Dear Roker Report,
I’m writing to express my frustration with the sacking of Lee Johnson.
Let me first address the Bolton game. I’m not going to make excuses for LJ for that result. It was embarrassing. It was disgraceful.
But sacking him after that game is a rush to judgment. Sunderland are sitting in third, just two points off the top (albeit Wigan and Rotherham have games in hand). LJ has guided us to far and away our best standing after 29 games since dropping into this league.
He has far and away the best winning percentage of any manager in years. And he’s done all of this since being hired to clean up after Parky’s mess (IMO Parky was, without question, the worst manager we’ve EVER had) and during the height of COVID. Finally, the timing of this sacking, with one day left in the transfer window, makes no sense. LJ deserved the rest of the season to get us promoted or be sacked.
Would KLD have sacked LJ if the result had been 1-0? No. And the result (0 points) would have in essence been the same. What other clubs would sack a manager who has had such success under such difficult circumstances? What manager could possibly be brought in who could get this team promoted in just 4 months, without any of “his” players or even a single transfer window to bring in his players? None of the Johnson Out crowd have any reasonable suggestions of replacements who can get this team promoted. Big Sam? Are you serious? He wouldn’t manage in the championship let alone league one.
I don’t see this team getting promoted now. They just may have had a chance under LJ. I hope I’m wrong.
Max in Denver, CO, USA
Ed’s Note [Martin]: Thanks for your email, Max. I was surprised by the decision to let Johnson go, and maybe you’re right - if we’d lost 1-0 he may still have been in a job. Who knows. Maybe the decision would have been made regardless.
He’s left the club in a much better state than he found it, and there were a lot of positives to his rein (although I think the 18/19 team were outperforming our current lot after 29 games).
In reality, however, when you look at it objectively, some of the away results simply weren’t acceptable, and he showed little sign of getting it right away from home. Something catastrophically bad would have to happen for us not to finish in the play offs at least, so they obviously think a different manager/head coach has a better chance of guiding the team to promotion in some form than Johnson did.
Of course we don’t know what goes on behind the scenes, maybe there was something going on that made his position in the set up untenable.
Anyway, we move forward and, to be honest, a new manager coming in, plus the signings of Roberts, Clarke, Defoe and Matete, could give us a real impetus as we head into the final stages of the season. The teams around us will drop points, and we have to up our consistency significantly.
Dear Roker Report,
I must admit, despite the latest in a too long list of away drubbings at Bolton, I was still shocked to hear Lee Johnson had been sacked. Let me put aside the merits of this for a moment and try to get inside the head of our new owner. It was such a sea-change of ideas when Dreyfus landed - Directors of football, data led recruitment and tactics - a very modern approach which felt like a breath of fresh air. And Lee Johnson was central to all that. Dreyfus spoke about his vision and how Lee Johnson was central to that and very much a ‘long term appointment’. So what has changed ?
We’re 3rd in the table albeit with an uphill task of catching the top 2 when games played level out.
Has Dreyfus’s nerve gone? Has he been influenced by social media? I thought at last that the managerial merry-go-round at SAFC had finally stopped and a coach/manager would finally be given time to implement his long term plan. I’m surprised that Dreyfus has broken up the Johnson/Speakman team already.
Are we now going to see another owner, like Ellis Short with a trigger happy finger? We know how that works - it doesn’t. There has to be stability. There will be plenty in the comments who’ll say it’s a results business and Johnson deserved to go, and maybe they’re right. My own opinion is that Johnson should have been given longer, at least a full season to see if promotion could be achieved. I’m sure he knew our goals-against column is unacceptable but those players who grossly under-performed are as much to blame.
I’m not sure what to make of our new regime now as they’ve changed their policy mid term. Once again I feel let down. But as many have said, ‘it’s the hope I can’t stand’.
Ed’s Note [Martin]: Personally, given what we know from the outside looking in, I would 100% have given him the full season. But we don’t know what was going on behind the scenes, and I doubt we’ll ever know the full story.
What I would say is that in the set up you outline above, the head coach/manager role is more interchangeable than it ever has been at Sunderland. Changing manager now isn’t the ‘rip it all up and start again’ type thing we’ve seen in the past, particularly given he’s not in sole charge of buying players. The new head coach will surely have a similar philosophy and playing style to Lee Johnson, so it may not be as big a change as previously. We’ll see.