Mark Roberts has a few things to get off his chest after recent home games...
If you are born in Sunderland you are lucky; although at the moment, it doesn’t seem like it. The cost of living is hitting many of us hard, but some of us even worse.
It’s not something we have had to face for many a year. Most of us are resourceful and kind, and many of us put words into action – £22,000 and counting for the Sunderland Soup Kitchen. As a country, we raise copious amounts for a plethora of good causes, from the local to the national and overseas. We are like no other nation. I was once interviewed in Slovakia about fundraising, as it was a ‘foreign’ concept to them and the other users of the facilities including Italians, French, Germans, and Czechs….
So why has this spirit seemed to disappear at the Stadium of Light? It could be just me, but it feels like some of us reserve this special kind of angst for our homegrown talent. Has it always been this way, or is it the result of a decade of disappointment?
John Kay, Dickie Ord, Micky Gray, Martin Smith, Jordan Henderson, Jordan Pickford…
Pick your homegrown players from your football-supporting era. Did you give them hell if they lost the ball, or missed a tackle or a cross? I seriously can’t remember. It is definitely not something I can recall as an issue from my younger years. I don’t recall the crowd all getting on the backs of young local players. We gave them the chance, didn’t we?
What about now?
Dan Neil is a special player; he is still just 21 and has made 77 appearances for the club. He was born in Shields and played for Hebburn. He is a Sunderland fan. He will make mistakes as we all do. He can beat a man, he scores from distance and he has an engine. He has never played at this level. He gets more shit from people around me (at the SOL) than most Sunderland players. If anything we should give Dan the most allowance to be the game changer.
Embo. I am gutted for the Durham lad. At the old age of 23, he has been loaned to Grimsby and Blackpool with the latter bidding on him. He has played in under 17’s, under 18’s and under 20’s for England, including winning the 2017 Toulon Tournament. He is part of the reason why we are in the Championship. He is a gifted dribbler of the ball and has a great cross. He gets the same amount of stick that Neil does. It’s not right.
Although not exactly now, but this still irks me. George Honeyman. He wasn’t born in Sunderland but was fairly local and he was at the academy from 10 (not in the morning). Anyone who watched ‘Sunderland til I die’ would see how much the club meant (and hopefully) means to the lad. After a series of ‘great’ escapes, alas we finally plunged into the Championship but with such force, we plummeted into League One desolation. Much like Neil and Embo, he did get more than his fair share of blame and anger aimed at his contribution.
I am more cantankerous but I want to defend our local lads to the hilt - I will support them against a whinge and moan. I am older; I want to show ‘our own’ some support, guidance, and most importantly redemption. I want my players to try something special and have some license to excite, to beat a player and to make a crunching tackle. My worry is the atmosphere can become tough to negotiate, confidence goes and that makes you stop doing the harder things and settle for a sideways pass. I have, like most, no idea what it is like to hear moans and groans - I can only imagine what it feels like when you bleed red and white and you’re stood in the middle of 40000 of us.
Look at this season’s stats.
Current home record – 11 games and 13 points. Winning just 3 and scoring 14, conceding 12.
Current away record - 12 games and 18 points. Winning 5 scoring 17, conceding 14.
There are only 5 teams with worse home records, but only 3 teams with better away records.
There can be multiple factors for this, but I am struggling to see them. The squad is the same. The pitch looks the best it’s been in years.
This Boxing day, let’s get behind the lads with real noise, give Neil a bit more allowance and support, and cheer on every Patto save (like we do) and send best wishes to Embo. Stay to the end, claps the lads off.
Have a happy Christmas, and let’s not give out any presents to Blackburn.