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Fan Letters: “The spine of Sunderland’s team needs to be stronger”

Thoughts on our physicality, praise for Luke O’Nien and encouragement for Eliezer Mayenda are in the RR mailbox today! Got something to say? Email us:

Photo by Stephen White - CameraSport via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Am I the only Sunderland fan that can see the problem with our team? It’s straight down the middle.

We need another big strong centre half, an experienced holding midfield player and obviously a centre forward. It’s OK that everyone’s saying ‘be patient, we’re building for the future’, but how far away is that?

Our fans get behind the team at home week after week, and the away fans are terrific.

It’s still early in the season, but some of the games we’ve lost this do make some of us wonder if we’re looking through rose-tinted glasses.

Come on, lads. Prove me wrong!

Kevin Coyle

Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Kevin. Thanks for your letter.

I think your point about a lack of physicality is a fair one, and although we do have some strong, combative players in the team, such as Dan Ballard and Pierre Ekwah, I’d like to see us add a little more muscle in the January transfer window.

We know how good the team can be when we play to the level we can, but we’re also somewhat fragile at times and we are prone to losing out in more physical games, so it’s definitely an area that should be looked at when the window opens.

Having that balance is key, and we haven’t quite struck it yet.

Sunderland v Birmingham City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Robert Smith/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I was at the Plymouth match on Saturday. It was a fabulous weekend but the result wasn’t as hoped.

We were at the same hotel as the team. It wasn’t planned but it was a fabulous surprise, and I’d like to thank Tony Mowbray and the team for their generous response to the fans who were there.

In particular, Luke O’Nien’s courtesy and willingness to have his picture taken with my daughters meant a lot. We also have his shirt from the Cambridge thrashing of 2021/2022 hanging up in our home!

Well tried to everyone. It was a pleasure to have been there on my birthday weekend.

Denise Trusty

Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Denise. Thanks for getting in touch.

We all know how affable and generous O’Nien is with his time, and it’s great to hear that he took time out to meet your daughters and make everyone’s day that little bit more memorable. That’s exactly how a Sunderland captain should conduct himself.

It’s things like that which can really help to build a rapport between the club and the fans, and O’Nien has always done it exceptionally well.

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

Dear Roker Report,

I’m sick of reading the online fan forums and seeing abuse for Luke O’Nien that’s totally unwarranted.

Cut the lad some slack. He’ll be getting blame for the war in Ukraine and the bombing of Yemen next!

Ian Hughes

Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Ian. Thanks for your letter.

It’s just the way of social media, isn’t it?

In real life, O’Nien is a hugely popular figure among the fans and he never seems to take that for granted, but he’s often the scapegoat when things go wrong. It’s been that way since he arrived and it’ll doubtless continue until his Sunderland career ends.

Is he the most talented player we’ve got? No. Is he reliable and wholehearted? Yes, and that’s more than enough for me.

Tony Mowbray trusts him, his teammates clearly respect him, and that’s worth far more than some disgruntled voices on the internet after a game.

Sunderland v Norwich City - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light Photo by Will Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

It’s good to see Eliezer Mayenda finally in the team but I hope Tony Mowbray isn’t expecting too much too soon. He’s just a kid after all, and his CV prior to joining Sunderland is hardly impressive.

I want him to be given the same time and grace that we’ve given others, such as Jewison Bennette or Trai Hume when he first arrived.


Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Greg. Thanks for getting in touch.

I think Mayenda has shown some really promising signs during his appearances so far. He’s rangy, powerful, and not afraid to shoot, either.

Quite whether he’s an orthodox striker or more of a wide attacker isn’t as clear cut, but with a run of games under his belt, I’d back him to continue to impress and to make up for lost time following the injury he suffered shortly after arriving at the club.

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