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Fan Letters: New version of the ship badge? RR readers Carlos and Kevin are on board!

Would you be in favour of a new version of the ship badge for SAFC? And Paul has his say on the Luke O’Nien to right-back calls.

Dear Roker Report,

I’m hearing a lot of talk on pods etc. about how Luke O’Nien should be playing right-back instead of Winchester and that he only isn’t because he has somehow been guaranteed a run in midfield by Johnson as part of his contract negotiations.

I have listened to what LJ has had to say on this and I just don’t see why people seem to not be grasping it as it makes perfect sense to me.

Firstly - LJ said that he thinks we lost something in certain areas of the pitch last season by playing people out of position - i.e. we lost some attributes from where they would have played, not where they did play. He said that he had decided to try not to do that this year. I agree 100% that last season we lacked legs and urgency in central midfield, and Luke could have provided that if he wasn’t stuck in defence. Whether or not you think that O’Nien is one of our best two central midfielders, LJ clearly does and is prioritising having his energy in midfield over him covering at RB.

Secondly - LJ was clear that part of the reason for O’Nien’s new contract with increased pay was his versatility. He didn’t have to say that, so why on earth would he if actually, the promise to Luke was in fact that we would not play him out of position?!

Lastly, people also seem to be forgetting that Johnson has very seldom played O’Nien at RB - and comments like “he has been playing RB for the last 2.5 years” are simply not true. Last season under Johnson he played primarily at CB and I can only think of one time he played RB (correct me if I am wrong) It was under Ross and Parkinson that he played RB (or more RWB under Parky). In fact, last season LJ said he had never seen O’Nien play RB.

Anyway, rant over. Hopefully recent and future signings make this a moot point as we will be awash with full backs!

Ha’way the lads!

Paul, Chester le Street

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Thanks Paul, I’m in full agreement with you. I’ve found the constant calls for him to be at full-back – and criticism of O’Nien’s midfield performances – baffling. As you say, it’s Lee Johnson’s opinion that counts but for me, he’s been hugely instrumental in how the team’s playing and how it’s set up. One thing that seems to have been forgotten in all of this is that, when Johnson came in, O’Nien was out injured with a dislocated shoulder. When he came back into the team, Johnson said he couldn't play in a wide position as he wasn’t able to take a throw-in. He’s evidently still got the issue, as seen on Saturday, so presumably the challenges with playing wide remain. For me, O’Nien’s a very good midfielder, and will only get better the more he plays there.

Sunderland v Wigan Athletic - Sky Bet League One
Paul’s bemused by calls to put O’Nien at right back
Photo by Will Matthews/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

The debate about the club’s badge has reared its head again, as it seems to every once in a while. I come from the shipping industry, so the reflection in the badge of the city’s shipbuilding heritage was always dear to my heart. Like many, I was disappointed to see the ship-badge dropped some years ago and replaced with a hackneyed image that is indistinguishable from so many other football clubs.

However, one aspect of the ship-badge always troubled me a little. The ship silhouette was somewhat cartoonish, as if drawn by a child. On the one hand, I kind of liked its naivety, but on the other hand, I knew it was a poor image of the great and graceful ships produced in the Wear’s yards.

If there’s going to be a campaign to get the ship-badge reinstated, might I make a suggestion? One of Sunderland’s most prominent shipyards was Austin & Pickersgill, whose roots go back to S P Austin & Son founded around 1826 and William Pickersgill & Sons, founded a couple of years later. When the two companies merged in 1954 they set about producing a standardised ship design that could be mass-produced on what might be termed a production line. Such a ship was needed by the world’s shipowners, as the workhorse of the postwar years, the American-built “Liberty” ships, were fast approaching the end of their working lives. The USA built more than 2000 Liberty ships during the second world war, and those that survived were readily picked up postwar for commercial use.

Austin & Pickersgill (A&P) read the market well. A replacement for the Liberty ships was urgently needed, and in 1967 they built the first of a series known as the SD14, (SD for Standard Design, and 14 for its 14,000 ton capacity and 14 knot speed). The SD14 proved to be an instant hit with the world’s shipowners and production was ramped up, including licensing deals for other shipyards to build them around the world.

I know Sunderland’s shipbuilding history goes back to the year dot, but if any ship epitomises its halcyon days, it’s the SD14. To many eyes, the design of the SD14 may already look old fashioned, but that’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a bonus. It’s a rather beautiful ship – if that kind of thing floats your boat…

Surely there’s a Sunderland supporting graphic designer who can sketch a simple silhouette of an SD14 that evokes its classic lines. At the same time, they can incorporate the essence of the old badge, the red and white stripes and so on, update the whole thing, and produce a timeless badge that will last and last, a badge that truly reflects the City’s history, a history everyone should be rightly proud of. Sunderland was, after all, the world’s greatest shipbuilding centre, and shipbuilding is the DNA of the city and the football club, not a spurious connection to a black cat ...

Carlos Luxul

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Thanks Carlos, I thoroughly enjoyed reading that and learned a lot new. Thanks for taking the time to share that! Great idea. Designers out there – the challenge has been set!

Launch of the SD14 Syrie from the Southwick shipyard of Austin & Pickersgill Ltd, 14 February 1968.
Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

Dear Roker Report,

Lee Seymour writes that he would like to see the old ship badge. I am of an age that I am able to remember when this was the new badge. In 1977, it replaced the simple letters SAFC which wasn’t really a badge at all! I remember being a little disappointed with it at the time. It seemed a bit backward-looking and simplistic, though I now think it looks better with age and would certainly be an improvement on the current one. This I have never really liked but there are a lot of people with tattoos to consider!

What are the other options? Going back to the original one based on the old town crest doesn’t seem right. It is too much about the place and not enough about the football club.

There was also a campaign back in the ’70s to have the SAFC Supporters Association badge which was a classy black cat on a red and white striped shield.

Newcastle Utd manage to have a bit of their city crest and the bar code stripes which seems a good balance, loathe as I am to admit it.

Basically, I don’t think we’ve ever had a good badge. How about an open competition to design a new one?

The winning entry could be put up for a vote against the current and previous badge?

Kevin Johnson

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Have you and Carlos been chatting, Kevin?! As long as we don’t end up with some monstrosity like Leeds did a few years ago! As I mentioned in my reply to Lee, I do think it’s a generational thing as to whether you’d like the ship badge back or not. I’m not a fan of the current one – it’s a bit ‘nothing-y’ and would love to see us explore other options. It’s not the most pressing of concerns right now, though, but getting it right could be a major tick in the box for KLD.

Burnley v Sunderland - Carabao Cup Second Round
Won’t someone please think of the inked?!
Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Ever since high school where a rather attractive girl told me that my blue eyes were “stunning” when I wore baby blue, it’s been my favourite colour to wear. (Wifey, BTW, agrees.) As my introduction in May indicated, I’m a new supporter. So when I found the shirt in the photo attached for a great price on eBay, I snatched it up. I was surprised to see no sponsor! Googling the tag, it’s an Adidas Tiro, and the number indicates the type of shirt and colour. Google images show that almost all of this type were sponsorless. Do you reckon why? It’s clearly not a knockoff. Any insight would be appreciated.


Ed’s Note [Martin]: Thanks for the email Latinas, a few likely tales in there but we’ll let them pass! These are definitely genuine shirts – I bought a couple from the club shop myself. I’m not 100% why they are sponsorless, but I presume it was something to do with the situation when Betdaq pulled their sponsorship just before the season started. If you remember we had the ridiculous situation where the home and away shirts had a sponsor stuck over the original. I presume the third strips were made in between Betdaq pulling out and the new sponsor coming on board, so were made sponsorless.


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