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Sunderland v Charlton Athletic - Sky Bet League 1

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Fan Letters: ‘I’ve been hearing for years that all SAFC fans want are players that play for the badge’

Marley and Alan are disappointed at the level of criticism aimed at the players and manager, while others feel it’s well deserved...

Photo by Will Matthews/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I can’t help feel embarrassed at the attitude towards the team in recent weeks. Before the Charlton game, excluding the water polo match, we were a team playing exciting football with a clear game plan, youngsters were great, Flano playing out his skin, best transfer window since leaving the prem, everyone was 100% behind the club, the ‘philosophy’ as LJ calls it, and now after three league defeats (seems everyone forgot progressing to QF of cup in between that)...

Calls for LJ to be sacked, youngsters aren’t good enough, we’ve signed crap players, manager has no clue, always going to be a League One team, we’re just shit.

Because a team of very young players whose confidence has obviously taken a big knock, but people need to wake up to those types of comments. I’m not saying criticism isn’t due and some things need to improve but wow what a complete turnaround in people’s attitudes in just 10 days. 10 days and three games. So called best fans in the world and at the minute we are acting more fickle and self entitled than those up the road. It’s embarrassing to see.

Alan Bates

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Thanks for your email Alan. I think we can all agree, when we willingly accept defeats like Rotherham and Sheffield Wednesday then we’re on a very slippery slope. And I think we’ll all agree again that when we’re all not bitterly disappointed by those results, then something’s wrong. However, overly criticising the players, manager and club, and wanting to rip everything up and start again, is just ridiculous. The club’s trying a different approach to what we’ve seen before. Bringing in a lot of promising but untested youngsters was always going to come with risk of some performances being below par – the hope is that the majority of them are above par. These lads need our support – that’s our role in all of this. Overly criticising everyone when we’re still three points off third place with a game in hand isn’t productive at all. We all want Sunderland promoted. Repeating the same mistakes that got us here in the first place is not going to achieve that.

Sunderland v Cheltenham Town - Sky Bet League One
The perfect 10 performance against Cheltenham seems a long time ago
Photo by Will Matthews/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I have only recently returned to regularly attending games. Went to my first game in about 10 years, when we played Doncaster at home under parky. And there has been one thing that has been glaringly obvious in the 10 or so games I’ve been to since. A small, but vocal, section of the fanbase seem to just ridicule one specific player (often without merit). In the season under parky it was Hume, couldn’t touch the ball without a bunch of idiots screaming for his head. We seem to have a habit of finding scapegoats within the team, whenever something goes wrong they get the abuse.

It’s happened to Hume, then he stopped playing. People have done it to Flanagan, it was Lee Burge at the start of the season. Every game I go to they keep trying to find a player to have a go at, and it seems they’ve found their target.

Luke O’Nien, can’t go five minutes on Twitter without someone piping up about how they’ve never liked him, and he should be dropped. I’ve been hearing for years that all Sunderland fans want are players that truly play for the badge, and Luke fits that mould perfectly. For goodness sake, he dislocated his shoulder twice in one game, and carried on to end up man marking Akinfenwa. He is exactly what we need in this team. Fight. I know if he has a bad game it gets him down, but I know he will spend the following week working on everything and anything to improve.

I am not against criticising players, far from it. He’s been poor recently, however football is a team game. We lose as a team, and win as a team. We don’t lose 5-1 because one player was bad, but Luke seems to be who is getting blamed. This needs to stop.

Marley Gibson

Ed’s Note [Martin]: O’Nien’s not been at his best in the past few games, but he’s far from the only one. The criticism is absolutely pathetic. There’s a number of people waiting on Twitter for him to make a mistake and they can’t wait to get stuck in. Support? Not likely. Every player is open to constructive criticism about their performances, of course they are. And O’Nien would probably be the first to admit he’s been poor recently. But some of the posts I see I’d liken to schoolyard bullying, and again, it’s not conducive to anything remotely positive.

Sheffield Wednesday v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Blame game needs to stop
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Rotherham was my first away game for a long time and I was similarly disappointed by the threatening behaviour of many fans – even towards their fellow supporters when things started to go wrong. Fact is these guys are not youngsters either. They are regularly in the 40/50 and older age bracket. A family with young children had to move from where we were for bad language. Four guys were openly snorting cocaine in the toilets at half time. What next?

As regards ‘taking the knee’- I disagree with it as ‘gesture politics and tokenism’ - but suffer in silence rather than boo like the morons.

Mark McNally

Ed’s Note [Martin]: It’s been a common story from the Rotherham game, Mark, and hopefully letters like this and the podcast we put out on Monday really helps call this out and prompt the club to take action. Football today should be a good place to take kids and on occasions like this it’s not. The fact that ‘it’s far better than it was in the 80s’ which I’ve heard trotted out is completely irrelevant. Re the taking of the knee – whatever your opinion on it, the fact we’ve chosen not to do it while other teams do simply gives racists perceived permission to be racist. It validates them. But I agree, if you don’t agree with doing it for whatever reason, keep quiet!

Rotherham United v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
A bad day out all round at Rotherham
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Given that money is the be all and end all in the Premier League these days I was just wondering how the Sunderland AFC Bank of England era would have compared to today’s big hitters? I know there are countless elements to look at regarding cost of living, shares, ownership funds etc, but in broad terms (if that is possible), where would Bank of England SAFC have stood in financial comparison to the big guns currently buying up any perceived talent that is in their sights?

Hughie O’Grady

Ed’s Note [Martin]: I’m not sure about that Hughie, I’d only be guessing, but I’d say it’d be the equivalent of Man City at present. Any SAFC historians out there who’d like to give us a comparison – please do!

Dear Roker Report,

When is Lee Johnson going to step up his game if that’s possible. He came to us as an out of work average League One manager and he’s certainly proving that. The end of last season was a disaster and it looks like this one is going to be the same. The name big club is wearing thin now. Does our owner have any ambitions for us , doesn’t look like it.


Ed’s Note [Martin]: Lee Johnson’s got to learn from his mistakes, but it’s far too simple to say it’s his fault we’re three points off third place at this stage of the season. The club has had to rebuild a whole new squad, and players are going to have bad spells of form. Now, something’s not right at present, and that’s down to Johnson and the coaching staff to figure out, but to say Johnson was an ‘average, out of work League One manager’ is simply not correct – he’d managed the previous four seasons in the Championship. To say it doesn’t look like KLD has any ambitions for us is just bollocks to be honest. We’ve lost three league games in a row. Yes, it’s not great. But f**king hell, come on man. Let’s get a bit of perspective here. KLD’s put a hell of a lot of pieces together behind the scenes, and been part of putting a good side together on the pitch.

Sunderland v Bolton Wanderers - Sky Bet League One Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Lee Johnson. This is my third contribution in the last six months. My first letter doubted the ability of Lee Johnson citing lack of alternative methods when planA was failing. His phraseology disguises his doubts and I repeat what I wrote then “bullshit baffles brains”. Heaven help the players in trying to comprehend whatever he is instructing them. I am only a graduate mathematician but find his rhetoric very irritating and condescending.

Things have deteriorated so badly of late and I have little confidence that there will be an immediate improvement. Mark my words LJ, much to my annoyance, will not achieve automatic promotion this season and even a play off position is no certainty and unlikely.

There is an opportunity in January to bolster the squad. Oh for a Kevin Ball type midfielder and a powerful second striker. My main preference would be for a new manager in the mould of Chris Wilder who understands the demands of this league and does not speak in riddles.

Arthur Gray

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Fair enough Arthur, you’ve fixed your position early and are doubling down on it now the first bump of the season has been encountered. Look, I wasn’t a fan of the appointment when we made it, but there’s been lots about Lee Johnson that has impressed me – three defeats in a row is disappointing yes, but it doesn’t suddenly mean our season’s a write off. As for Chris Wilder, there’s not a hope in hell – he wouldn’t work under a system where he doesn’t have total control. Simply not going to happen. We can’t keep changing our manager every year at the first sign of trouble – haven’t we learnt anything?! Anyway, I’m sure both of us hope your next letter about Lee Johnson is full of apologies come May after we’ve won promotion!


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