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Cheltenham Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One

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Fan Letters: Loads of Cheltenham reaction. Warning: it won’t cheer you up

What the hell is happening at our club? Is it too early for a stiff drink? Email: RokerReport@Yahoo.co.uk!

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I swear our current predicament epitomises what it is to be a Sunderland fan! We had momentum, a plan and something to really excite us with the potential return of Defoe! In summary, we had hope and reason to believe, but then the Sunderland moment, the board sack Johnson and while I don’t totally agree with it I’ll go with it as the board have their grand plan, plus they do get Defoe in.

So the plan is there, where we break the rinse and repeat of new manager = new team = new manager = new team! I am still excited, but then come the names of the managers. I know most are wanting Keane back and I see the merits, I remember the journey last time, but does this really follow the supposed plan? Am I in the minority feeling underwhelmed at the name choices? However, given how rudderless and precarious we currently look I will now take Keane with open arms, but I can’t help feeling the grand plan we’ve been sold was more is perhaps more Baldrick plan than anything serious. I really hope I am being unnecessarily pessimistic, time will tell.

Robert Seymour

Ed’s Note [Martin]: The ‘long term plan’ is highly questionable now Robert, and the past 10 days have eroded a huge amount of faith anyone had in it. It’s been a spectacularly bad week and a half – I didn’t think even we could stuff it up this much.


Dear Roker Report,

Oh dear. Yet again we have blown it. Using an under 23 coach who is clueless. Brings Defoe on at 80 minutes.

I am just about speechless but definitely flabbergasted!!

Anyway back to the game, Matete played ok. That’s about it. Defence, poor again. I have more pace than Ba’ath who wasn’t at the races (pun intended). And I am 64 next month!!

As I have said before I have watched this team since 1967. And I thought I had seen the worst team under Phil Parkinson. Wrong this lot are hopelessly pathetic. Clueless. We beat Cheltenham 5-0 at SOL.

What is going on?

Not sure anyone will want to manage them after this.

How to lose a game the easy way by SAFC.

I despair. My player ratings Matete 1 the rest 0. And that’s being generous.

Dodds and Proctor minus 17!!! (Each)

What a load of *#*#.

An extremely exasperated Sunderland fan (soon to be ex Sunderland!)

They are just so bad I don’t know where to start or stop. I give in.

Philip Wright

Ed’s Note [Martin]: You think we’ve hit rock bottom, and when we get worse. Saturday was pathetic. Last night was pathetic. At present, we look completely lost. The responsibility lies with with KLD and Speakman – they need to sort it out, and fast.

Cheltenham Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Shining light?
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I honestly don’t know what to say anymore. This is certainly a very low point for our club and I’m generally upset. We have now lost 6-0 to Bolton, 2-1 to Doncaster and now 2-1 to Cheltenham when will this change? This interim manager is absolutely shocking as well not changing a team when they just lost 6-0 and then taking ages to put a sub on against Cheltenham. Honestly, I didn’t want Lee Johnson sacked not just cause it was late in January but I felt he could pull it back. If the club don’t appoint Roy Keane there will be an uproar. The board seriously need to hurry up and appoint a manager otherwise we will just keep dropping. I don’t know if Roy Keane can even save this anymore.

Niall Coker

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Within a week and a half, KLD and Speakman have completely stuffed up the season. Even by SAFC standards that is impressive. A lot of people were waiting to be convinced by the new ownership group, and now they’ve plummeted in the view of pretty much every SAFC supporter. They’ve got a hell of a lot of ground to regain.


Dear Roker Report,

I’m a lifelong Sunderland fan, who has lived his whole life in Stafford 180 miles away. I had a season ticket for over 10 years, only giving it up when my first child came along in 2019.

I’ve not been able to get to many games since then and I consider myself incredibly lucky. If my personal circumstances were different, I’d have been there with my Dad and fellow supporters from Stafford, but I’m lucky I got to stay home whilst they suffered there.

I love the club, will always love the club, but it’s painful. Tonight just epitomised what Sunderland are, spineless and incapable of a solid performance across 90 minutes right now. The first half was solid, second half we just didn’t turn up at all. On paper, the players are there to storm this league and win it comfortably, but something just isn’t right.

Right now, I’m praying Roy Keane would still be interested and he can sort them out. But I’m not even sure he’d want the job anymore.

Joe Rowell

Ed’s Note [Martin]: The job becomes less appealing to a new manager after every game – however, if the new gaffer was under any illusion about the size of the task before, he certainly won’t be after the past 2 games.

Sunderland Training Session
They **(&($^%*^# lost again?
Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I can’t begin to express how poorly these last 10 days has been from a management perspective. We sack a head coach (which I didn’t agree with, but that’s beside the point) with absolutely no plan in place to replace him. We compound that decision by letting players leave on deadline day which has then left us short in defence. Resulting in a CM playing CB against the bottom of the league side, we all know how that ended.

As a result of the shambolic decisions in the last 10 days we go into a huge 2 game period without a coach and on-field performances have been nothing short of a disgrace. I can only point the finger at 1 person and that’s is Speakman. He’s out of his depth and he needs to go. Keane or no Keane, this season is all but done as we know our playoff history.

Steve Park

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Completely agree Steve. I’ve written something on the site today about this exact point, and Speakman’s on very, very shaky ground now. There are huge question marks over his suitability for the role. Serious questions need to be asked.


Dear Roker Report,

As our season goes from bad to worse - there are two questions I would like answered.

1. Who made the decision to play through our COVID outbreak? That is where the slump began and it was a gamble that really didn’t pay off and it continues to hurt us through broken confidence.

2. Who thought it was a good idea to get rid of Flanagan and Younger without getting in any replacements?

In my opinion, these two decisions, much more than Johnson’s streaky reputation, have cost us promotion.

While managers get sacked for a few bad results, the likes of Speakman (I’m guessing he made those decisions) will just trundle on without so much as an apology.

Question 3 will have to wait but it will be - who decided to pay over the odds for a manager who has no recent experience rather than pick a manager with recent success? Sadly I feel that Keane will be strike number three - but Speakman will still be there. I hope I am wrong - I really liked him as manager last time but I also liked Djibril Cisse as a striker - the difference is Cisse knows offering to come back is a joke.

Not sure I can bring myself to buy another season ticket for league one.

Alan Haddick

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Speakman seems to have prioritised ‘being seen to doing the right thing’ rather than doing the right thing for the club. We played the Covid games ‘for the integrity of the competition’. We sold Younger ‘because it was right for him in the long term’. We sold Flanagan because ‘he could get security’. While it’s all admirable to an extent, it’s blown up in our face massively. As for Keane, from all of the other names mentioned I’d have him above everyone else. Someone needs to instil some professional pride and footballing experience into the club.

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Sky Bet League One
‘Do what’s best for you, Tom’
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Where do I start? What consequences are there for these players? It’s an absolute disgrace. Force them all to work in Nissan for a day like me and make them realise how lucky they are. Lowest ever point in the history of this club. The season is gone now. Why is it we can all see what’s wrong but the people in charge can’t? Still no physicality in the team 4 years later. No towering centre backs. No pace/athleticism across many positions. No fight. Can’t win tackles or headers. Can’t sustain pressure. Set pieces I’d need more than 500 words to explain how bad they have consistently been. Goalkeepers are awful especially Patterson and Burge last season too. Stewart spends half his time either on the wing or in our half. Substitutions, do we know we can make them before the other team? Seriously what is going on? Left ourselves short in the transfer window too. Defoe shouldn’t have been signed he isn’t the answer to our issues it was just to appease the fans.

It was a shame Johnson went but even the most die-hard fan couldn’t defend some of those results. But at the end of the day, it’s the players' fault, unfortunately, you can’t sack a full squad. How can we fix this? Do what every fan can see needs doing. Play a formation that works for a start, 4 at the back we are shambolic. Show fight. Don’t try to be the hero, play simple football, simple passes, aggressive pressing. Leave people forward when defending corners to attack on the break. Support Stewart don’t leave him isolated. Width needed from the full backs. Set pieces, please stop chipping the ball 90 feet into the air for 1 man to attack at the back post it doesn’t work. Either way, this season is gone. Keane isn’t the answer either by the way. Appoint someone short term and sort a permanent manager in the summer. Whoever comes in now is doomed to fail with this set of players and will be under too much pressure next season. In league 1. Again.

Cal Patty

Ed’s Note [Martin]: I don’t agree it’s just the players’ fault, but they have to accept responsibility too. There’s loads of stuff wrong, and needs rectifying immediately, but we can’t write off the play offs – regardless of our past record in them.


Dear Roker Report,

Another complete disaster, heaped on top of the disaster that has been Sunderland for the last (insert your age) years. It’s easy at a time like this to lash out and start slagging everyone associated with the club off. But perspective is needed at a time like this. It may not seem like it, but there are a load of things more excruciatingly embarrassing than losing 2-1 away…at the Hard Rock Café stadium… on a Tuesday night…in League One in Cheltenham…Jesus Christ, man.

I guess it’s only West Ham fans and their pets feeling anything like as rough as us tonight. Zouma, owner of that poor cat started for the Hammers today, so it’s fair to say we’re not the most ridiculous club in the country today. It’s bleak though that the saving grace of tonight’s performance is that none of our players or our owners have been filmed kicking any animals. The downside of that is that I doubt any of our lot would actually hit the cat and would probably end up slipping over and knocking themselves out on their George Foreman’s. It makes you think though, only Moyes has the bleakness of spirit to be so unaffected by Zouma’s feline footwork that he’d actually praise the wanker mere hours after the videos emerged. At least we can always be thankful to be shot of Moyes.

There’s little to suggest now that we’ll escape League One this year. We require the most almighty turnaround in both our fortunes and the fortunes of the other 4 or 5 clubs around us. And the likelihood of that is ever dwindling in the pissing wind. There seem to be a number of bad decisions being made and the perennial fear infecting the squad again. Is it fear of failure? Fear of success? Fear of their own shadows?

There have been some losses that have been inexplicable this year. The drubbings were unforeseen and tough to take. But these last two losses have been avoidable. Sloppiness against Doncaster and laziness again tonight. A first-half massively undone by a languid lack of desire in the second. And to make those subs as late as they did was tantamount to fiddling whilst Rome was getting beaten fucking Cheltenham man.

It had to start tonight and it didn’t. Keane had to be here by now and he wasn’t. Speakman sounds less convincing by the minute and KLD looks like a baby holding a smoking gun. There are a million reasons why we ought to get promoted and there’s only one reason why we won’t, and that’s because we are so used to mediocrity, we no longer know what quality is (apart from you Jermain, I wouldn’t do you like that). We look at these players in this poxy league and must discuss the meritocracy of mediocrity that this league represents. Everyone is, and I cannot stress this enough, BANG average. As such, we have to fight that extra round and drag ourselves into the Championship, covered in blood and snot, with our guts hanging out of us, because we simply refused to stay down.

The second you think you’re too good for this league then it’s already too late. So well done Cheltenham, but it's nothing special ending your losing streak against us. We make it a priority to keep the league interesting. For everyone else that is. For us, it’s just another night where we’re grateful our owner hasn’t booted us down the stairs.

Luke Boyle

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Thanks for the email, Luke. At least your line ‘It’s bleak though that the saving grace of tonight’s performance is that none of our players or our owners have been filmed kicking any animals’ brought a smile to my face!

Cheltenham Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
More embarrassment...
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

There is too much to say about the past week or so at Sunderland, too much anger and confusion and sadness, that one letter cannot do it justice.

There has been one thing that I need to get off my mind, however.

Have KLD and Speakman had a Stewart Donald/Will Grigg moment with the signing of Jermain Defoe? It seems that Johnson had to go, along with Flanagan, to make way for Defoe. An expensive name who won’t actually impact our season all that much but gets the fans excited for a week. An immature dream.

It stinks of mismanagement and short-termism. It stinks of the previous owners. Yes, I love Defoe. Everybody loves Defoe. But I love a spare centre-back more and a manager who knows how to get the best out of these players.

Something seems terribly off about the club at the moment. Are we seeing the true colours of the higher management? Let’s hope whichever poor sod (and why on earth would Roy Keane want this job?) becomes head coach can at least guide us coughing and spluttering into the playoffs. We might stand a chance in that lottery.

Paul Haswell

Ed’s Note [Martin]: The management have some serious questions to answer Paul - the past 10 days have been horrendously amateur. As for Defoe, who knows – we’ll have see how the rest of the season pans out. If we get into the play-offs, I know I’d like him on the bench at least. Completely different scenario to Grigg – he was signed on a long deal for a ridiculously high fee to replace Maja’s goals. At least JD has been brought in to supplement what’s there already.

Cheltenham Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Is signing Defoe KLD’s Grigg moment?
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

The club have completely cost us any chance of getting automatic promotion over the last three games. Lee Johnson has to take a lot of the blame for the loss to Bolton as his tactics weren’t good enough and were reactive instead of being proactive and after watching the last two games it seems like that was the culture throughout the whole coaching staff. We don’t seem to have a plan B which is very worrying as we can’t play nice football against every team in this division, as some teams will just go ten men behind the ball and others will just kick our players and not all the pitches in this league are good enough to play that way.

The Doncaster result was completely the fault of Mike Dodds, picking 10 out of the 11 players who had just lost 6-0 was a disgraceful decision and there’s no other word to describe it, to be honest. Failing to capitalise on the size of the occasion and the hype that was created around the club and in the fanbase from the return of Jermain Defoe is just shocking and the post-match interview was even more shocking and spineless quite frankly.

Personally, I would blame tonight’s result on the board for taking too long to appoint a permanent manager yet as the players are clearly low on confidence at the moment and a new manager would be a huge boost to the playing staff and the fans alike as it would actually provide a sense of direction and clarity. I believe that we played alright in the first half vs Cheltenham and deserved to be winning at half time, but in the second half we just looked like a completely different team and devoid of any confidence and a lack of any ideas. We needed to bring on substitutes and make changes tactically a lot sooner than we did today and as I said earlier the changes just seemed more reactive than proactive. Players like Defoe and Roberts need more time to affect the game than what they got today as despite them being quality players and probably too good for this league they needed time to adapt and grow into the match.

In regards to the Head Coach search I don’t want us to sign Alex Neil or Grant McCann. I don’t know a lot about McCann but seeing what a lot of Hull fans have said about McCann he doesn’t seem like a suitable candidate for our club.

In terms of Alex Neil I live in Norfolk and I know a lot of Norwich fans and went to some of their games in the Premiership and Championship and Norwich fans don’t like Alex Neil – his style of play is awful and I don’t think that it’ll suit the type of players that we have at the club currently.

I think that the club needs to bring in Roy Keane as he will provide a huge boost to the fans and he will raise the standards around the entire club from the coaching staff to the players and the people behind the scenes. Another reason why I think Roy Keane is right of the Head Coach role is that after I read his book it was clear to me that he feels like there’s unfinished business for him at Sunderland and he has a genuine love for the fanbase and affinity for the club as a whole.

Despite saying this after the last 3 games I believe that it’ll take a miracle for us to get an automatic promotion spot and thus I think that play offs are the best-case scenario for us no matter who we get in charge, but if we’re not careful I can easily see us falling out of the play offs completely.

Finally, if we don’t get Roy Keane in the club by the Wimbledon match on Saturday the club will have a lot of questions to answer.

Karl Trotter

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Completely agree Karl, the blame for this lies at board/football management level, and they’ve completely wrecked the season. We simply cannot appoint someone like McCann or Neil – they need to stop thinking small time and treat the club with the respect it deserves.

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