Dear Roker Report,
We all know that the Championship is unpredictable at the moment.
When the team who are second in the league have lost more games than two of the bottom three, anybody could finish in the top six. This has led some people who should know better (I’m looking at you, Mr McCoist) to predict that Sunderland could get promoted this season.
Do I think we will get promoted this season? No. Will I celebrate if we do? Of course- like it is 1964, and perhaps even more so, because back then we were favourites for promotion, but this season, nobody was expecting it.
However, do I think we are ready for the top flight? Not by a long way. Going up with the current squad will, I fear, lead only to a season-long relegation battle.
We have a core of promising players, but we need that to be bolstered by a spine of experienced, top level central defenders, midfielders and strikers. Our current squad is shorter, lighter, and younger than the average Championship or Premier League squad.
Another year in the second tier will allow our foreign imports to understand Tony Mowbray even more, and to get more used to English football. Another four transfer windows will allow us to improve our squad with the addition of some experienced, Premiership-ready players.
Let’s soar into the Premier League in 2024 on the back of a one hundred point, one hundred goal season, and not sneak in through the playoffs.
Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi Rob, thanks for getting in touch!
I think you’ve hit the nail on the head regarding Sunderland’s prospects over the next two or three years. Clearly, the aim is to get back to the top flight, but they are trying to do it in a sustainable and sensible way- opting for the development of young players with resale value and ensuring that the foundations are strong before mounting a promotion challenge.
Personally, I think it’s the right way to go about it.
Survival in the Premier League, as the likes of Nottingham Forest are discovering, is extremely tough, and you have to be ready for it. I’m confident that, over the next couple of seasons, we’ll get stronger, and then we can set our sights on the top flight once again.
Dear Roker Report,
Chants are nearly always cruel and are used as an attempt to upset the opposition players, and although they are often abusive, racist, or misogynist, you have to realise the intent.
Don’t go to a football game in any division, and don’t go to the pub, if you don’t like swearing etc: watch it on TV with no sound on.
Ed’s Note [Phil] Hi, David. Thanks for your letter.
I think we have to draw a very clear dividing line between harmless banter and the kind of chanting that comes under the umbrella of abuse- and certainly falls into the categories that you mentioned.
As fans, we have an obligation to call out inappropriate behaviour whenever we see or hear it. Football has a long, long way to go in order to eradicate the spectre of racism and other forms of hate speech, and turning a deaf ear to it is not an option.
Dear Roker Report,
I totally agree with Ian Hughes in that we are playing some lovely football at the moment.
We are doing it without a striker, of course, so just imagine what it will be like when Ellis Simms and Ross Stewart are are back.
I think we will finish in the playoffs, and I wish I didn’t live two hundred miles away, as otherwise I would be at every game, but I have to be content with watching on TV.
Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi David, thanks for getting in touch!
We are playing some very attractive football at the moment, and it’s a style that is working when games are open and the opposition don’t simply sit behind the ball and try and stifle us.
The lack of a striker is certainly an issue, but I’d like to see the likes of Jack Clarke and Jewison Bennette get onto the scoreboard more. If they can do that, we should be able to cope until Simms and Stewart return to the team.
Dear Roker Report,
I would like to point out one thing about James McClean: the reception he got was a reaction to him as a player, and we all remember when he refused to wear a shirt with a poppy on it.
You will also be aware that this kind of chanting occurs regularly in Scotland, where Celtic and Rangers are noted for it. Also, Celtic fans have thrown flares, as have Liverpool’s supporters.
It is true that all of the football authorities must come together on this issue, but I’m not holding my breath because it has gone on for years. Disrespecting a player for his actions may be fair enough, but there are mindless idiots everywhere.
Also, McClean reaps what he has sown by refusing to wear that shirt, so he can’t expect people to forget.
The lads are doing fine, and if we get behind them, we can be the extra man.
Ed’s Note [Phil] Hi, Bill.
This is such an emotive issue and a classic example of a case where some would say, ‘‘Keep politics out of football,” and others might say, “You can’t separate the two”.
McClean clearly has his own reasons, which are rooted in Irish republicanism, for refusing to wear a poppy, and he’ll doubtless understand that it’s turned him into a polarising figure as a result. Perhaps he does attempt to provoke a reaction in some cases, but only he knows for sure, and why.
It is true that similar abuse occurs in stadiums around the country, but that doesn’t make it right. Sunderland AFC must ensure that the Stadium of Light is a welcoming place for all who visit it, and show zero tolerance for those who do cross the line into racism and sectarianism.