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Fan Letters: Sunderland’s left backs are still causing fans concern - what’s the solution?

Is left back such a problem that we need to resort to playing one of our attackers there? Email us:!

Crewe Alexandra v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Jon Hobley/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Thinking of our left back situation and seeing how Denver Hume is out for the foreseeable future, maybe not returning till May. To fix the issue we could look to Leeds for the solution.

For years, Leeds had left back issues and tried the then left winger Stuart Dallas to fix the issue. Fair to say, Dallas did to an extent as he is now currently in the Premier League playing left back.

Which is why, in my opinion, we could look to a similar solution to fix problem until Denver can come back. Having played RWB this season I wouldn’t be against Lynden Gooch having a shot at left back.

He’s got a strong left foot, is quick and when played RWB he has done OK defensively, which when you look at our current options of Callum McFadzean and Jake Vokins is a hell of an improvement. Also we have the attacking options to cover Gooch’s absence in the final third.

It may sound bonkers to suggest Gooch playing left back but, in my opinion, it’s even more bonkers to stick with either McFadzean or Vokins.

Keep up the good work with the pods and stuff lads.

Lee Armstrong

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Thanks for the email Lee – desperate times call for desperate measures and all that. McFadzean’s not performing and teams are now targeting us in that area as they know they can get some joy there.

Gooch did drop in at left back at Burton for 20 minutes or so to counter the threat of their winger who was cutting inside and did well. However I’m not convinced he’d be the answer in a game where we’re under greater pressure than we were against Swindon for example. Also, he did come off injured and I’m not sure if he’s going to be missing for any length of time.

I’d prefer us to give Oliver Younger a go at centre back and put O’Nien over to left back – or vice versa – to be honest.

Crewe Alexandra v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Could Gooch fill in temporarily at left back?
Photo by Jon Hobley/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I have to comment on some of the things I’m seeing and hearing on Facebook about Chris Maguire. People saying he isn’t capable of playing in a pressing style are misinformed. I actually think one of the strongest parts of his game is the way he charges around and presses from the front. Maybe it’s just me! I don’t know if he’s an impact sub or a starter, but what I do know is that he adds value. I don’t like calling him the King but he is a good player.

Lord only knows what LJ should do. Can Mags play in defence?!

Claus Jensen (Danish Black Cat)

Ed’s Note [Martin]: When Maguire’s on his game he does press as well as anyone, but as with every other aspect of his game that fluctuates massively. There were a couple of games early in 2020 – Wycombe and Lincoln at home – where Maguire’s pressing was instrumental in our performance. But other times he doesn’t do it. I think over the past few weeks he’s been brilliant coming off the bench (although he should have scored the other night, and that foul at the end was a bit daft) and I think he should be playing from the start in the games we have coming up. I actually think he’s the player who’s suffered most from not having the crowd in there, but he relishes big games and I think he could be pivotal during the run in. From attacking midfield, though – not defence!

Sunderland v Swindon Town - Sky Bet League One
Maguire’s set pieces add an extra dimension to our attack
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

When you say the Dell Group has been seen on site is that “Dell” as in Michael Dell, or “Dell Boy” as in Stewart Donald?


Ed’s Note [Martin]: You’ve lost me, Trigger. By the way, 2019 called. It wants its broom back.

Trotter’s Reliant Van from ‘Only Fools and Horses’ tv programme
Match day bus from Morpeth
Photo by National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

In these difficult times of having time on our hands I like to read all reports about our matches. I just read the Swindon Advertiser’s Report, and it was written the way I saw the the match last night. Perfect. Our local press match reports are always so negative. Ok it’s hard to break down these teams but our players kept at it and got the result. How many times have we lost or drawn similar games in this league? At least our players are finding a way to get a winning result. Slowly and surely we are getting where we want to be. I don’t even want to mention the word. Fingers crossed.

Anthony DeGiovanni

Ed’s Note [Martin]: I totally agree that a few months ago we’d probably have drawn that game, Anthony. I don’t think we can underestimate the impact the constant midweek/Saturday schedule is having either – not to mention having no fans in the ground – has either. In addition, Johnson’s been open about having to change the style of play to counter the fact we’re playing with midfielders as centre backs.

In terms of the local reports, I think the difference is they’ve got the context of our performance against Doncaster for example, where we were bright, energetic and blew them away. Opposition’s reporters haven’t seen that, so they are only reporting on what they’ve seen on the evening. On Tuesday we were laboured and struggled to carve out an opening against the side with the worst away record in the league, however objectively we probably looked very solid and in control of the game.

Right now, as long as we’re winning, I don’t care.

PS: Don’t talk about it, let’s pretend it’s not a possibility!

Sunderland v Swindon Town - Sky Bet League One
A win’s a win!
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Regarding Bill Airey’s comments on player ratings I think McFadzean receiving 0/10 was generous! I would have given him minus 7! We have a left back who can’t pass tackle head the ball or even take a throw in! Not sure I could class him as below average in a very poor league. Still maintain my stance that him and Vokins are the worst left backs and footballers I have ever seen.

Now to Chris Maguire, this is simple. He must start. His free kick delivery is better than anyone.

Come on Lee, give him a chance!

Philip R Wright

Ed’s Note [Martin]: I’m glad you’re not doing our player ratings, Philip. Given the amount of controversy a zero has caused I hate to imagine what a minus seven would do! Twitter and Facebook would explode. McFadzean’s struggling – but I don’t think it was ever envisaged he’d play as much as he is doing, or even play left back – remember Parkinson signed him as cover for LWB. I think it’s unfair to write off Vokins as a player – he’s not looked up to playing left back in League One but I just think that’s symptomatic of the youth set up in this country and the lack of exposure players get to ‘real’ football. He’s here to make mistakes and learn, unfortunately. He’ll go back to Southampton better for it. The concerning thing is he’s obviously not showing the manager enough in training to warrant a game.

Shrewsbury Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Vokins has struggled to perform in League One
Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I fully agree with Bill Airey’s recent post on Mr Lowson and his spitefully low player ratings. Hopefully they will receive little attention from the staff and players but they merely serve to further depress us readers. If the left back is so bad, why is the loanee not preferred? So, no more zeros PLEASE! We’re fourth which is the best for a long time. Well done players and management - 8 from me!

P McManus

Ed’s Note [Martin]: The ratings are the immediate reaction of one fan – Jimmy – and I’m sure there’s plenty of people who agree with them and plenty that don’t. I must admit I’m from the Shoot! and Match magazine era where the player ratings were gospel and the lowest you could get was 4 out of 10, so anything below that jars with me.

I think we can all acknowledge left back is a problem for us at present – you can see it with the way Johnson’s setting up his team to compensate – but Vokins hasn’t shown himself to be any better at all. If Flanagan was fit I think he’d be playing there, but until then Johnson’s got a problem he needs to sort out.

Overall though, I’m cautiously optimistic and at present I’d go along with 8 out of 10 – good, but with potential for improvement!

Match magazine rating system - the gospel of the 80s!

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