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Fan Letters: Sunderland fans see the buds of hope in the joys of spring

An outbreak of cool-headed and cautious optimism has hit the Roker Report inbox... and long may it last! What do you think? Email us: RokerReport@yahoo.co.uk

Photo credit should read GRAHAM STUART/AFP via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Although we all desperately wanted automatic promotion, and we looked like we may achieve that goal not too long ago, I believe our bad run of form may have come at the right time. If Wigan was truly the turnaround, then this might be our best chance at winning the playoffs yet.

If we think back to recent playoff failures, we have normally been in the playoffs positions relatively comfortably, but eneded the season on a bad run of form which you take into the playoff games.

The fact that we are really going to have to fight just to make the playoffs, means that if (when) we do, we’re going to have to be on a good run of form, and that’s normally the team that’s wins it.

Let’s hope this isn’t another false dawn. I was close to giving up going to games and I’m sure a lot were/are in the same boat, but let’s get behind the lads and get ourselves out of this nightmare of a league!

Elliot Pearson

Ed’s Note [Rich]: Thanks for your letter Elliot. I hope you’re right too, the Lads performance on Saturday was much improved from what we’ve seen in recent weeks and you’re right, maybe this time we’ll peak at the right moment to win the playoffs. It’s the hope that will kill us eventually!

Michael Gray of Sunderland
Never again...

Dear Roker Report,

Heart and commitment for the first time this season. Ross Stewart offer him a pay rise NOW had a great game. Unfortunately one game doesn’t make a season. But if we play like that for the rest of the seasn you never know success could be close, Alex Neill well done. I could not believe Alex’s team selection for Wigan game when it came through,I thought we are in for a thrashing. How wrong I was? Playing Xhemajli, what a difference.

Well done Lads keep it up.

Mark Wild

Ed’s Note [Rich]: It’s nice to know you’re in a positive mood, Mark. It’s always good for us to admit when we’re wrong, but I think you’re right when you say one game doesn’t make a season. A win at the Valley on Saturday and Alex Neil’s time in charge will well and truly be underway.

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

Dear Roker Report,

Seems a long time since a change of ownership and a new footballing structure was introduced with the caveat that this would allow more of a concentration on footballing side of the Club, support player development and help get Sunderland back up the leagues. Here is our long-term project. We were warned that success will take time and may not happen overnight. That was back in December 2020.

I was certainly no fan of Parkinson and the appointment of Speakman and Johnson leading to an optimistic outlook and dare I say, ‘Hope’ for the future. Some 14 months later Johnson has gone, the first team squad seems to have a greater imbalance then before Johnson arrived and results are rock bottom.

This is not meant to be a history lesson, we all know what happened and continues to happen but I am left puzzled as to why Johnson was sacked and the timing of it, as results have been pretty disastrous.

Logic would suggest that the season end was relatively close so why not wait and make a change of head coach then? It was reported that a downward trend in player and club statistics pointed towards a future failure to succeed in achieving promotion this season as the rationale.

Perhaps also the January transfer window was used to draw in underachieving talented players as a trial, to discover if they fitted with the club and vice-versa with one eye on making permanent signings in the summer 2022 transfer window. In parallel players who would not be offered new contracts in the summer were allowed to leave for example Flanagan and Younger.

The unfortunate bye-product of this process is a continuation of an unbalanced squad, (probably the worst it has been) that will hopefully be addressed in the Summer leaving next season 22/23 as The year promotion (assuming we don’t sneak in through the playoff system) is achieved as champions and with a squad capable of sustaining and improving itself in the Championship.

The remaining games of the season enable Alex Neil to assess the current squad. The summer transfer window enables him to correct the squad imbalance and work with the players to sort out the defensive side and hopefully if our star players stay for another year I am ‘pretty confident’ that next year, could be our year.

Every silver lining has a cloud though! Ours could be that a continuation of a poor run of results could tarnish the reputation of the new head coach and the relationship with supporters and players for next season, hopefully however it wont, albeit the Jury is out.

I am old enough to remember the last time Sunderland were in league 3. The pleasure of visiting such notable footballing venues as Port Vale and Aldershot! My memory says the standard of football then seemed much inferior to the present day.

The competition for top half teams has improved and we must obviously assemble a squad to better them. Lets hope the project makes some further progress next year.

Johnson showed when on form this team can succeed whilst playing entertaining football. Guess we need to give Neil a chance to build on that. There’s that Hope, again not a lot of it at the moment, but I’m hanging on its all that keeps us going

Alan

Ed’s Note [Rich]: Like you, Alan, I wasn’t happy about sacking of Lee Johnson and I was not particularly supportive of some (not all) of our transfer business in January. I think Mr Speakman has to learn quickly from the mistakes made and he won’t get many more chances to rectify things.

But, like you, I am keen to get behind Alex Neil and give him and the Lads all the support they need this season and beyond. I think we will go up this year as I believe we have the most talented squad in the division, but if not, we will always pick ourselves up and go again. That’s what makes this the greatest game in the world and the greatest club to support.

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

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