Dear Roker Report,
To answer the question posed in the last edition of ‘Fan Letters’ regarding our injuries, I think it’s quite a simple answer: the appalling standard of the officials that are sent to oversee the games we play.
Our players are very fit and play really attractive football, and the level of frustration they cause the opposition leads to them being kicked, chopped down and left, because nine times out of ten, the officials don’t punish the offenders.
On the other hand, should a Sunderland player offend in such a manner, the officials issue yellow or red cards.
Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Malcolm. Thank you for your letter.
Although I do agree that the standards of Championship officiating are absolutely appalling and have been for some time, I’m not sure whether they can be blamed for our injury crisis.
Many of our players seem to suffer knocks and niggles in training and several of them haven’t kicked a ball for the first team in quite some time.
I don’t think we’ve been the victims of any particularly prolonged spells of rough play from opposing teams, but I wouldn’t be particularly confident in the officials punishing such challenges appropriately. Let’s hope that we can develop a tougher and more no-nonsense streak to go with our skill and creativity.
Dear Roker Report,
It’s clear to me that Dan Neil has much more to offer going forward than just sitting in front of the back four.
Yes, he was put there to cover for Corry Evans after his injury, but is that just wasting his attacking and positional skills? His goal against Norwich shows that he needs to be much closer to our attackers than our defenders.
A possible solution would be to let Luke O’Nien do the covering defensive position (something he’s ideally suited to), and allowing Neil to take on a free attacking role.
However, this would mean a change in central defence with Jenson Seelt partnering Dan Ballard and giving us more height at the back.
I’m sure that at some point, that’ll be the way forward but whether Tony Mowbray is prepared to make a bold move now is open to question.
Time will tell!
Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Bill. Thanks for getting in touch.
You make an excellent point on Dan Neil, and his goal on Saturday was something that, for me, we don’t quite see often enough. Don’t get me wrong, he’s been absolutely superb for us this season, but I’d love to see him get his name on the score sheet more often.
I firmly believe that as he continues to develop, Neil will add more goals to his game and those driving runs from midfield, where he can get onto the end of passes from the likes of Jack Clarke, will become more common.
His partnership with Pierre Ekwah is only going to get stronger, and he’s developed into a genuine Championship-standard box-to-box midfielder. His range of passing, positional awareness and ability to keep things ticking over are all improving substantially and he’s easily one of our most important players.
The final piece of the puzzle is a greater goal output, and I’m hoping that we’ll see him sprinting away in celebration more regularly during the coming months.