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Sunderland v Burton Albion - Sky Bet League 1

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Fan Letters: ‘Does this club ever learn from its past mistakes?’ asks RR reader Roy

And Sporting Director Speakman is the subject of yet more scrutiny... will he be here next season? The jury’s out.

Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Hello, here are a few words about our club. The season isn’t over yet, yes we are in a bad patch, do people not realise the young lads were always going to have a dip in form? It just so happens it’s all at the same time. If we were to get promotion what would our expectations be? Promotion again, playoffs? Now take a minute and be realistic – answer these questions if you can.

1. When loan players go back to their club who replaces them?

2. How many of the current squad is good enough for the championship?

3. Will Donald and co want more money for their shares?

4. Where will the new money needed to survive in the championship come from?

5. Are we going to give Alex Neil a decent amount of time to do a job whether it's trying to get promotion from this league or trying to stay up in the championship?

6. If we were lucky enough to get back to back promotions the investment would be 10 to 20 fold that of the previous season, and that’s just to stay up.

I know it’s frustrating at the minute but we need to get the ownership sorted out properly and get rid of them three leeches sooner rather than later. We don't want to be in a Derby situation.

All the best

Steve Wyatt

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Thanks for the email Steve - some good questions there. What does everyone think? I do think we need to get the ownership sorted out, but I fear it’s a convenient excuse and a source of negativity that just sours everything else. I’m not convinced by anything I’ve seen from Alex Neil so far, but he’s here now and I just hope he can turn things around quickly, for everyone’s sake.

Sunderland v Burton Albion - Sky Bet League 1
Neil has failed to impress so far – but will he get a decent amount of time to turn things around?
Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Over many years I have enjoyed the successes and cursed the failures at SAFC, meeting some fantastic people who knew the game of football inside out. Of course, there has been heartache but mostly that has been when the team has been playing in a much higher level than at the present time.

Whatever feelings I had, have been lost in the disgust that I have for the present club management, in particular for Speakman who masquerades under the title of Sporting Director with overall responsibility for the size and quality of the squad.


Well, the one thing that his squad and transfer dealings have delivered is that the ‘POPULATION’ of the top two league positions WILL NOT include the team of players that he has produced for the Head Coach to work miracles with.

We are struggling, and Speakman’s dealings in the January transfer window have given the Head Coach an impossible task.

His dealings, including transferring two centre backs and leaving those vital positions weakened both in terms of numbers and quality, with no cover for players who have injury records. Whatever view we take of the Head Coach he has more football knowledge written in his ass than Speakman has in total.

It is my firm belief that unless KLD acts and either gets rid of the Director position, or removes the present occupant from the scene, the club will occupy the lower leagues for much longer than this, or even next season.

The Sporting Directors position is an obfuscation of the responsibility for the performance of the team, as the occupant of that position controls both the squad size and quality. The Head Coach has to do whatever he can with those players. The most critical factors for success of the team is the size and quality of the squad, but as soon as negative results are the consequence the flack goes, wrongly in my opinion, to the Head Coach.

All of the football responsibility should go to ONE person, the Football Manager, except for the transfer fees and player contracts, which should be given to the COO Davidson). This action will save money which could be used for more constructive purposes.

This might be harsh but there is no doubt that a Director of a failing function that was having a detrimental effect on a business would quickly find the route to the Job Centre. I believe that reality must be faced if success is to be achieved by the club that I have been committed to for such a long time, 83 years.

Mordey St

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Speakman’s under a lot of pressure Mordey St, that’s for certain. I think the thing we need to break down is whether it’s the SD model that’s wrong, how we’ve implemented it, or the person we’ve got in that position. I don’t actually think the model is wrong in theory – we’ve seen in the past when new managers have come in and signed players that the next manager doesn’t fancy, and we’re left with reams of players on big contracts we’re either trying to flog for whatever we can get or paying their wages sat on the sidelines. That’s part of the reason why we’re here in the first place. However, the head coach should have complete say on the players we bring in for his team – ultimately, if he’s going to be judged on results, then he’s got to be 100% about the players coming into the club. Speakman has no prior experience as a Sporting Director and, although his remit is wider than the first team, the harsh truth is the first team results are all that matters. Very few people care about anything else – and if the Head Coach is going to be judged on first team results, so too should the Sporting Director. My prediction? An ‘internal review’ will be held at the end of the season and Speakman will be on his way.

New Sunderland Manager Press Conference
One’s gone... how long will the other last?
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

In the last four seasons, we have learnt nothing from failed promotion challenges, bad recruitment or new owners. Johnson went and the whole lot should have followed Speakman and Dodds and Co they haven’t got a clue.

Speakman has to be the worst statistician and analyser of football data I have ever seen. Sell Flanagan when we are short of centre backs and we did not sign a recognised right back at the start of the season. At the start of the season we had one main striker and stuck with Grigg who had basically done a Rodwell. Then the academy signs over 12 players plus. I will now tell you the stats – no win in nine for the first team and no win in five for a U23s. What a shambles. Statistician Speakman had Keano as our number one choice who has not managed for 11 years and his record after Sunderland is terrible.

Then now we sign two wide players and Gooch still plays, it’s bad decision after bad decision.

We are using modern technology on player recruitment and employing people to do this , who in my eyes have failed.

Last night's game a forty-year-old was a class above anything on that pitch he looked so frustrated with how bad we were. We can’t do the basics right and the excuse players are tired is an insult to the fans try working for a living lads. I honestly don’t where the club is heading we are the most supported underachieving team in the world since 1973 it’s heartbreaking.

Kyril take total control and do what you want to do. Because the greedy other shareholders are just waiting for a big payday.

Mark Wild

Ed’s Note [Martin]: There’s got to be a hell of a lot of questions asked at the end of the season, Mark – we need Donald and Methven out of the club and the performance of Speakman has to be deeply scrutinised. As I mentioned above, I suspect he’ll leave – I think his position has become untenable based on the bad decisions he’s made this year that have directly scuppered our season.

Hull v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Do what you need to do, Kyril
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Does this club ever learn from its past mistakes?

Selling or loaning players in the same division who might just come back to bite you in the backside eg Embleton last year and now Hume and O’Brien. Bringing in players who are worse or no better than already at the club eg Evans for Power, Batth for Flanagan, Roberts for Diamond, Defoe as our second striker.

Constant changing of managers when stability and sense of purpose is needed.

Then we have fans who are on the backs of owners, managers and players as soon as things start to go wrong,

I am 78 and am so disappointed with the running of this football club which apart from one or two bright periods has been and is still shambolic!

Roy Simpson

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Thanks for your email Roy, and the answer to your first question is a definite ‘no’! We can debate individual ins and outs all we want, but in reality the big problem is we’re not progressing, and this ‘plan’ that we were sold has been ripped up needlessly. When the pressure turned up the owners and SD showed themselves to be no different to what’s gone on before. I don’t think you can criticise fans for getting on the backs of people though – it’s hardly ‘as soon as things go wrong’ is it? This is our fourth season in the third tier, and we’ve only had five in almost 145 years of football. People are frustrated, and rightly so. It’s gut wrenching at the moment – but we all still cling to the hope that one day it’ll be better.

Portsmouth v Charlton Athletic - Sky Bet League One
Should have kept him...
Photo by Robin Jones/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

First time I’ve ever had the urge to write in. I realise the paying public have a right to have their say at matches, but instead of booing or the constant barrage of social media, why don’t supporters vote with their feet and leave before the end?

Supporters have to accept, Sunderland are in the third division, dressed up as EFL league 1 to make it more acceptable. We have good facilities, but I was horrified at the condition of the pitch in recent times.

Yet, we can still attract a decent player and LJ had Sunderland playing attractive football, however, a leaky defence will never win enough games and the powers that be chose to listen and sack the head, so you reap what you sow in the never-ending hope of promotion and someone else gets to have a try. Back the club, head coach and the current crop of players and just maybe there are enough games remaining for the dream to come true.

Peter Lamb

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Thanks for getting in touch Peter. The puzzling thing with Johnson’s sacking to me was that there wasn’t a call from the crowd for him to get the sack, so I’m not sure who the powers that be listened to? Alex Neil needs to get the team back on the right track as soon as possible if we have any hope this season. Fingers crossed that begins this afternoon – after all, what all of us want is for SAFC to be a success.


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