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Arsenal v Sunderland - Premier League

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Fan Letters: RR reader Kev wants Jermain Defoe back at Sunderland - yes, or no?

A mixed mailbag today - optimism, pessimism, a longing for Jermain Defoe’s return and a critique of Pep Guardiola’s influence on football. Email us:

Photo by Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I’m thinking of travelling a round trip of 500 miles there and back as usual for the 2nd leg of the play offs as long as I can a ticket do you think I’ll be wasting my time given the dross and draws we’ve seen AGAIN this year then IF we get through you have got the lottery of getting a ticket for Wembley.

Anthony Prior

Ed’s Note [Rich]: I think the club are announcing the method of allocating tickets later in the week, so I’d watch out for that. We’ve 12,000 season card holders who’ll get first dibs, and earlier the club took a register of those who’d be interested in attending and with 10,000 seats on offer I guess there’s going to have to be some sort of ballot. After so long locked out of the games, I’d love to be there - so if you’ve got a chance then go and give the Lads all the support you can. We can do this!

Dear Roker Report,

I still think we can do it. We are better than the rest of the teams in there. They’ll fear us as McGeady, Jones, Maguire, Wyke and Gooch are all good players capable of taking anyone apart. Bring it on.

Clive Caldwell

Ed’s Note [Rich]: That’s the spirit, Clive. Keep the Faith!

Sunderland v Doncaster Rovers - Sky Bet League One
We can’t wait to be back home at the Stadium of Light
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Watching Defoe and his goal for Rangers v Celtic, it’s pretty obvious he can still hack it at a reasonable level.

What a statement of intent it would be (if we go up of course) to go and offer him a contract back here to see out his career. Even if he didn’t play every game he’d be the best impact sub in the Championship.

He’s still one of the best finishers in the game for sure.

Kevin Twinn

Ed’s Note [Rich]: He’s been one hell of a player for years, hasn’t he Kevin, and you’re not the first to suggest that Defoe could end his career here. He’s a model professional and my heart says I’d love to see him return as a player-coach if we do go up to the Championship. But it would only be a short term thing on the pitch, and I get the impression that a focus on youth will be the priority in our recruitment this summer. But never say never, eh!

Rangers v Celtic - Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership
Still sharp! Should Sunderland get Defoe back?
Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Sorry, not SAFC related, but here’s what one SAFC supporter thought of the BT announcers, the City bandwagon, and the fact that Pep isn’t wearing any clothes....

Did you watch this tie? I watched the BT Sport coverage. Normally I like Darren Fletcher and Jermaine Jenas, but hoping for a PSG win meant they really got on my nerves. They are so blatantly impartial English supporters it was sickening. Every time Foden, Walker, or Stones touch the ball they made them out to be Ballon d’or candidates (I assume because the rest of City’s team are foreigners). Somehow I’ve grown to dislike Mahrez and Gundogan; Gundogan’s turning into a Diego Costa heel for me, and Mahrez, well I’m just sick of his lucky goals I think. I loved him as a fox.

If you listened to Fletcher and co. you’d think City bossed the whole tie and PSG never stood a chance. What really happened was PSG bossed the first half of the first match and finally looked as unstoppable as they should. City pressed them well in the 2nd, but desperately needed those two lucky goals. And even though the City press was good, they didn’t force any mistakes like that Ederson pass that DiMaria should have scored in the 2nd leg. PSG should have scored 2 or 3 more in the first half of this one anyway.

The 2nd leg PSG got caught out a bit once, KDB shoots right into a defender, the rebound goes to Mahrez, who totally lucks out for the 2nd game in a row and shoots through the legs of both the diving defender and the keeper. Marquinhos then heads a cross into the City bar over a helpless Ederson, and not long later Ederson passes the ball to a pressured player, DiMaria nicks it, and has a shot before Ederson can get back in position, but nearly misses. I think PSG had more possession as well. Plus Mbappe was out the 2nd leg. And did anybody else think it a bit strange that the richest team in the world can’t afford enough groundskeepers to clear the hail off the field? I think it’s more likely they knew an obstacle pitch would adversely affect ball control and advantageously keep the score down.

Manchester City v Paris Saint-Germain - UEFA Champions League Semi Final: Leg Two Photo by Matt McNulty - Manchester City/Manchester City FC via Getty Images

Yes, City are very good, and it’s hard not to like Pep, KDB, or Kyle Walker (Rodri and Cancelo should be inducted into the Iberian Dive Team hall of fame). None of City’s players are as skilled or capable as Neymar or Mbappe, but City’s talent is more spread throughout the team and deeper than PSG’s. Neymar and Mbappe don’t have the midfield they deserve, ostensibly because you can’t afford anything near it after you’ve bought these two.

I used to really like that Pep is the latest Cryuff/Barca/Total Football progenitor, and that he’s pulling it off in the uber physical Prem and now Europe. But here’s what all those English fanboys fail to mention: if your brand of football can only be played by the highest level and most expensive players in the world, what good is it? I could manage those guys and say “you guys are great, just play however you want” and they’d probably be nearly as good. Probably every other manger in the Prem could win with those players; Pep’s not really working magic is he? Don’t be fooled by the supposed strategy, City is the Yankees, and they’ve bought the trophies.

I never thought this would happen, but I’m hoping Chelsea win it again. I don’t want this most expensive team in history to win even the mediocre treble, I’d like to see an American #10 lift the trophy, and I’d like to see Tuchel win it all after PSG gave him the sack.

What do you think?

DJ Ray Pross

Ed’s Note [Rich]: I have no loyalty to either state-sponsored sports-washing enterprise, DJ, and I don't watch the much of the Champions League, but I do look on with awe and admiration at what Pep Guardiola has done with Manchester City, Bayern München and FC Barcelona as a coach and a manager.

I don’t think you can knock a man who has lived a football philosophy his entire life, executed it at the highest level as a player, and went on to develop it and spread it throughout the game as a coach. Played at its best, Pep’s brand of football is both mesmerising and highly effective. Yes, he has a huge pool of very expensive talent to chose from, but like you said, there are other teams with players just as naturally talented and pockets just as deep, if not more so. But Guardiola develops young men and, through rigorous preparation and tactical ingenuity, gives them the freedom to play their natural games like no other manager in the modern era, other than Jurgen Klopp perhaps.

The game moves on. There’s a whole 150 year history to the tactical and technical development of the game, and Pep - along with Pochetino, Klopp, Tuchel and Bielsa - is at the vanguard right now. In the 1950s, English football was reinvented when the Hungarians came, beat us, and showed us how to play a different way. In much the same way, we now have League 1 teams like MK Dons playing out from the back, keeper-sweepers are proliferating, and the standard of coaching and the support given to footballers across the board has improving because of the transformation in the way that game is played at the apex of the pyramid. If a team like Sunderland wants to play and compete - rather than cling on - in the Premier League, we have to implement a progressive philosophy and style of play now.


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