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Fan Letters: “Kristjaan Speakman has had a hugely positive impact at Sunderland!”

Thoughts on our sporting director, the possibilities that promotion would open up, and how the team has fared during 2022/2023 are in the RR mailbox today! Got something to say? Email us:

Sunderland v Birmingham City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I’d like to hear your thoughts on Kristjaan Speakman.

I think after the debacle surrounding Lee Johnson’s sacking, he’s really turned his stock around and looking back, I’d say he might even have been justified in being so decisive.

The appointment of Alex Neil wasn’t met with fanfare but he did a fantastic job of getting us out of League One, and then in almost exactly the same vein, Tony Mowbray was a tepid appointment at best and he’s taken us into the playoffs.

Speakman’s identification of these head coaches and then being able to bring them in has been admirable, and then you talk about his signings.

How many successful signings has he made? This will be the first time I’ve seen us sign more successes than flops in a season, not to mention that these players should go on to earn us a profit in the future.

It’s like we’re playing with a team full of hidden gems and it bodes well for future signings.

If we do go up to the Premier League, I think the one person we’d struggle to replace, should a big team come in for him, is Speakman.

Jay Hughes

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

I think Speakman deserves enormous credit for the rebuild and the overhaul of the club’s footballing infrastructure that he’s overseen.

Alongside Stuart Harvey, he’s managed to strengthen the squad impressively, and it’s now based around a core of young and exciting players who've got so much to offer and who’ve played some absolutely exceptional football this season.

There have been very few out and out transfer failures on his watch, one or two players aside, and the squad is light years better than it was when he arrived. It hasn’t always been perfect and mistakes have been made, but such a radical change of direction was never going to be a smooth process.

I know he sometimes divides opinion with the way he communicates, but if we judge the guy solely on what he’s done for the club, he’s played a hugely positive role in recent years.

Sunderland v Luton Town - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

This season has been the best I’ve ever had following Sunderland.

Up through the playoffs and hoping not to return to League One now or ever, and now we’ve got an exciting but raw team with little experience at this level.

Also, Alex Neil walking out early in the season as well as a packed treatment room which left us with no strikers and no actual centre backs, as well as our captain and vice-captain.

From that adversity, our fearless young team has excelled, playing technical, attacking football guided by Tony Mowbray’s steady hand and with the fans right behind them.

They’ve shown bundles of passion and team spirit and have never said die. You can see in the way they play and interact with each other on the pitch that they love playing this style, for this club, the fans and with their teammates.

Except for a few more optimistic fans, nobody expected them to do what they’ve done and that lack of expectation has let them play with freedom. Looking at Milwall on the last day, you can see what expectation can do to a team, but our whole club is aligned and it’s working perfectly at the moment.

And yet, I feel bittersweet about this season coming to an end, because I know the next one won’t be as good.

Maybe we’ll go up to the Premier League through the playoffs and be back where we feel we belong, but how much confidence and freedom will we play with if we’re getting belted by experienced, star-studded teams every week? How many new players might we rush through the door in our desperation to stay up, like Nottingham Forest have done this year?

Would I recognise that team as the Sunderland I’ve loved this year, and would I be enjoying it as much?

On the other hand, maybe we won’t make it this year and have another season in the Championship.

After the joy and excitement with which we’ve ended this season, how much expectation will there be on the team next year? Will the fans be on our young players’ backs when things aren’t going as well as we hope, say if we’re mid-table at Christmas? Amad won’t be here, but will any of our other young heroes have been poached and being paid huge wages to sit on the benches of the EPL?

Of course, the only constant is change.

Everything ends sooner or later. Players, coaches, owners come and go, and every team is up, down and up again. I don’t know if I’d rather see us in the Premier League or the Championship next season.

If we’d lost on Monday, it would’ve still been an amazing season but I’m so glad we won because it means we get at least two more chances to watch this brilliant team.

I never want this season to end.

Russell Tassicker

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

In many ways, I share your views on how we would fare in the Premier League.

It would be amazing to be back among the elite and to be welcoming the likes of Erling Haaland and Mo Salah to the Stadium of Light, but at the same time, the idea of going up, pocketing the money and being relegated with a whimper doesn’t appeal to me.

I’d love to see Sunderland establish itself as a competitive Premier League team and to aim for steady progress with every season we’re in the league.

Under this regime, I’d be confident that we could eventually do that, but as we saw between 2007 and 2017, spending millions and millions doesn’t always lead to success and in our case, it ultimately led to a total meltdown and the club plummeting into the footballing backwaters.

Ultimately, we’ll only discover how we’d measure up if and when promotion is achieved, but if it’s not this season, I’ve got a lot of confidence for next season and beyond.

Sunderland v Watford - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I sit here feeling as proud as punch of what we’ve achieved this season.

Finishing fifth last year and into the playoff final, which we won, and then finishing sixth this year after all the injuries we’ve suffered is testament to Tony Mowbray and everyone else connected to the club.

Whatever happens now, it’s been one hell of a ride and through thick and thin, good and bad, I’m so proud and loud to wear our team’s colours.

Well done to everyone for another amazing season.

Sunderland ‘Til I Die,


Rob Brown

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

I agree that what we’ve achieved as a newly-promoted team has been exceptional and the exciting thing is that it’s not over yet and the two games against Luton are an absolutely golden chance for the players to keep this remarkable season going.

As you say, regardless of whether we get promoted or not, it’s been a brilliant season and these players will be far better for the experience, which bodes very well for 2023/2024.

Sunderland v Watford - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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