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Fan Letters: “Sunderland can’t afford to keep Tony Mowbray for sentimental reasons”

Thoughts on the gaffer’s future, a poetic tribute to our Geordie neighbours, a defence of Kyril Louis-Dreyfus and annoyance at recent results are in the RR mailbox today! Got something to say? Email us:

Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Season’s greetings!

I can see both sides of the argument on whether we should sack Tony Mowbray.

What he did last season was brilliant and none of us thought that after four years in League One, we’d make it to the Championship playoffs, but we can’t afford to be sentimental and keep him for that reason alone.

Yes, we’re not far from the playoffs, but performances are progressively getting worse.

It’s December, not one of our strikers has scored, and teams have worked out that if they can keep Jack Clarke quiet, we struggle. They’ve also identified the weak link, which is the back four, so this isn’t a reason to keep hold of someone.

Mowbray complained for most of the summer transfer window about not having a striker for the start of the season. We have four, yet in games they’re either ignored or not given the service they thrive on. Some fans have written them all off, but if they don’t get the service they need, how can they score?

When a coach has no plan B, C or even Z, there’s a problem.

From the Plymouth game to the Huddersfield game, there was no reaction, no urgency, and no oomph. This is a pattern, through performances and tactics that other fans have warned us about.

However, for any bad result, the majority of the blame goes to Kristjaan Speakman or Kyril Louis-Dreyfus and when you to criticise Mowbray, you get abused.

Is he the right man to get us promoted? Do we give him the entire season? Do we give until Christmas or after the January transfer window? Has he taken us as far as he can, as it appears we wont change his tactics and clearly has his favourite players?


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

Personally, I’m still broadly pro-Mowbray but there’s no doubt that the last two games have been completely unacceptable, in terms of performances and results.

His formation and tactics for the Huddersfield game were both questionable, but I also felt that the players didn’t show the right level of application and were too casual in their body language, so the blame has to be shared equally.

With some tough games to come during the next few weeks, a continued downturn in performances and results might give Kristjaan Speakman and company a decision to make.

Personally, I think it would take something radical for Mowbray to be shown the door, but as you rightly say, sentiment alone isn’t enough to keep a head coach at a club, and this is a crucial part of the season for Mowbray. He needs to ride out this storm and he needs his players to respond strongly.

Sunderland vs Huddersfield Town Sky Bet Championship Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report

Like some of your readers, Alan Shearer, along with Ant and Dec and others, also annoy me with their pathetic comments about Sunderland from time to time.

With that in mind, I’ve put together a short poem in retaliation to annoy them, and that’s putting it mildly.

‘Having just spent £55million on Tonali from AC Milan

How unfortunate he’s just received a ten month ban

That must be very frustrating if you’re a Newcastle fan

As he’s probably now gone back to Italy, to get a tan

While you pay his wages from your season ticket plan

And that was a great penalty in 90+8, taken by Kylian

While your scouts deserve to be sent to Kazakhstan

Along with Shearer and Ant and his little mate Declan’

Happy Christmas!

Robert Hall

Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Robert. Thanks for getting in touch and for your composition!

All’s fair in love and cross-regional banter, so I’m sure our black and white neighbours will be delighted with your riposte to the comments made by Shearer and British TV’s ‘best loved double act’ - especially after VAR intervened during their midweek Champions League game.

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Dear Roker Report,

I disagree with those who seem to think that anything worse than a top six finish is disappointing.

Tony Mowbray isn’t a problem. Nothing is a problem, actually, except from the poor off-pitch management of the club (merchandise sales, ticketing, ground maintenance).

We’re actually over-performing in relation to our budget.

We probably have around the fourth smallest wage budget in the league (please see this link). We overperformed last season, and that’s still the case. It’s unfair towards Mowbray and the squad to use past overperformance as a new, higher and unreasonable benchmark.

Expectations beyond a mid-table finish are unreasonable, at least until Kyril Louis-Dreyfus potentially ups the budget. For now, he’s unwilling to provide a top end Championship budget and I don’t blame him.

Most such clubs who run with big annual deficits don’t get promoted in any case, so I understand that Dreyfus is sceptical about providing £30+ million a year for the club with a dubious potential gain.

Personally, I’m thrilled with how things are going.

Anything above mid-table is a bonus and it’s a joy to watch this attacking, young, fearless team. The club is playing by far the most enjoyable football since I started following in 2009.

Dan Ejstrup

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

This is a well-worn subject and I have no doubt there’ll be scepticism in some quarters regarding the club’s ‘ambition’ until the chequebook is opened and the big fees are being spent again, which isn’t going to happen under this regime, as you rightly highlight.

Whether we like it or not, football is now a business and ensuring that you’re financially stable is essential for any hopes of future success.

Selling players for profit and reinvesting the money into the team with a view to progressing and eventually earning a place in the top flight is exactly what a club like Sunderland, at this stage, should be doing.

In my opinion, those making the decisions have earned that trust, even though others may disagree.

Sunderland v Birmingham City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I’ve come to the conclusion that Sunderland is the graveyard for centre forwards.

I think our four new centre forwards have talent but will always fail to score in our current team, where everything is played through Jack Clarke or Patrick Roberts.

Clarke prefers to drive into the box and shoot rather than cross, but Roberts, at present, can’t shoot or cross and needs to be taken out of the firing line.

Against Huddersfield, Eliezer Mayenda’s best opportunity came from a booted upfield clearance which he chased and put the centre half under pressure, resulting in a free kick to us just outside the penalty box.

Although everyone seems to love Tony Mowbray, I question whether he’s good enough to get us promoted.

We start too slowly and fail to put the opposition under any pressure inside the box. We pass backwards and sideways which achieves nothing.

Last season and this one (up to now) has been enjoyable but we’ve now been sussed out by other teams and we have no answer to their defensive tactics.

Patience is wearing thin at the Stadium of Light.

Bill Fisher

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

The issue of goals from our strikers is glaring right now, particularly as results have taken a downturn and confidence has dipped. I don’t think it’s a problem that can’t be fixed, and I don’t see the club dipping into the free agent market in January for this mythical ‘experienced and proven Championship goalscorer’, either.

Service is definitely an issue and so is composure in key moments. Our strikers are suffering from a lack of both right now, and it’s up to their teammates to create chances, and the strikers themselves need to be calmer and more clinical at the crucial moment.

It can be rectified, as I said, but the longer the drought goes on, the bigger a problem it becomes.

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

Dear Roker Report,

I’m disgusted at the way we played against a potential League One team on Wednesday night.

We passed the ball around at the back far too much instead of supplying the forwards, and on that showing, we’re going down and not up.

Bill Calvert

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

I do agree that the performance against Huddersfield was completely unacceptable. Our attitude was poor, we played with a lack of intensity, and there was no real urgency to take the game to what was a fairly limited opponent.

It’s rare that you can question the attitude of the players, but this was one of those occasions, and we need to ensure that it doesn’t become habitual. Standards have to be set and maintained, and the players will know that better than anyone.

Sunderland vs Huddersfield Town Sky Bet Championship Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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