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Fan Letters: ‘There are two sides to any argument but never more so than when it comes to Bob Murray’

Our former chairman’s comments about his successors have stirred the proverbial hornets’ nest... Meanwhile, should we play a back four or a back five? The Alans can’t decide. Got something to say? Email us:

Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I’ve just been reading Bob Murray’s comments on here and elsewhere. It got me thinking that there are two sides to any argument but never more so than when it comes to Bob. I have supported Sunderland since 1960 and, while he is certainly not the worst owner we have had by any means, he is certainly not the best. That would be Niall Quinn, or maybe our current owner.

Bob Murray did a lot of good things for Sunderland, most importantly the new stadium, at a time when our beloved Roker Park was becoming seriously outdated. But then he goes and gives it a silly name, one that is already taken by a huge football club, much to the derision of other football fans, especially our friends up the road who were delighted to have a new rhyme to mock us with. What on earth was wrong with Wearmouth? It was the name of the colliery where the stadium is located, respecting the mining traditions of the region, and is a strong name like Liverpool’s Anfield.

Perhaps an even bigger mistake was that he gave priority to extending the stadium capacity in 2000 when we were doing so well in the Premier League. Was this a sensible use of money or just trying to keep up with the Joneses on Tyneside? That excellent team needed strengthening when we were near the top of the PL but the cart was put before the horse and the decline set in soon after. We had reached the highest position since I started supporting SAFC (7th) but it was all downhill after that.

Bob did well to pass the club on to Niall Quinn and the Irish consortium and it wasn’t his fault that the whole thing fell apart after the financial crash in 2008. But should he have sold the club much earlier, accepting the reality that he didn’t have the financial clout to progress in the Premier League. Mick McCarthy was starved of funds and did well to get us back in the PL but it was inevitable that we would struggle. Finally I think Bob ignores the fact that Ellis Short did write off the club’s debts in the end. He was a very poor owner but not everything about him was bad. Just like Bob, he was good in parts.

Mike Painter

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Thanks for the email Mike. I agree in the main – Sir Bob got things wrong (as anyone who supported the club during the late 80s and 90s will tell you), and a lot of things right. I think the vast majority of chairmen would have a similar record. With the ground and the Academy he made a lasting impact on the club and built world-class infrastructure. There were times he didn’t back the managers (Smith, Reid and McCarthy) when he should have, and times he did (Reid) when he perhaps shouldn’t have. Still, he’s a Sunderland supporter, did everything from the heart, and loves the club. Ultimately, from an infrastructure/foundation perspective, he left the club (not necessarily the team) in a far, far stronger position than he found it.

Soccer - FA Barclays Premiership - Sunderland v Liverpool - Stadium of Light
It certainly wasn’t all plain sailing for Bob Murray at Sunderland
Photo by Owen Humphreys - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Let’s not torture McFadzean please. I also think he is not up to it, but he does try. The person at fault here is Lee Johnson who keeps on playing him knowing he is being targeted. We have no really good full backs, we have wing backs, unless you are going to play with three in the middle.

You need proper full backs, not wing backs. Of course, our defensive injuries have contributed to the situation, but we are simply not equipped to play with a back four when most of them are playing out of position.

Alan Cooling

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Criticism of McFadzean is a direct consequence of him being selected, so it’s a fair comment Alan. I think Johnson’s done well since he’s been here, but his continued selection of McFadzean is baffling. He’s simply nowhere near being good enough to play at left back in League One, and ultimately while he is playing, and criticism of his performances – and the goals he’s clearly costing us – will continue.

In terms of your point about proper full backs – this is an issue that stems again from inheriting a squad from another manager. Parkinson built the squad to play three centre backs, and you’re right, we don’t have many – any – true ‘full backs’. Maybe McLaughlin at a push. But, then again, we don’t have three fit centre halves, so it’s a bit of a Catch 22!

Hull City v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One - KCOM Stadium
Johnson – should he shoulder responsibility for McFadzean’s performances?
Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I was watching from Australia - it appears we are playing with three at the back. Not for the first time opposition have four players against a back three. Get back to four for last four games.

Alan Robinson

Ed’s Note [Martin]: We have an Alan off! Alan 1 thinks we’re not equipped to play four at the back, Alan 2 thinks we should. I might leave this one to you two...

In all seriousness, I think Lee Johnson’s somewhere in the middle too. The formation he has at the back is flexible – O’Nien can cover McFadzean a bit, Wright’s more comfortable centrally and Power can drop back, with Gooch playing a bit deeper on the right to form a psuedo back five.

Ultimately, as Alan 1 pointed out, we don’t have full backs capable of playing in a traditional four, so it’s something we’re going to see more of. Even Hume, who everyone (including myself) is delighted to have back, has barely played in a back four at first team level.

Sunderland v Charlton Athletic - Sky Bet League One
Back in action... but Hume has rarely played as an out and out left back for the first team
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Chris Maguire has to start on Saturday for me.

If we insist on playing a ten behind Wyke, he’s the man.

Gaz Summerdale

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Completely agree Gaz. He should have been playing weeks ago. While we all know he can disappear from games, he’s one player who you can rely on to score and create. Along with McFadzean’s continued selection, Maguire’s continued absence is just bizarre.

Hull City v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One - KCOM Stadium
Chris Maguire saw some rare action in the latter stages of the Hull game – but is it time for him to start?
Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I have supported the club through all the good and bad times, mainly bad times in the last decade. I was there when the went down to the old third – they kept most of that team and under Denis Smith we bounced straight back up.

Well, Stewart Donald arrived as a messiah and lo and behold he got rid of the deadwood and some really good players and replaced them with League One players so finished up with a League One team – hence being stuck here for the last three seasons then the managerial merry-go-round.

Hopefully Lee Johnson with the backing of Kyril can take us up next season because I don’t honestly believe they’ll sneak into second place or come up through the playoffs – every time we needed two points to take us into the auto promotion places last season we fell short, as we have in recent weeks.

As I say I don’t think they’ll go up in the playoffs, hopefully we’ll see who stays and add some quality and go up as champions!

Bill Harding

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Thanks for the email Bill. Back in 1987 there wasn’t the gulf in money between the top flight and second and third tiers, so players were happier to stay – and the club were happier to keep them. The whole Donald debacle is best consigned to history, however with the parachute payments from the Premier League we still had coming in we should have come straight back up. Anyway, it’s history. Let’s not write us off for the play-offs, although history tells us we probably should! I’m comfortable with where we are ownership wise and in the direction of the club now, and if we start next season in League One I wouldn’t be overly concerned.


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