Dear Roker Report,
Something dawned on me this morning as we continue to mourn the passing of The Queen. I’ve heard and read many moving speeches and comments, from people who support the monarchy and more poignantly from people who are against or ambivalent to the concept, about how they’ve been surprised and shocked as to the depth of loss they feel.
This feeling can partly explained by the fact that Queen Elizabeth II was the only monarch many of us had ever known. She was a constant in our lives. In an ever-changing world, she was always there, as a marker, a cornerstone - regardless of how much importance or notice we took of her.
My thoughts on this Saturday morning turned to my football club - Sunderland, as I would normally be driving 250 miles for the home game today. It then crossed my mind that, like Her Majesty, Sunderland is also a constant in its supporters’ lives. Like politics or matters of state, we might not always like what’s going on at our club, but as we grow older, the fabric and familiarity of the team we support, becomes more than just watching 22 people running around after a ball.
When I try to explain my passion to non-sporting acquaintances, I mention how the club indeed becomes a part of who we are. Like Queen Elizabeth, it’s all I’ve ever known. From a small boy in the Paddock or Clock Stand, to a teenager and adult in the Fulwell End at Roker Park, to eventually a retired teacher at The SOL, SAFC is part of my history and fabric and who I am.
Whilst I suppose I’m intrinsically a Royalist and wish King Charles support in his new life, supporting Sunderland is no longer a choice. They will always be part of me, and we can all only hope that the owners steer and guide this constant in the right direction.
Ed’s Note [Gav]: I completely get the sentiment - obviously, as I manage and run this place, almost every spare second I have is spent thinking about my football club, but I’ve always been this way. It’s an addiction and one that I’ll never be able to shake. I know people who used to go to every game home and away who nowadays couldn’t even tell you who we last played or who any of our players are, and that just seems bizarre to me. Once this club gets a grip on you, it’s almost impossible to let go. I’ve got this club weaved through my DNA and for as long as I live I’ll be completely and utterly devoted to it. I must have done something horrible in a past life.
Dear Roker Report,
There seems to be a lot of consternation about Ross Stewart’s injury and our “lack of cover”. Last season we mainly played with one striker up top. Even when Broadhead was fit to start, he played mostly as an inside forward on the left, or on his own up front as replacement for Stewart in cup games. We vary rarely played with two central forwards together, unless chasing the game at the end of matches.
The question I pose is: does Fulham have a ready-made replacement for Mitrovic, Brentford for Toney, or even looking higher Tottenham for Kane, sat on their benches? Any decent player wouldn’t join them to do that unless they were a journeyman looking for a last payday or an up-and-coming young player looking for some experience off the bench. So why should SAFC and Stewart be any different?
It looks to me like we intended to play either 4231 or 433 in the long term this season based on the signings we have made and existing players at the club. If that is true, then you could argue that we have two players for every position in those formations at the club now, the exception being left back, unless you count Niall Huggins.
Was the club banking on him being fit or hoping to use one of our “versatile” players to plug any potential gap left by Cirkin? I think that is more of weakness in the squad than only having two centre forwards.
Again, based on those formations and the number of wide players and inside forwards we have on the books then perhaps Sims was signed to provide competition and cover for Stewart rather than to play alongside him. So hopefully he can step up following Ross’s injury and other players such as Amad can play off him (Clarke could too if we are going to play with fullbacks rather than wingbacks).
We haven’t seen much of him yet, but if he lives up to promise that tempted Man Utd to buy him for such a large fee, then if we do want to play with two centre forwards perhaps Amad could yet form a good partnership with Sims in the Championship to get the goals we need. So don’t write it off after a mere cameo in one game.
We could sign a free agent but that smacks of desperation as the window is closed. Any Agent would now surely insist on a long-term contract for their client as they would be in a bargaining position of strength, rather than the club. Therefore, we could be saddled with a player we don’t really want next year on high wages that we can’t get rid of. The other issue would be that they surely wouldn’t be match fit and take weeks to get up to speed, by which time Stewart might nearly back anyway.
I expect Tony Mowbray will change our formation in the next few matches to get the best out of the players we have so its going to be interesting to see how it pans out. So, let’s get behind the team and I would like to finish by saying to other supporters “DONT PANIC”! Yes, our injuries are unfortunate but from what I have seen so far, we still have enough talent, spirit and togetherness to hold our own in this division.
Ed’s Note [Gav]: I’m reading this letter AFTER I’ve already wrote today’s Editorial - you might as well have done it for me, Mark, because we’re making the same points! I couldn’t agree more when it comes to replacing Stewart. Yes, ideally we’d have had another striker through the door, but I don’t think it was for the want of trying. We tailed Broadhead for most of the summer before he did a U-turn and went to Wigan - I’d love to have a chat with Stuart Harvey about all of this and ask about what the thinking was going into deadline day. I can only presume that the quality of player we wanted simply wasn’t available or willing to come here when we already had two strikers established ahead of them.
But you’re right, there’s no need to panic. Simms needs our full support and we have to pray he stays injury free now for the next few months... but aye. It’s part of football and players get injured. It’s shit and we probably could have done some things differently but I’m still content with what we’ve got and think that we’ll be fine.