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Sunderland v Lincoln City - Sky Bet League One Play-off Semi Final 2nd Leg

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Fan Letters: ‘I’m hoping Lee Johnson can at least partially reignite my love of the game’

Still lots of discussion about Lee Johnson in today’s mailbag...

Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Long-time reader, first-time writer. I’m lucky enough to have had three season tickets at the SoL, arguably over three best seasons we’ve seen there: the old Div 1 Championship winning season of 98/99 and the two following seasons in the Prem where we finished 7th(!) consecutively.

What a time to be alive... I’ve never had one since due to a range of reasons but have always made an effort to go a few times a year with my dad. It’s a great day out, hop on the fan bus, dropped off in town for a few pints beforehand, watch the game.

The season before last we managed two games, and not because of the virus, but because we just didn’t want to go. The last game we saw was the 2-2 draw at home against Gillingham, my endearing memory being my dad turning round at half time and saying “this is the worst game of football I’ve ever seen”. Couldn’t argue with that. The football, the manager, the bulk of the players... depressing.

I’m not expecting Lee Johnson and this group of players to be knocking it around like Barcelona, I just want to see some effort, some thought, some kind of identity. I’m hoping it can at least partially reignite my love of the game and will spur me in to hopping on the bus to the SoL a few more times this year.

All the best,

Thomas Conlon

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Thanks for your letter Thomas. Imagine your situation is similar to another 20-30,000 people. For some, going to the match is a duty, others go for enjoyment and entertainment – and there’s been little of that over recent seasons. For the club to be successful, the football needs to engage people like yourself – let’s hope you’re tempted to visit the SoL on a more regular basis next seson.

Andy Cole and Paul Butler
For a lot of people, the football on offer has to be entertaining to justify attending.

Dear Roker Report,

I, too have considerable doubt whether L.J. is suitable for the esteemed position of manager at our club. As a lifelong supporter (how could it be otherwise when I first saw the lads in 1951 aged 9), you live, breathe everything about the team. I’m happy when the team plays like ‘Sun’lend’ ie with wholeheartedness, desire and will to win. An example of this would be the first half of the playoff 2nd leg. I will now come to my original sentence regarding the coach. He was completely unable to influence the game with appropriate changes after Lincoln equalised and the game fell flat from our point of view.

His use of substitutes is abysmal and rarely succeeds. He has had one window to date, stymied somewhat by the salary cap but like an earlier reader asked, why Carl Winchester?!

His lack of faith in younger players is shocking. Why no Josh Hawkes? He is 22 years old and has ‘big’ clubs circling like vultures. There are other youngsters worthy of a chance of a sustained run in the team. L.J. talks a good game but I’m beginning to think it ends there. His demeanour reminds me of an old piece of alliteration ‘bullshit baffles brains’.

Arthur Gray

Ed’s Note [Martin]: The jury’s still out on Johnson, I think – there have been some promising signs at times and some concerning signs during his spell in charge. It’ll be interesting to see how the team’s built in the summer – I hope the first half v Lincoln is how he wants to play, and he can recruit the players to deploy such a system week in, week out. There is a disconnect between what he says and what’s been shown so far on the field, however he’s been managing a team built by someone else to play a very structured, defensive style of play. The next six months will give us a much better idea of what Johnson’s all about.

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Sky Bet League One Play-off Semi Final 2nd Leg
Question marks - Lee Johnson
Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I don’t often feel the need to put pen to paper regarding issues at my club, indeed I don’t often see eye to eye with what you guys report. But the recent article by Rich Speight hit the nail firmly on the head.

The club's persistence with LJ does not bode well for me and the significant aspect of that is, with 10 games to go from completion to the end of last season he had this club in a position where automatic promotion was entirely in our own hands. What followed, was a collapse of unbelievable proportions. So the prize was there for the taking and he was unable or incapable of delivering. Significantly, we can't say we weren't warned. Upon his appointment, we were warned by several Barnsley and Bristol City fans that this was what LJ would bring to the table, inconsistency.

Indeed fans of these particular clubs have already dubbed him ‘ Streaky Johnson ‘ due to his pattern of going on decent winning runs followed by equally long winless runs. This pattern of irregular and unusual inconsistency will not get us promoted. It's all very well saying he needs to build his own team, but again he had a team on the verge of automatic promotion and blew it.

No, Rich’s article was spot on and as a season ticket holder of this club for over 45 years, I’m sorry but I have no faith in the man to deliver.

Bill Cowie

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Thanks for your letter Bill – however I think the article you refer to was a fan letter we received – Rich’s response disagreed with the sentiment. For what it’s worth, my take is that – as stated above to Arthur – the jury’s still out on Johnson. Does blame for the bad run lie soley at his door? Or do the players – who failed to get us promoted twice before – share some responsibility? Yes, it’s a concern that Johnson seems to go through these winless runs – however he’s not unique in that. Steve Bruce and Peter Reid both took Sunderland through similar runs. Hopefully he can pin down why it happens and rectify it. For a young coach – he turned 40 last week – he’s managed over 400 games, so has experience already. My view is that I’m not not entirely convinced he’s the ‘long term’ answer, but given he’s been working with Speakman etc behind the scenes for the past six months to identify the style of play, philosophy etc, changing manager again would be just going back to square one. The first half against Lincoln was exactly the type of football we want to see. As a fan base we’ve gotten used to getting rid of a manager at the first sign of trouble, and as a club we need to give a manager the time to build something of his own – we’ve paid the price for not doing so over recent years.

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