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Roker Roundtable: Progress on the pitch, but how are things off the field at Sunderland?

With new signings on board and contracts being renewed, the club is in good shape on the football side, but how about elsewhere? We asked our writers for their thoughts

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Gav says…

Without having a close eye on the day to day running of things over there, it’s tough to be fair when being critical of the off-field stuff, so as a fan all I can really do is give my opinion on what we do see.

The ticketing side of things needs work but there are changes being made over the summer that should streamline things as the club looks to move further towards a digital system.

Thankfully, sense prevailed when it came to supporting those who are technologically challenged and I guess the proof will be in the pudding and we’ll learn how efficient the new turnstile entry system actually is once we see it in action on the opening day.

Elsewhere, the club shop is naff and in desperate need of an overhaul.

You venture onto the website and it’s just wall to wall tat, and stuff I’d actually buy simply isn’t available. The excuse last year was ‘supply chain issues’, but it won’t wash this time around and how readily available football shirts actually are will be an interesting one to keep an eye on as the year progresses.

Really, it was a travesty that shirts weren’t made available for the Wembley trip at the end of the 2021/2022 season.

To me, it just makes perfect sense to have kits available in time for Father’s Day, because if anyone else’s dad is like mine, it would’ve made selecting a gift for him far easier. We could’ve shifted a tonne and made a decent wedge in an otherwise quiet period in terms of cashflow for the football club.

As a more general opinion, I think it’s crucial that we fall into line off the pitch in the same way we have on it, particularly as the club seeks to progress even further over the coming seasons.

We have to be at Premier League standard in all areas in order to succeed, and after a tough period in our recent history, it’s understandable that some departments have fallen behind.

Now, though, there can be no excuses and in order to run the club properly as a business, we have to be efficient right across the board.

We used to carry the motto of ‘The Caring Club’ and in many ways, applying that to the modern version of Sunderland AFC is important.

Showing fans you care and that you go above and beyond is conducive to better relations between the fanbase and the club in both the short and long term, and that can only be a good thing for our future.

Sunderland v Luton Town: Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Semi-Final First Leg Photo by George Wood/Getty Images

Anthony Gair says...

When you look at the backroom staff we’ve got at the helm at the moment compared to the likes of ten years ago, we’re in a much better place professionally than where we were when we were in the Premier League.

Kristjaan Speakman isn’t always in the limelight but when he is, he speaks truthfully and is trustworthy with it. The recruitment has improved dramatically since he arrived, and that’s been proven again with our most recent signings.

The academy is coming on in leaps and bounds, the Under 18’s are seen throughout football as the best team in the country and the Under 21’s have picked up since Elliott Dickman left, so it all seems to be under control and moving in an upward direction.

I’d like everyone to remain where they are for a good while now, because if this is what they do when they’re just starting out in the job, where will they go with more experience?

The future is red and white, and so shall it remain!

Malc Dugdale says...

I agree with a lot of what the other lads have said, because things are pretty decent right now in most areas.

Our recruitment is ticking along nicely and our adjustment to focusing on young talented players who we can grow and possibly sell on, and who are giving us attractive football makes this a great time to be a Sunderland fan.

The main point I’d make concerns the state of the stadium.

The place needs some TLC and if Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven could see the upsides of swapping out the seemingly decades-old pink seats (with the generous help of the fans) , I can’t see why our home ground can’t be updated, refreshed and reinvigorated, and not just the paint work, either.

The sound system is awful, the wi-fi is an embarrassment and it’s impossible to get a pint at half time without missing ten minutes of the game, such is the poor flow of sales of drinks and snacks.

Elsewhere, the things you see on the walk from the city centre are tatty and outdated, with decorated bollards and pictures of past exploits fading and fraying more each season.

Not a lot of money needs to be spent to sort these things out and to make a huge difference to the fan experience on match day.

Yes, there were and still are more important things to focus on, but we exceeded all expectations on the pitch last season and I don’t see why we can’t restore the pride in our stadium by making it look as fresh as our ideas and creativity on the pitch.

I can’t wait for the new season to start but if we want to smarten up our gaff, now is the time. Maybe they’re doing it all now. I hope so.

Kyril Louis-Dreyfus and company are doing a great job in the main, so let’s build on that and sort out our biggest off-field asset: our slightly neglected stadium.

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