Dear Roker Report,
Having followed Sunderland for over forty years, this season feels like a lost opportunity, and it seems as if we’re accepting mediocrity again.
The whole ‘it’s too early to go up’ mindset leaves me cold. We had a huge opportunity to push this year, but when Ross Stewart was injured, we were left with Joe Gelhardt as pretty much our only option.
Tony Mowbray talks about Harry Gardiner and Max Thompson not being ready, so I can only assume Gelhardt looks ‘ready’ in training.
However, his retention of the ball against Stoke was poor and if his future performances mirror what he’s shown already, he won’t ever be good enough.
The ‘plan’ is fine, but what happens if we lose Ross Stewart, Amad returns to Manchester United and Anthony Patterson leaves the club? We’d have to replace them with players or equal or higher quality.
You can’t say, ‘better not to go up this season’ as four years in League One was the worst possible lesson on that front and we saw every dire minute of it.
However, there are huge positives within our recent recruitment so it’s not a disaster, and I just hope the model doesn’t get in the way of the team.
We do seem overloaded in some areas and very understaffed in others. We’re on a tough run of fixtures and as much as I love Mowbray, the pressure is already on through social media so this group of games is vital for his future.
Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Dean. Thanks for your letter!
The issue of recruitment, our squad strength and how the model is working is one that’ll doubtless continue to be discussed but at this moment in time, I think any recriminations should be left until the summer.
With ten games left, there’s some good challenges still to come, and I’d like to see us attack the fixtures at 100%.
I do agree that the squad is by no means perfect. It’s very exciting and with plenty of talent, but it’s also not the deepest- certainly upfront- and that's an issue that needs addressing during the next the transfer window.
Personally, I’d like to see us be able to call on at least three quality strikers for the 2023/2024 campaign. If we’re to continue to progress and make a top six challenge or even better, being able to rotate when necessary will be absolutely vital.
Dear Roker Report,
Luke O’Nien continues to show his doubters why they’re wrong about him.
Sly voices on social media will grudgingly give credit but then pile back in on him whenever they get the chance, and his red card against Swansea was an example.
He came in at left back for the trip to Norwich and put in yet another brilliant showing, and this came after his man of the match performance against QPR.
He’s a better footballer than he gets credit for.
Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Ian. Thanks for your letter!
I completely agree with your views on O’Nien.
His versatility, willingness to play wherever is needed to help the team and on-field attitude are all huge assets and as you rightly say, his performance at Carrow Road on Sunday was exceptional.
Having been at the club since 2018 and therefore experienced the darkest days of our time in League One, it seems to me that he’s absolutely determined to play his part in helping us to eventually regain our place in the Premier League, and there’s no doubt we’re a stronger team whenever he plays.
Dear Roker Report,
Can I just give props to the Sunderland fan who saved the life of a Norwich supporter by the coaches after Sunday’s game?
He administered an EpiPen which ensured the man stayed well enough until the ambulance arrived.
Bad fan behaviour is always highlighted so maybe we should make a big deal of things when something like this happens.
Well done that man!
Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Gary. Thanks for getting in touch.
On Sunday night, the incident you refer to was being discussed on social media, with plenty of Norwich fans praising the Sunderland supporter who was able to offer help.
As you say, after so many incidents of rowdy and unacceptable fan behaviour this season, it’s certainly heartwarming to see assistance being offered from one supporter to another.
After all, football is a community and fans looking out for each other, rivalries and tribalism aside, goes a long way.