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Sunderland AFC v Mansfield Town: Emirates FA Cup First Round

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Fan Letters: The Meltdown Continues...

Some Sunderland fans are not happy bunnies, and today’s fan letters reflect the general mood of blind panic. But our Rich isn’t one to follow the crowd when it comes to the solution to the problem...

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I did not think we could get anyone worse than our last manager but Lee Johnson has proved me wrong we did.

Bristol City did not sack him because he was a good manager. He has lasted longer than the Bristol City supporters said he would not last 6 months. That's how much they thought of him.

Mr J McAdams

Ed’s Note [Rich]: Thanks for taking the time to write in, Mr J McAdams, but personally I think we need to have a bit more patience. Yes, that word again - like I kept writing when everyone was on about how slow we were with recruitment to the men’s squad over the summer.

We have hit a bad patch of form after a great start to the season - a really bad patch of form I’ll give you that - but this is a long old campaign and we will win again, we’ve got good players and we’ve shown we can play good football. If we’ve learned one thing over the last five years surely it is that changing the manager rarely produces the results. We have a long-term plan, a long-term strategy, and I’m not one for knee-jerk reactions to a few bad results.

On your point about Bristol City, I can count on the fingers on one had the number of professional football managers in England - other than those who are in their first jobs - who have not been sacked at one point or another. Is that where we’re headed? You get one shot as a manager and if you don’t turn Bristol City into Manchester City your career is forever blighted?

Manchester City v Bristol City - Carabao Cup - Semi Final - First Leg - Etihad Stadium Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

In response to Ollie Clark’s article - Reader’s Corner

You are right about the fragility of players. They do have to be more than physically fit - even top players need a psychologically balanced mindset. Seems the manager has neglected this area altogether. He may well be weak in that area himself because at times he talks in riddles and strays off subject - clear signs he is not sure himself.

For me, not the guy who is strong in the deeds and actions that will gain promotion. He has to be replaced. Quickly.

David Lane

Ed’s Note [Rich]: Thanks for your letter, David. You’re right - the psychology of football is important. Footballers and football managers are human beings, human beings have emotions - fear, anxiety, hope, desire. They’re also able to express themselves in more than tired old football cliches - demonstrating that you’ve got a vocabulary and have thought about issues beyond the immediate circumstances isn’t a bad thing in my book (although I understand that using words of more than three syllables can get you beaten up in some parts).

I think Lee Johnson demonstrates a clear and sophisticated understanding of the wellbeing of young people he is working with and weakness, as you call it, can be where we learn and develop.

Expecting everyone to be perpetually “balanced” (whatever that means) - is expecting people to be unhuman. But being balanced and reasonable in our judgements, not jumping to pull the trigger when things get difficult, that is the kind of emotional maturity that has been sorely lacking at our club down the years and something I hope Kristjaan Speakman and Kyril Louis-Dreyfus will show in sticking with their man through a few bad results.

FA Cup Semi Final: Sunderland v Millwall
Julio Arca of Sunderland puts his head down after the FA Cup Semi Final match between Sunderland and Millwall at Old Trafford on April 4, 2004 in Manchester, England.
Photo by Gary M.Prior/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I know many will disagree, but I care about the FA Cup. Obviously, as a younger Sunderland fan, I was brought up on stories of 1973. I was too young to remember the run in 1992. But I do remember quite vividly how I felt walking out of Old Trafford in 2004 having lost to Millwall, the best chance of seeing the lads play in an FA Cup final and in European competition having disappeared into the ether.

And yet how I yearn for such a day now. We have failed to reach the third round in the four years we’ve been down in League One, and have now twice lost at home to the same opposition who can’t lay a glove on their contemporaries in League Two. I think it’s beyond disgraceful.

Richard Stainbank

Ed’s Note [Rich]: I’m with you almost all the way on this, Richard. I love the FA Cup - it’s demise as a competition of real value is something I long to see reversed, and I take absolutely no joy in our exit in the first round proper - it’s actually pretty embarrassing. I was there in 1992, I was there in 2004. I know the value of the Cup to us as a club and a fanbase.

Not being in the second round, let alone the third, hurts. But there are two cups to play for and we’re in the last eight of the other one with a tie at the Emirates to play in December... this fantastic achievement seems to have been forgotten amongst the current collective meltdown.

Blackpool v Sunderland - Carabao Cup Second Round Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

A few weeks' time, the Ipswich game is a season changer lose and I think Kyril will swing the axe. We have no god-given right to get of this league, if we don’t do the basics right and at the moment sadly we aren’t. Our young owner will not put up with failure, we will not go up. All of a sudden after a great start we are falling back into the same old pattern, i.e. STREAKY.

At the moment Johnson says we are lacking confidence it’s his job to motivate it to the players. We know all games are different and we will have to battle results out and man up and obviously it is not happening at the moment. I think personally he again does not know his best team. I know injuries have played a part in his selections, but we have to be consistent in our performances.

Ask any fan we want promotion its been great being on good run in the cup, but the prize we want is automatic promotion. Sadly, I don’t think Johnson as manager cannot get us to be consistent. So our owners have big decisions ahead in the next few weeks.

Mark Wild

Ed’s Note: Nice to hear from you again, Mark. It’s been a while since we’ve been in conversation. I agree that Lee Johnson is still discovering his best side, but the big decisions that the owners have to make in the next few weeks will, I think, be more about what players we bring into the men’s squad to boost the performances rather than changing the manager before he’s really had the chance to implement his way of playing.

Give the man and his side credit, they’ve shown they’re capable of playing above this level, but we’ve got things to learn and so much room for improvement. I don’t know what’s behind the drop-off in performance - injuries like you suggest must be a part of this - but I still trust that Lee Johnson is the man to take us to the Championship.

Hull City v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One - KCOM Stadium Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Here we go again. An endless cycle we are on. We are either right up there or down there I’ve been going for over 50 years, and unlike our neighbours up the road, we are not deluded.

Only a few weeks ago, I like many others think the recruitment has been great, and I still think that. I hope the days are gone when we recruit the likes of Dobson and McFadzean.

So we go for the longer project. But you can't blame the fans for being frustrated at four years in this division. We should have strolled out of this league in the first season. What has happened, and we saw this against Charlton, is we are not up for the physical stuff, which is worrying.

Anthony Cheal

Ed’s Note: I’m a frustrated fan too, Anthony. I want success - unlike some out there I don’t revel in the misery or seem to live for the chance to moan. But I’m realistic - this is the strongest League 1 has ever been. We are certainly the biggest, we might even be best team in the league - we will know that after 46 games for sure.

There’s certainly loads of room for improvement in the men’s team, that was evident even when we were in good form earlier in the season. The physical side of the game is definitely one area we’re lacking, and I’d like to see us add a proper big athlete in midfield to give us legs and bite alongside the class of Dan Neil. But I am still - probably in the minority - of the opinion that it will come good with the right additions in January and some hard work on the training pitch, in tactical sessions, and in the gym.


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