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Reader’s Corner: “Lee Johnson needs to get this right, and I believe he will”

RR reader Ollie Clark looks at where we’ve fallen short over the past few weeks, and his hopes and fears for January.

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Isn’t it just the Sunderland way to be playing well, scoring goals, sitting pretty at the top of the table to then be completely dismantled over the course of three games?

The defeats:

Burton, Portsmouth, Charlton, Rotherham and Sheffield Wednesday.

We should have beaten Burton and that is arguably the most frustrating result to date considering the chances and possession we had in the game, it was an anomaly. However the way we have been taken apart by Portsmouth, Rotherham and Sheffield Wednesday has been extremely concerning, all three of these defeats have one thing in common, early goals conceded. Is it strange to say that after Harness, Smith and Corbeneau scored respectively I almost knew what was going to happen?

Rotherham United v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Writing on the wall?
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

The fantastic thing about young players is that they can produce the unexpected and that takes the opposition by surprise. The other great thing is their raw energy and fearlessness when it comes to playing at this level. However, the negative side of having young players is that they’re extremely fragile and don’t have the experience to deal with things like early goals/setbacks in games.

Quite a few of those young players have gone into their shell after the early goals, Neil being one on Tuesday. Doyle has become loose in possession and hasn’t dealt with the experience of Ladapo, Smith, Gregory and Marquis very well, I think it’s time he had a break from the team. Cirkin has been found wanting defensively and sometimes in possession but with Hume and Huggins out we don’t have too much in the way of backup. Something needs to change.

The wins/early season form:

Naively I got caught up in the excitement of that early season form, thinking we were going to romp the league and leave everyone in our wake. Who wouldn’t though right?

We have played some fantastic stuff at times and it’s by far the best we’ve played in the four dismal seasons we’ve been in this division. I don’t know about you but I feel a lot more inspired by Johnson’s brand of football than I ever did Parky’s or even Ross’. Parky ball was incredibly frustrating in that even when we won, we did it badly. Ross was plain sailing until we inevitably went 1-0 up and then decided after 37 mins we would shut up shop, invite unnecessary pressure and play hot potato with the ball. At least Johnson is sticking to his philosophy even if we have to tweak it a little in this current moment. I think based on what we have seen, particularly against the likes of Wycombe, we have plenty to be encouraged about. Keep the faith.

Doncaster Rovers v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
At least we’re not being subjected to Parkyball...
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

My concerns:

The major concern for me is January, I’m not necessarily concerned for our recruitment, I’m concerned about departures and one in particular. The poster boy for our early season form and the shining light in this recent dark and dismal run has been Ross Stewart. The big Scot has been absolutely unplayable at times and must be frustrated by happenings at the other end of the pitch. My hope is that we have learnt from the departures of Grabban and Maja in particular and we do not sell at any price. Losing Stewart for me would mean waving our promotion hopes goodbye.

My hopes:

We get out of this division! None of us want to be going to s***holes like Gillingham with no roof, no atmosphere and warm pints that let’s be honest were 10% beer 90% foam. Johnson needs to get this right, and I believe he will. HWTL.

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