some loan players in, gambling half a million on a unproven forward in this window makes no sense.

The loan system is the best option in this window, teams are just trying to offload players in the last month’s of their contracts for silly prices. Wait till the summer and get them for free.

The new lads in charge should be looking to try and get young talent from the Premier elite in to get us through to the end of the season. Surely the amount of youth talent we have let go to Utd and Arsenal they owe us big style to let us take some of their young talent on loan.

Every other League One club seems to use it well, look at Sanderson, has not let anyone down yet at the club. If we offload Grigg and Graham, this has to be the option to use the loan system. Then in the summer with new owners in place then the club can spend.

Mark Wild

Ed’s Note [Chris]: Can’t say a know a huge amount about Ross Stewart, and it’s difficult to know how hungry Joel Asoro is at the moment having spent the last two years of his career struggling to play first team football.

I agree though Mark, the loan market may be the way to go. Our opponents this weekend have had three players on-loan from Southampton this season and have loaned a defender from Bristol City in the last week.

The difficulty comes when big clubs with promising stars want to send these players to sides where they know they will get game time, and it’s a fine balancing act to get someone who may act as cover and not get the minutes their parent club would like them to have. Fingers crossed the club get at least a couple over the line.

Bristol Rovers v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Sunderland signed Antoine Semenyo on-loan last season - could a similar signing be the way forward this season?
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

There are very few jobs as highly paid for athletic people who may be highly fit, but who would actually admit that they might struggle to be as highly paid in an intellectual walk of life.

The aspect difficult for a Sunderland supporter of 70 years, is perhaps the lack of pride seemingly felt by our attack in performing the role for which they have been hired.

At each end of the pitch there is a rectangular structure within which a talented man awaits a challenge to his ability to stop a ball with any part of his anatomy.

Week in and week out, Sunderland’s shooting ability tends to be woeful interspersed with the rare flurry of goals.

One cannot criticise any shot on goal which is saved by the goalkeeper, indeed this adds to the thrill of the game. In the last game, Ipswich had a fairly poor number of shots on target but achieved a 50% accuracy score.

Sunderland however sadly not unusual for them had only 30% of their shots on target and this is not unusual. In any other profession this would be considered completely inept. in the world of banking engineering architecture or criminal convictions this would be considered utterly inept.

Most professions would immediately sack such incompetence. Perhaps hours of shooting practice might help fines for missing the target completely more than twice could be an alternative better still get rid of whomever chose or actually bought these players might be a step in the right direction.

The fans deserve far better consistency and accuracy in both passing and shooting.

Alan Hedley

Ed’s Note [Chris]: Couldn’t agree more about our attacking play Alan. Even in our last two games which we’ve won, our intent in the final third has at times looked non-existent. Other than the couple of half chances we have managed to score from, we simply don’t create enough.

This is a hangover from the Phil Parkinson era and isn’t something new, but I’d imagine it’s pretty high up on Lee Johnson’s ‘to do’ list. Sort that out and keep the back four as tight as it has been looking recently, and we might just be in business.

Ipswich Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Sunderland players celebrating Charlie Wyke’s winning goal at Portman Road
Photo by Hannah Fountain - CameraSport via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Agree with your pros n cons from Ipswich game but credit where credits due, the football up to the goal was sublime from keeper to the ball in the net. First time in years I’ve seen football from SAFC and thought they we might have something here!

Sunderland till I die

(Mind you I’ve got cancer)

Robert Watson

Ed’s Note [Chris]: Well firstly Robert, all at Roker Report are sorry to read that you are unwell, and we wish you all the best.

Completely agree with you on the build up to our goal as well Robert, it was fantastic, but at the moment it is too few and far between. It would be nice to see a performance that was consistent for a whole ninety minutes, and put more of these passages of play together resulting in more chances in front of goal.

Here’s hoping we see more of that against Gillingham! Thanks again for the feedback on the ups and downs from Portman Road as well!

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