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Shrewsbury Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One

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Fan Letters: ‘I find it hard to see how LJ can win over supporters’ says RR reader Bob

More debate over whether Lee Johnson’s the right fella to get us back up...

Photo by James Baylis - AMA/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I am a firm believer that managers should be given time, the best managers have always built teams over a number of seasons. Nowadays this is no longer fast enough, it appears money is king.

That having been said I find it hard to see how LJ can win over supporters, simply, because he makes poor decisions, sticks with the same strategy for every match, makes odd selections and substitutions and makes unbelievable assessments of matches to the point I sometimes wonder if I have watched the same game.

Lately there appears to be a worrying move to criticise players publicly. I think all these points show a naive and stressed manager. Who seems to be failing in many basic managerial areas.

One thing that did concern me was after a long break the team came back refreshed and playing better, yet he tinkered with the team three days later and the team put out was poor, devoid of ideas, slow across most areas and shattered mid way through the second half. That is not criticism its observation.

While Shrewsbury had 10 players up for the fight we couldn’t match that. Not knowing what is happening within the organisation we can only guess but something is wrong and it’s up to the manager to organise, motivate, coach the players, and ensure they are fit enough, patently we are not. I think he needs more experienced help than he’s getting.

Finally his criticism of Stewart was unfounded, he is running himself into the ground, his only problem is he’s doing too much, spends too much time chasing out to the wings rather than saving energy for taking up better positions in the box, no doubt LJ has requested it as Stewart has been doing this all season and its showing now.

So yes we need to support LJ but he has a lot of his own mistakes to put right first and at least start openly showing us he has a grip on the problems.

Hope Saturday starts the recovery.

Bob Bailey

Ed’s Note [Martin]: I hope so too, Bob. I think all managers will make decisions many disagree with – however there’s lots of things that go on behind the scenes we’re not privy to that can influence those calls. It’s always a concern when managers criticise players publicly – his comments re Stewart were bizarre quite frankly. Tuesday was disappointing - the selection of O’Brien was bizarre – and we just ran out of ideas in the second half. Hopefully LJ has a better afternoon today!

Shrewsbury Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Johnson didn’t have a good night on Tuesday
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Looking back on the business model that produced the most successful Sunderland team in the last 30 years produced some interesting facts.

Peter Reid and Bobby Saxton recruited 10 of the players externally paying significant fees. The other player in that team was of course Mickey Gray a local lad from the youth system.

Trying to come to some conclusion on the criteria used for the recruitment of players suggests a much more disciplined approach to putting together a TEAM than has been used by the current player recruitment regime

Reid started by recruiting Quinny who’s big strength lay in his heading ability together with good ball control and passing ability. He could also hold up the ball well, and score goals.

The next sequence was to recruit a player who could cross a ball into the box accurately to take advantage of Quinn’s heading ability. Nicky Summerbee who matched Beckham with the accuracy of his crosses, was recruited to give the supply that Quinn thrived on.Then he added Kevin Phillips a goal scorer to partner Quinn. Allan (Magic) Johnston was recruited and played as an inverted winger. He could control the ball dribble and cross accurately as well as score goals.

To complete the attacking part of the team he then brought in Clark, from the Mags and Alex Rae from Millwall. Clark was a good all round midfielder but exceptionally good going forward. He could identify and execute the passes needed to get the maximum out of the forward player.

Alex Rae was of course a terrier in fighting for the ball but he could also dribble and pass.

Added to those positives he gave Gray a chance . He was very good going forward and teamed up very well with Johnston.

My conclusion to my ramblings was that each and every player were identified to add specific strengths to a TEAM They were not obtained by freebies or loans but by skilled investment aided by leverage/debt. THAT INVESTMENT PAID OFF HANDSOMELY WITH THE STADIUM FILLED FOR EVERY HOME GAME.

At the present time there is a reluctance by the owner to produce any level of player investment and as a consequence the players recruited either do not have the ability, or their skills do not fit or are not being used effectively.

The signings that I have mentioned may not be strictly in the order that they occurred, that is down to an ancient memory but the conclusions are fact.

Players of talent were recruited whose skills integrated with each other, producing excellent exciting football and lots of goals, accompanied by maximum crowds of happy fans. These were the fruits of a business model that worked.

Mordey St

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Spot on Mordey St, Reid built a side very specifically, however the key point in all that is it took about 18 months to put together – and Reid wasn’t backed by any real money until he’d been here for more than a year. Quinny and Rae were recruited 12 months before Clark, Summerbee came in six months after that. Gray was put to left back to fill in after Scott was injured – he played in midfield for the first 2.5 seasons of Reid’s reign – and Johnston was moved to the left after losing his place after not impressing in the right. It took time a decent amount of time for Reid to build that side, which is the best we’ve had in – what – the best part of 50 years? However, prior to that team clicking, there were spells when he was under a lot of pressure and people wanted him out. There are lessons in there somewhere!

Peter Reid Jim Smith

Dear Roker Report,

Reading your comments on the performance of the present team. Seems bewildering. My first ever game was in 1961 and have watched and supported Sunderland in all that time. The other night I watched the whole of the 1995 promotion season. The one thing that highlighted not only that team but others. They possessed what this team doesn’t – grit and determination. Giving 100% every game.

Having been signed for Hartlepool by the late Len Ashurst ,I remember him telling me “You only get something out of a game, if you willing to put something into it”. Too many footballers today are only interested where the next contract is coming from. No passion. Mercenaries frightened to put their foot in incase they get hurt. A winning mentality becomes secondary.

Then the manager has the job of finding out who has the bottle for the job. If he cannot then he is not the man for the job. He picks the team, he knows the strengths and weaknesses. It’s a team game to0 many weak links is a recipe for failure.

This the fourth season in league one. Sorry but the excuses are running a bit thin.


Ed’s Note [Martin]: I believe a lack of experience, consistency, nous and quality are fair criticisms of this team JohnSundo1, however I don’t think they lack effort and passion at all. Look at O’Nien – he’s played the whole season so far needing an operation – to the detriment of his own performances and his personal wellbeing. That’s exactly the commitment we want, isn’t it?!

Sunderland vs Ipswich Town Sky Bet League 1
Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Definitely about time Johnson was asked to leave or sacked – he’s not right for SAFC.

Cliff White

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Do that Cliff and all we do is start again, with a new manager rebuilding a side, needing three transfer windows to bring his own players in. Rinse and repeat. I’m not sure that’d be at all beneficial.


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