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Milton Keynes Dons v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One

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Fan Letters: “Sacking our manager is not the answer – every team has a bad spell!”

The Lee Johnson debate rumbles on...

Photo by John Cripps/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Sacking our manager is not the answer - every team has a bad spell.

It’s a long season, so don’t give up hope - when we get our confidence back, we will be fine. We are a young side, and we might bring in some new players in the transfer window.

Let’s see where we are after Christmas.

Have faith - it’s a big challenge, but we will get there.

Derek Gill

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Completely agree Derek. We discussed it on the podcast that was published yesterday – every team has a bad spell and even when we won the championship under Reidy the first time, we went 12 games and only won once.

The way we play we’re not going to draw many, and in reality we’re better off winning two and losing three out of five than drawing five and remaining unbeaten.

Some of the reaction’s been way over the top – it’s like we’ve never lost a game or two before. One of the lads said earlier that Lee Johnson’s crime seems to be he’s not turned us into The Invincibles overnight - and that sums it up for me. We need to get back to winning ways, and quickly, but sacking the manager at this point, as you say, is certainly not the answer. It’s like we’ve not paid attention to the past 10 years.

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

Dear Roker Report,

Had to laugh when you say Bristol City have gone backwards since the nearly man Johnston left them – just say how it is at SoL instead of how you wished it was and I agree we got no chance of promotion so will be lucky to get to playoffs and will have Rotherham or Sheffield Wed to look forward to playing so we can hear the nearly man come out with his excuses.

Steve Barnett

Ed’s Note [Martin]: It’s a factually correct statement that Bristol City have gone backwards since he left Steve, just have a glance at their league positions and results... that has no bearing or influence on what he’s done here, however.

If you want to write off the season then that’s your prerogative. I’m sure if you’d offered all of us this league position in early November, with the players we needed to sign and bed in, we’d have all taken it. Yes, the last few games have been worrying, but we’re in a decent league position, in my opinion have a squad capable of getting promoted, and we need to give the manager time to navigate out of this short spell of poor results.

Birmingham City v Bristol City - Sky Bet Championship
Bristol City’s league record since Johnson departed: P63 W20 D10 L33. PPG 1.11 Johnson’s last two seasons at Bristol: P92 W36 D25 L31. PPG 1.44
Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

If I was in charge, wait for it... I’d hire Neil Warnock immediately!

Loves the club and has the undoubted experience to get us out of this division.

Alan King

Ed’s Note [Martin]: As a replacement for Denis Smith in 1991 – absolutely.

Soccer - Notts County - Wollaton Park
Warnock in?! Snow joke...
Photo by Claire Mackintosh - PA Images via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

The arguments regarding Sunderland's dramatic loss of form continue to rage with all manner of causes being identified as the reason. But one factor so far has escaped mention.

This is in the critical area of recruitment. The Manager and the Recruitment Team were charged to assemble a squad of sufficient diversity and ability to achieve automatic promotion this season.

The Manager expressed his satisfaction with the outcome of this process. But, a critical examination of the players recruited may well throw some light on the problems now being faced.

Clearly, we were critically short of defenders and to address this problem three young, inexperienced players were signed. With Hume’s future still in doubt, Cirkin was seen as his replacement, whilst Huggins was to fill the vacancy at right back.

We had only two experienced central defenders available in Bailey Wright and Flanagan. Bearing in mind that neither of those two was a pillar of reliability.

It is reasonable to assume that Doyle was signed as a replacement for either one. However, bearing in mind the length and rigour of a League One season, would it be reasonable to expect these young players to remain both fit and in form throughout? It would have to be said it would be highly doubtful.

Clearly, such recruitment would inevitably lead to problems - and so it has proved.

Midfield too has added to these issues. Apart from young Dan Neil - another young, inexperienced player, there is very little leadership or ability evident to be found in this critical area.

Evans is often fighting for fitness, whilst O’Nien is certainly not the answer within the present set-up. Adding to the problems are the two wide players in McGeady and Gooch both of whom have a lack of consistency as well as a lack of ability in tracking back to bolster their full-backs.

Unfortunately, Pritchard too has fitness and consistency issues, and is not a season-long answer to the midfield problems.

We are indeed fortunate to have Ross Stewart in the side, and it defies imagination where we would be without his goals. Once again, we have only young Broadhead to offer as a supplement in this area.

Clearly, there is a perceived need to address these issues in the January transfer window, otherwise, our season would appear to be heading only the one now familiar way!

Perhaps those responsible for recruitment should be reminded of Sam Allardyce’s mantra - make sure the opposition cannot score. That’s why we had Kone, Kaboul and Kirchhoff forming such a formidable barrier.

As always for Sunderland supporters, we can only hope!

Ernie Brown

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Building a new squad was always going to take two or three transfer windows, Ernie, and I suspect it was envisaged Xhemajli was going to be back sooner than he has been. I don’t have an issue with any of the players we’ve brought in, I think they’ve all looked like they can contribute – although I would like to see more from Pritchard. I suspect Alves is the one that hasn’t impressed as much as we’d have liked, but he’s barely had an opportunity. We’ve been a little unfortunate with the injuries to Huggins and Broadhead, but I think what has been shown up is the lack of physicality all over the team. We need some real strength and presence in the spine of the team, and hopefully that will be addressed come January.

Sunderland v Cheltenham Town - Sky Bet League One
Huggins’ injury has been a real blow
Photo by Will Matthews/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Reading the fans comments most are clearly a statement of frustration with the current position. I saw the same massive drop in form which cost us promotion last season. It appears that we can not play against a high pressing team with strong, powerful forwards. Usually, it is the better teams that have worked out our style of play.

The worrying thing is that the manager appears to be a one-trick pony and has no plan B when this happens as he doggedly tries to continue in a tweaked formation that just does not work against a high press.

The midfield either gets bypassed by our defenders hitting long balls or we just get overrun in midfield giving very little support in the final third. In terms of midfield, we are very small and lightweight compared to many teams in the division.

Sunderland and the manager in particular need to work out how to play in a division one style at times as the players appear to expect too much time on the ball at the back in the current style if they are to play well.

I personally find it very frustrating watching Sunderland at these times mostly a yard off the pace and we always seem to be losing second balls with poor delivery to our forwards. I believe the manager needs to look at himself and his preparation before, blaming the players (as he now appears to be).

In his Bristol City days, he appeared to lose his way at critical times when wins would move them into key league positions, I think we are seeing the same thing at Sunderland at present.

Bob Bailey

Ed’s Note [Martin]: It’s a big test for him Bob, and I do think teams have figured out how to play against us, which certainly puts the onus on him to come up with something else. It’s his job to motivate the team as well as set them up in the right way, and that seems to be a problem at present, but it can turn around just as quickly as it went south.

Sunderland AFC v Mansfield Town: Emirates FA Cup First Round Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Well, here we go again. Mr “I believe I am a Sports Scientist” Johnson is spouting off nonsense to anyone who is prepared to be bored by him.

Now it is social media affecting the players. For God’s sake! Is he serious? Social media is part of life now and if these cry babies do not like negative comments about their garbage performances, then don’t go on there. It goes with the territory in the modern game.

He needs to stop talking rubbish about the fluidity of movement, exploiting gaps, etc, etc, and face the fact he has built a team devoid of guts. It does not take a sports science expert to see the problem. No bottle when the tippy-tappy football does not come off.

I have no doubt you will disagree, but I am telling it as I see it and as I hear it right around where I sit, and at half time. Spineless and weak.

What else can it be when teams with a lesser calibre of players tear us apart?

Hugh O’Grady

Ed’s Note [Martin]: I think that was the message he was putting out there, Hugh, that players need to be focused on the game and not what is being said on social media – I also think he was just reminding everyone that what’s said on social media is ‘real life’ and does affect the players.

We need a bit more character in the squad, people who can get stuck in and take the fight to the opposition – we seem to lack that in the current squad. When things are going well, it’s fine – when things begin to go against us we need to show a bit more.


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