Dear Roker Report,
In the aftermath of last night’s demolition of Cheltenham Town, I found it really refreshing to read Lee Johnson’s comments about Sunderland’s tactics on the night.
I was a bit bemused by some of the negativity on social media when the line-up was announced - did anyone think that Neil and Embleton, still both getting their first run of games in the first team, would play every single match - Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday? Both players have been a little quieter the last couple of games and what is the point in having such a strong squad if you are not willing to rotate when people’s levels drop a little? Broadhead and O’Brien certainly deserved their chance to start as well.
Once the game started it was clear that the strategy was to get in behind Cheltenham as often as possible - and it worked to devastating effect. The fact that this was not a happy accident was borne out by Johnson’s comments afterwards that they knew that the opposition liked to play a high line, and so having a number 10 who operates in front of their defence trying to pick the lock was likely to be less effective than having 2 willing runners in behind and using the midfielders and full backs to find them time after time.
I have been watching Sunderland since the early 1990s and I can’t remember us very often showing such tactical nous and flexibility. Even the decent sides we have had found a way of playing that suited them and persisted with it, without really seeming to come up with specific tactics designed to exploit opposition weaknesses so surgically.
Other decisions LJ has made have also been vindicated. I wrote a few weeks ago about how I hoped he resisted the clamour to switch O’Nien and Winchester around - he has done that and given the form of those two players in their current positions I don’t think anyone would now suggest that that would be a good idea!
Yes it’s one game, yes it’s league one, yes it’s Cheltenham.....but I think Johnson deserves a huge amount of credit for the way we are playing at the minute... long may it continue.
Paul Burdon - Chester le Street
Ed’s Note [Rich]: Cheers for you letter, Paul. Trusting in the plan and being patient with a manager trying to fundementally change the way we play football is certainly paying off right now, isn’t it.
Your letter made me think back to those correspondents who wrote in over the summer clamouring for Johnson to be sacked and going on about how nowt had changed under Louis-Dreyfus, how the data recruitment model was guff, how Stewart Donald was pulling the strings, etc, etc... I know this is a game of opinions and hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it does make me giggle a little.
Dear Roker Report,
Sign Nathan Broadhead on a permanent... NOW!
Ed’s Note [Rich]: We know for certain it can’t happen right now, Josh - he’s under contract with Everton, we have a loan agreement with them, and we’re outside the transfer window. As I understand it, he extended his contract at Everton for a year in the summer, and therefore when there’s less than six months left on his current deal we can offer him a contract to sign him on a free - but so can Everton and any other club that wants him.
We know he chose to come here to play, and that other clubs at higher levels were sniffing around this summer. If we can make him an indispensible part of a promotion winnning team, then there’s literally no bigger club outside the Premier League he could join. I just hope against hope the scan on his hamstring comes back okay, otherwise we might not get to see that much more of him before Christmas.
Dear Roker Report,
Would just like to echo the comments on the post-match podcast about Broadhead, what a player he appears to be. LJ said it was embarrassing we couldn’t get him in and you can see why, he’s a top player who is destined for the top. Keep it up Nathan
Ed’s Note [Rich]: Cheers for your letter and for listening in to the podcast, Sid. I’ve been following Nathan’s career for few couple of years, and was absolutely over the moon when he chose to join Sunderland. He’s got a big reputation amoungst the Toffees fans around these parts, and like you I really believe the best is yet to come from the lad.