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Sunderland v Burton Albion - Sky Bet League One

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Fan Letters: “Mr Speakman needs to be relieved of the project & be told to leave immediately”

Is the Sporting Director to blame for this mess, or does it run deeper than that?

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

The January transfer window was meant to ensure that the biggest club in League One proceeded to the Championship on its journey back to the Premiership.

Instead, what did we get? A promising but error-prone midfielder from Fleetwood was the pick, together with a Stoke reserve centre-half who soon joined the injured. A lad from Ireland who is totally unproven in the EFL, and a Manchester City chap now approaching the middle of his career, but who has hardly played for a year. And of course another loanee from Tottenham.

Then there is Jermain, a lovely chap who we all want to play the sunset of his career at Sunderland. But a near 40-year-old with only a few minutes in those legs will take so long to get fit.

Also in January, we send an unused centre-half back to West Ham, and amazingly transfer three solid players who are now match fit to other clubs in our league. One of them, Portsmouth, may as a result finish above us, as we head for mid-table.

In equally cavalier fashion we also send a number of young lads back out on loan, one of whom is scoring goals regularly in the EFL.

Ross Stewart has been our only genuine striker all season – if he had been injured, and he still may – what would we have done? Just as importantly, at the back we are now very weak and tired both in the centre and at full-back. In particular, the lad Doyle, just 18 still, who will eventually be a top Premiership player, looks so out of touch and position after having to play every game.

Mr Speakman made most of these decisions in January. After three long-term backroom stalwarts have sadly left the club recently in Ball, Russell and Cooke, surely Mr Speakman himself now needs to be relieved of the project and be told to leave immediately.

John Hope

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Speakman’s put himself under tremendous pressure, and it’s all down to some awful decisions he’s made this year. He left us horrendously short in certain areas during the transfer window, and the managerial search was a joke. Johnson’s sacking was puzzling for many supporters, including myself, and we now find ourselves in a situation that the squad is overloaded with wide attackers and yet we have a head coach who doesn’t play with wide players; a squad built to play football on the ground and a head coach who seems to be a long ball merchant. It’s a mess, and ultimately the buck stops with Speakman.

New Sunderland Manager Press Conference
Under pressure...
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

What a turnaround this season has become. From quick slick passing around teams scoring goals to abject long ball route one and very few goals or even looking like scoring goals.

Selling your best defender of the season and relying on first season kids to see you through.

It appears that what seemed so easy can be pushed aside on a director of football’s whim. Why sack Johnson at that stage of the season? Surely he should have been left in place.

If it was about Defoe he’s probably going to be proven right as Defoe looks way off the pace. Then bringing in two players – Clarke and Roberts – who are too similar to what we already have, when a dominating central midfield player is what we are crying out for beggars belief.

As for Hume, Cirkin looks knackered, clueless and positively out of sorts – we should have kept him he’s been out injured was getting back to fitness and an ideal replacement at left wingback.

I know I’m pointing out the obvious but last night really made me sick. I am not bothered about who owns or runs the club. I just want to see a good football team playing in red and white stripes playing entertaining games at The Stadium of Light.

Is it too much to ask?

Charles Taylor

Ed’s Note [Martin]: It shouldn’t be too much to ask, Charles, but seemingly it is. I agree with everything you’ve said there – the ownership issue is important, but it’s been blown up out of proportion, and negatively affects the whole club. Ultimately, if we’re playing good football and winning games, the ownership issue pales into insignificance. From talking about a plan and a strategy, Speakman has completely messed the season up and in my view his position now is untenable – we’ll wait and see whether the ‘ownership group’ agree. I bought into the calm, long-term structure and vision that was sold to us – unfortunately the sporting director didn’t believe a word of it, as it turns out.

Dear Roker Report,

Another poor performance from the lads, a point in the end with a good goal from Stewart and a decent cross from Pritchard, those two never gave up. Matete had a good game but his final pass needs a bit more work. Patterson pulled off some good saves to keep us in the game.

Midfield is a chasm, a simple ball over the top has our team beaten every time. In my opinion, Winchester needs to go back into midfield to sure things up with Matete, if he’s going to push forward we need some cover in front of Doyle and Wright. Doyle, the poor lad looks visibly shattered along with Stewart, Cirkin and Evans. They’ve played a lot of games and they need a rest, sure we’re missing McGeady and Broadhead but let’s play some of the u23s or give some other squad members a game.

Why on earth do we keep taking quick free kicks or short corners? We need to use these opportunities to at least have a shot on target or to put the ball into a dangerous area to try and force a mistake from the opposition or create a chance for us to score.

James Wright

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Thanks for your email James – the team looks a mess at the moment, and it’s a combination of poor recruitment (Speakman) and poor tactics (Neil). We’ve been left short in certain departments, but the way the new manager’s setting them up is compounding the issue. Hopefully it turns around quickly as we’re in severe danger of missing out on the play offs if it doesn’t.

Sunderland v Burton Albion - Sky Bet League One
Shattered - Stewart
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

What a shambles!

We can’t defend, can’t pass, and the number (or lack) of shots on goal proves we can’t score... so what else is there?

It saddens me to see a once-great club descend to the level of not being able to beat a bottom of the third division team.

There’s something radically wrong at the club. (From top to bottom.)

I’ve offered my season ticket to other “past very loyal” fans but nobody wants to use them which speaks volumes.

The fact that they now intend to raise the price of the season ticket is yet another bad decision in light of the rising cost of living.

The club doesn’t deserve the excellent support for a third division team. I know I’m not the only one considering cancelling my ticket.

Christine McConvill

Ed’s Note [Martin]: The fact that they’re even considering raising ST prices is just an illustration of a complete disconnect between the club and the fans. While we’ve spoken a lot about on the pitch stuff, this season has been a complete shambles off the field. The ticket office has been the cause of huge problems for people, the online ticketing system likewise. You can buy a Newcastle shirt in Sunderland, but can you find SAFC shirts? No. The club shop’s been shut and as a result people haven’t been able to buy merchandise. The season card were unbranded, people haven’t been able to pay on the gate. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

This is the domain of COO Steve Davison, and to be honest, he’s not emerging from his first 12 months in the job with any credit whatsoever – we’ve looked completely, totally and utterly amateur off the field – and their solution is to hike up the season card prices! Absolute joke. Unless something significant changes in the hierarchy of the club, we’re going to rack and ruin.


Farewell, Tony, and thanks for the Sunderland memories


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