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Crewe Alexandra v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One

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Fan Letters: ‘The QPR game is an excellent test for our young, upwardly mobile squad’ says Sean

Sean’s looking forward to our West London test, while Dan Neil’s reminding John of a certain Johnny Crossan. Email us:!

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Residing in London I don’t get as many trips to the SoL as I would like, but I have got my tickets for QPR and am taking the lass too. I first lured her to see the lads a few years ago with promises of “Real Wombles”, and she’s really taken to the Lee Howey chant because you don’t get that supporting Hearts in the leafy suburbs of Edinburgh...

Moving onto the football, as a big club we should be taking these games seriously as an excellent opportunity for our young, upwardly mobile squad to test themselves against a play-off chasing, Championship side. As much fun as it is stuffing Crewe (and lifting the pizza cup), Doyle, Neil, Embo et al will get a rare chance to get on the ball and play against actual footballers, with referees that actually give free kicks and bookings. We’ll get a much better idea of how much technical quality they have (and their real long term potential) against a proper football team.

For one, I hope the players are right up for this, as they are one game away from drawing some serious Premier League talent. Imagine Sunderland a goal up with Doyle marking Lukaku at the SoL, only for Johnson to bring Bailey Wright on for the last 10 minutes?!

Maybe I am getting carried away, but this time last year we lost 1-0 at home to Mansfield in the 1st round of the FA Cup – the worst result in our history. What a difference a year makes...

Sean N

Ed’s Note [Martin]: It’ll be a great test for us Sean, there’s no doubt about that. I had presumed we’d be talking about whether players would be rested or rotated for the game, but given the injuries we have Lee Johnson won’t have much choice! Let’s hope we give a good account of ourselves, and gain some more confidence with a win in West London – although, unfortunately, Embleton won’t get a kick – he’s suspended!

Sunderland v Bolton Wanderers - Sky Bet League One
It’ll be interesting to see how Callum Doyle does playing against higher-level opposition
Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Great to hear the comments about Johnny Crossan in your emails. I too was crushed in that stand at Old Trafford with the 16,000 on that day in 1964. Talk before the game was of Pat Crerand of Man U, but it was Crossan who ran the game.

But for Monty’s concussion we would have won easily on the day - obviously today a reserve keeper would have come on and Monty would not have played again for a fortnight.

The return match at Roker was notable also, for other reasons. That was the ill-fated night when part of the stand was damaged. The official crowd that night was only around 49,000, but most people’s estimate of the number who actually got into the ground was 70,000 plus.

Looking forward though, the main comment I have is how, all this season, Dan Neil has so reminded me of Johnny Crossan, my favourite all time player. Dan is so comfortable on the ball, moves into position instinctively, and always seem to possess poise in the way he passes and shoots.

He’d better not end up 12 miles up the road…….

John Hope, Durham

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Thanks for the email John, I think people say that replay was probably Roker Park’s highest ever attendance, unofficially! Interesting to read your comments on Dan Neil’s likeness to Johnny Crossan. As a SAFC fan who’s fought hard to stay at the club, I doubt Neil would ever go up the road... he’s far better than that!

Sunderland v Accrington Stanley - Sky Bet League One
Dan Neil reminds John of Johnny Crossan
Photo by Will Matthews/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

As the Saudi Arabian dust of the Newcastle United takeover begins to settle, as Sunderland faithful it is important to remember that Rome was not built in a day and focus on our largely promising start to our fourth season in League one, rather than feeding the delight of mags who revel in our jealousy.

Clearly, the idea that some Newcastle fans believe they are a shoo-in to be premier league champions within a couple of seasons is evidently quite naïve, given the ample areas of improvement required within the squad as well as backroom staff and training ground settings.

With such a drastic influx of funding, Newcastle will inevitably recruit some big-name fringe players, with the likes of Coutinho and Ramsey linked with moves to Tyneside, of which are clearly and quite literally leagues apart from the Sunderland squad for this season.

Not that O’Nien and Neil are incompetent footballers they are just not at that level, however as this squad under the guise of Lee Johnson continues to develop, whenever the time comes that Sunderland restore themselves to Premier League football; with the backing of Kyril Louis-Dreyfus our roster will grow and flourish under the expansive style Johnson has instilled at the Sol.

Given that Sunderland are only a point behind Plymouth at top spot, with two games in hand, are proving that our promotion challenge is bearing real fruit and this team has crystal clear potential to return us to the Championship and can solidify ourselves within the league as the squad builds with beneficial recruitment over the course of a few seasons.

As Sunderland fans, hope and optimism is almost tangible within the Stadium of Light, the faith in our team is the currency which we as fans operate with. It is important we do not lose promise as Newcastle begin their climb towards Premier league challengers under the Saudi regime which may inflate the divide between the two sides. We must distinguish the two very exciting yet contrasting challenges at both clubs.

In our heart of hearts, we as rivals both know our two clubs yield such delight and jubilation for supporters and residents of the respective cities, and despite both teams dwindling league placements; going off of support, history and fan-bases, Sunderland and Newcastle should both be at least within the top ten in the Premier League and challenging for European football.

It is what the totally devoted fans deserve and I long for the day our great Tyne- Wear derby does not take place in the football league trophy yet may be a six pointer for a top seven finish, which I maintain that every honest fan of either club should hope one day in the near or distant future, may transpire.

Ethan Todd

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Let Newcastle get on with whatever they’re doing Ethan, I’d much prefer to focus on us. We’re putting the foundations in place to be a successful club in the future, the season’s going well and, as for Dan Neil, I suggest he could well be as good as those players you mention in a few years time.


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