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Harrogate v Sunderland - Pre-Season Friendly

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Fan Letters: Harrogate fan ban under the microscope, streaming issues & promising recruitment

Our pre-season game at Harrogate was mysteriously changed to behind closed doors at the last minute. One of our readers has turned detective to find out what really happened... Email us:

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Despite the late heartbreak on Tuesday night, this is the first time in a long time that the season is looking extremely promising for Sunderland. Fans back, three wins to start us off, and SkyBet have us as 7/2 favourites to win the league (second favourite is Portsmouth at 6/1). Happy days!

Many were worried about recruitment at the start of the summer, but in hindsight, I believe the club has done a great job of getting round pegs for round holes. Dennis Cirkin has slotted in nicely at left back so far and really made people forget the fact that they were disappointed about not bringing in Tony Gallacher from Liverpool. Alex Pritchard and Corry Evans look like brilliant bargains and it seems as though there will be a place in the team for them next year should we finally achieve promotion. While we have not seen Alves or (much of) Broadhead, the loanees we’ve brought in seem to be full of passion and promise (how Callum Doyle is only bloody 17, I’ll never know) and though they’re only here on a short term basis, I’m excited to see them develop over the season. Lastly, while there’s not been a huge focus on the academy signings, Sohna and Dyce both took a few fans eyes when brought in, and I’m very eager to see them (along with the rest of the lads we brought in) hopefully follow in the footsteps of Dan Neil and Jack Diamond in the coming years.

That being said, we’re not done yet. We still need cover for both full-back positions (I don’t care if it’s a Sunderland tradition for a central midfielder to play right back, Carl Winchester can’t be there by himself 46 games a season) and we also need a goalkeeper brought in. I’m probably one of Lee Burge’s least harsh critics, but in our first three league games we haven’t kept a clean sheet and he isn’t completely innocent in that.

I also think our squad is thin in general, especially for League One. The third division is well known for high-intensity play and some of the lads (McGeady in particular) looked rather fatigued that’s the end of the Burton game Tuesday night. If we insist on going for the League One double (Title and Papa) we’re going to need to either show more faith in our youth team, or increase the squad size.

Overall, I’m very pleased with our start to the season, and I can’t remember when I last said that. My questions are:

A) Do you think we can maintain our successful start?

B) What could go wrong?

Hope you’re all well, and staying safe,

Liam Moran

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Thanks for your email, Liam, and yesterday’s news that we’re seemingly close to signing Leeds’ Niall Huggins and we’re trying to bring Mannone back to the club should get us closer to the squad we need. Johnson spoke about needing two players for every position and we’re pretty close to that if those two come off.

Can we maintain our successful start? I think a lot depends on how the young players adapt and hold up – we don’t really know how good the likes of Cirkin, Broadhead, Huggins, Alves etc will be – and whether we can keep players fit, particularly Ross Stewart. He’s been prone to hamstring injuries but hopefully we can manage him well. All things being equal, however, I do think we’ll be up there at the end of the season.

What could go wrong? Plenty. This is Sunderland, after all!

All we can do is keep the faith, as they say.

Milton Keynes Dons v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Cirkin has impressed in his two outings so far
Photo by John Cripps/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Re: Harrogate Game No fans allowed

As I said in the forum the late restriction was a disgrace so I asked under FOI for details of the alleged safety reasons behind the restriction.

Here are the main aspects.

• North Yorks Police: concerns about the attendance of away fans

• Yorkshire Ambulance Service unable to supply a paramedic – request came too late

• Stewarding plan did not allocate sufficient Stewards.

• Absence of a robust segregation of fans

• Safety officer unfamiliar with the ground

• Control room issues.

There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that the issues could and should have been resolved by Harrogate Football Club.

However some of the reasons suggest to me that the visiting fans just were not welcome, they just did care about the inconvenience and cost thrust upon the SAFC fans.

Mordey St

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Good detective work, Mordey St. It seems from that that Harrogate simply weren’t up to hosting the game, and everyone concerned thought it was more trouble than it was worth, which is appalling really – especially when it was called off so late in the day. We’ll no doubt remember this when arranging future friendlies.

Harrogate v Sunderland - Pre-Season Friendly
The game against Harrogate was played behind closed doors at the last minute
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Last season I streamed all the home games through my season card. Also, I purchased and streamed all the away matches. No problems. I purchased last night’s match and couldn’t get the stream. I tried and tried without success. Every time I logged on to the SAFSEE app couldn’t get access to view the game. Kept getting a message that I didn’t have sufficient funds to view.

Desperate to watch the match thinking that maybe the first purchase didn’t go through l purchased the streaming again but still couldn’t log in. Today I checked my bank account and two £10 payments were made for the streaming of the match. I don’t care about the money. Very disappointing. I wonder if any other fans experienced the same problem. I’ve texted the ticket office this afternoon about the problem. No answer yet. PS watched last night’s disallowed goal loads of times. Never offside more onside. Yellow shirted player on the far side playing Flanagan onside. Poor officials as usual.

Ed’s Note [Martin]: I know a few people had problems accessing the stream on Tuesday – there seemed to be a problem with it. You’ll need to email to get that resolved. I wouldn’t be relying on the ticket office for anything. For all of the good work on the football side of SAFC, the ticket office and club shop have been seemingly left to ruin – we’ve had so many stories of people encountering problems with the ticket office it’s unbelievable; while the shop remains closed. These are all people who are wanting to give SAFC money, and they’re finding it difficult – if not impossible – to do so. Re the goal on Tuesday, I think this image shows he might have been marginally offside, however it was pure guess work from the linesman. He got lucky.

Dear Roker Report,

I feel exactly the same as Antonio, I also live on the south coast plus I am disabled and can`t get to matches anymore, I would love to buy a season streaming ticket I paid for and watched every match streamed last season, As I am closer to France than Sunderland maybe I should move about 30 miles further south then I would be eligible?


Ed’s Note [Martin]: That would be one solution, Paul! I think it’s really poor from the EFL – antiquated thinking. There’s nothing to be lost and a lot to be gained from streaming the games for people who simply cannot get there for any number of reasons.


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