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Sunderland Boat Cruise Of San Francisco Bay And Alcatraz

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Fan Letters: ‘Help! I’m an American who has fallen in love with Sunderland!’

Michael gets in touch with us from across the pond, and he wants a crash course on all things Sunderland! Which books would be on your recommended reading list for an SAFC newbie?

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I am an American who fell in love with Sunderland because of Netflix.

I’m a huge sports fan who has known (mostly) heartache since I’m a Minnesota Twins (baseball) and Minnesota Vikings (American football) fan. Tough teams to love, but here we are. I went to graduate school at Villanova University outside Philly, and wouldn’t you know it, they have had massive success in college basketball so I’m able to soak in championship expectations and success there. Sunderland reminds me a lot of Minnesota sports.

There is a great fan base, a great tradition, but the results don’t seem to match. I’ve always liked “soccer,” but I could never connect with any team — and starting out as a Man U or ‘Spurs fan just seemed cheap.

So, I’m geeked to have found a club that’s a bit down-and-out, one that I can root from the bottom-up, so to speak. Since I’m new to it, are there any resources, books, etc that I can begin reading to get caught up on the history, great players, great moments? What about general “soccer” (I’m trying to say “football,” but I’m a neophyte) tactics, strategies, etc.?

I appreciate American football and basketball so much more once I understand the schemes, the personnel placements and the like and, as of yet, I’m still at the grasping straws phase. So anything you guys can recommend would be helpful.

I love the site, and I love the pod.


Michael Krogh - Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, USA

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Welcome, Michael! Judging by the Minnesota teams you also support you’ve had good preparation for life as a Sunderland fan! In terms of Sunderland, there are loads of books out there. The Absolute Record is a new one and does what it say on the tin – if you want great moments, the history and great players, I’d start there. After that groundwork has been laid, there is any number of books that delve more specifically into moments and eras that have defined the club. There’s a series called ‘Tales from the Red and White’ that delves into the club through the eyes of former players and managers.

In more general terms, around the game itself, a chap called Michael Cox has written a couple of books on tactics – The Mixer and Zonal Marking. My favourite is one called Inverting the Pyramid by Jonathan Wilson (himself a Sunderland fan). It’s quite in-depth but will give you a deep understanding of the tactical side of things!

Additionally, to really understand SAFC, it’s good to understand the history of the region – there are loads to go at online, which will give you a great context into the importance and origins of the club and supporters, too.

Let us know how you go on!

Dear Roker Report,

Agree totally with your response to the “sack Johnson” letter from Mark Wild. I was frustrated as anyone that the lift we got up until Easter was not sustained but let’s face it the new manager could only work with the start bequeathed by Phil Parkinson.

The run till Easter was great, and the two draws with the teams subsequently promoted were good points – it was the in-between results that sucked!

Johnson, in my opinion, got some decent January purchases, has introduced some of the youth players into things, brought back McGeady and has played the substitute game in a way that seemed anathema to Parkinson!

KLD undoubtedly had input into his appointment and has been bold in other members of the non-playing team. Let us give Johnson a longer span to prove his mettle, hopefully in the Championship!

Haway the Lads

Andrew Bailey

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Completely agree, Andrew. Getting rid of Johnson – regardless of the outcome of the play-offs – would be absolute madness in my opinion, and would only signal one thing – KLD is after short-term fixes. Which, from what he’s said so far, is the opposite of how he’s approaching things. Johnson is part of a long-term plan that involves KLD, Speakman, the new recruitment teams and data people among many others – he’s not going anywhere based on a few bad results.

Sunderland v Northampton Town - Sky Bet League One - Stadium of Light
KLD – taking the long term view
Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I think the new owner will bring his own man in. With Juan Sartori now on the board I remember him saying or someone saying they were going to bring in young Uruguayan players on loan. To be honest, in my opinion, I think the club is too big for him.

Alan Fenwick

Ed’s Note [Martin]: It’s been well-documented that KLD was involved to an extent in Johnson’s appointment. As touched upon above, getting rid of Johnson at this point in time is simply not going to happen – and nor should it.

Sunderland v Northampton Town - Sky Bet League One
Here to stay
Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Why does Steve Howey keep commenting on Sunderland chances in the play-offs?

I shouldn’t bite but we all know who he loves.

I know he is a football punter now but he should stick to his.

Anthony DeGiovanni

Ed’s Note [Martin]: We all know where Steve Howey’s true allegiences are... I feel sorry for the lad, having to live a lie! There’s a reason he loves talking about Sunderland, Anthony.

Soccer - FA Carling Premiership - Manchester City v Sunderland
Steve Howey desperately tries to grab a Sunderland shirt
Photo by Matthew Ashton/EMPICS via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Kneeling at the beginning of games is a great gesture, but from what I’ve observed this year, Sunderland is the whitest team in British football.


John Jiler - a North American fan

Ed’s Note [Martin]: I’d say it’s a conicidence, John. I’d be interested to see the figures on it, but you’re right, we’d be pretty far down the list. Dion Sanderson and Jordan Willis have played a lot of first-team football this season, and Benji Kimpioka has been out injured for most of the campaign.

I’d love to see a more diverse team line up for us, I think it’s hugely important on many levels – and if it helps create a winning squad then all the better.

Sunderland v Oxford United - Sky Bet League One
Is the Sunderland squad in need of more diversity?
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

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