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Sunderland v Tranmere Rovers - Papa John’s Trophy Final

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Fan Letters: “I am very optimistic for next season” says Sunderland fan

Amongst the endless debate about recruitment strategies, a welcome hint of optimism from a fan who has seen a lot of Sunderland down the years.

Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Should we be optimistic or pessimistic over our lack of signings to date?

Personally, I find ‘optimism’ and ‘SAFC’ two difficult words to reconcile, having endured supporting them for 60 years.

And this time of year and the upcoming season are turning out to be much the same as always.

Anyone with a titter of common sense knows that you must get transfer business done relatively early in the window. The longer you wait the more chance you miss your targets because those same targets want their futures sorted as early in the window as possible too.

There is only a small pool of decent players to try to attract and to sell your vision to.

Plus they will have mortgages, families, bills to pay and, if their previous contract finished end May or June, they need an income to survive.

If they have a contract with their present club then they might give serious consideration to a better offer or use any interest to get an improved deal.

Either way they will want to have things sorted, if possible, before their family holiday and certainly before pre-season starts.

The longer a club goes without signings the smaller the pool of talent becomes and the inevitable panic button gets pressed.

Who can forget (even though we want to forget) Tore Andre Flo, Steven Fletcher, N’Dong, Grigg - the list is endless where SAFC is concerned. And the list is not just of the wasted millions on average or worse players - there have been millions wasted on wages too for so-called free transfers. Nought is free where football is concerned and the Alvarez fiasco is a case in point.

So am I optimistic for this coming season? No I’m not - and any optimism generated by the change of ownership is dissolving rapidly. Getting the backroom staff in place is fine and dandy but they won’t win games or gain promotion.

Will love it if I’m proved wrong but having been proved right with personal predictions the last 5 or 6 seasons I’m not confident.

Roy Logan (Northern Ireland Supporter)

Ed’s Note [Rich]: Thanks for your letter, Roy. I don’t agree that it’s necessarily common sense that you get your transfer business done early, and I doubt that there’s been any waiting around going on whilst others have picked up players we were after. Sanderson has gone to the Championship, as is probably right for his development, and Ipswich have signed a half decent League 1 striker. I really don’t understand what all the fuss is about to be absolutely honest.

We did our business early under De Fanti, and look where we ended up after that debacle. Right now, at this stage of the merry-go-round, squads are in flux - players are making career-defining decisions, and those kinds of decisions sometimes take time. Sometimes we will have to wait for another deal to be done at the selling club for the player we’re after to become available. But it’s starting to happen now, a few players are arriving.

I do, however, think clubs should certainly avoid a rush to get transfers done in the last few days or hours of the window, as happened with Grigg, but the same applies to rushing into just getting bodies in early.

What’s required is the meticulous identification of targets who will improve the overall quality and depth of our squad, and have the characters needed to succeed at a club of our stature where the public interest and pressure for results is, naturally, massive.

We don’t yet have the evidence to assess whether the new ownership’s plan to implement a new football philosophy through intelligent recruitment and player development will materialise and produce results, so I’m not sure how you can say with such confidence that we won’t go up this season. The players we’ve recruited so far seem to be of a better pedigree than those that have departed.

Sunderland AFC Announce Signing Of Alex Pritchard
New Sunderland AFC signing Alex Pritchard
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I am a bit confused over the on board new guy Pritchard and the proposed one Evans. I am sure that somewhere LJ said they were concentrating on those potential new players who had a good fitness record.

Now a blind man on a galloping horse can see neither Pritchard nor Evans have such a good record – not by a long way. I am happy to (hopefully) have both very decent players on board but is LJ treating us with a bit of disrespect here?

You really cannot say one thing and then do just the opposite. Let’s just hope they are not shades of sicknote Rodwell.

Chris Carter-Jackson

Ed’s Note [Rich]: Thanks for writing in, Chris, and I have to say that the fitness issue is one that concerns me too. I can’t recall the exact comments and whether it was him or Speakman who said it, but yes, injury records have to be part of the considerations. Evans has been out with groin problems a few years ago and only made 9 appearances last season, but he’s still managed to notch-up well over 200 Championship appearance and 69 international caps. But if they pass the medicals, and surely the club will be rigorous in this respect having had their fingers burned in the past, then like you say w’ve got to hope they come good.

Northern Ireland v USA - International Friendly
Corry Evans of Northern Ireland
Photo By David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Since coming to Sunderland in 1964 from Kenya, I have held season tickets and followed our team in good times and bad times. I am very optimistic for next season. Now that we have signed Luke O’Nien for three years, make him the Captain as he leads by example and please give our academy’s youths a chance to perform. We do not want to loose our talented youths to flourish away from Sunderland.

Sharad Trivedy

Ed’s Note [Rich]: Cheers for writing in, Sharad. It’s good to hear that a fan of such long-standing as yourself is still able to stay optimistic about our prospects, and you're absolutely right that Luke O’Nien could be the right leader for a younger, more dynamic Sunderland team in the season ahead. Keep the Faith!

Luke O’Nien Signs New Contract At Sunderland AFC
Captain Luke?
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

If we are going to be waiting for the right players for the right price, we will be waiting forever!!

Our rivals, Ipswich, Wigan, Portsmouth, Lincoln and Doncaster have got on with it and bought their players so what about us?

We have bought Pritchard but his injury record in the last 3 years is poor so why did we buy him and let go of Maguire who was only given a handful of games and scored 9 goals with 7 assists?

Carney will probably play in Papa John’s Trophy as Burge will most likely start.

The good players that were available have mostly been snapped up and as usual, we will end up getting the leftovers.

I remember two years ago, we had a chance to buy Laurence Shankland from Ayr United for £400,000 but bought Grigg for £4 million !!

Again this year, we had a chance to buy Sanderson but with Wolves wanting around £2 million, we offered £1 million after which Wolves closed the door and said they will keep him.

We have got rid of players but not replaced them so I would now urge the management to throw our youngsters like Hawkes as I doubt we will get promoted so the best time to blend them in?

I personally predict that Lincoln, Ipswich and Wigan will go up this season.

Harish Shah

Ed’s Note [Rich]: Thanks for your letter, Harish. I think I’ve already addressed many of your points in my reply to Roy, above. There's clearly a divide amongst the fanbase about whether or not the time to really get concerned about the relatively slow announcements of new signings is now; but we all have the same objective - seeing Sunderland’s recruitment and internal player development produce an exciting, promotion winning team on the pitch come mid August. There’s a few weeks to go and long season ahead, and I doubt it will all click immediately, but really this whole debate is becoming absurd when we really should be excited to have the prospect of live football before us. Nil desperandum, Harish!


Farewell, Tony, and thanks for the Sunderland memories


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