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Sunderland v Ipswich Town - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light

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Fan Letters: “What’s the plan for Sunderland? Where’s the money and the ambition?”

It’s a packed RR mailbox today as supporters have their say on the futures of key players as well as Sunderland’s recruitment policy! Got something to say? Email us:

Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Did nobody else notice the strange antics at half time on Saturday?

Danny Batth came out and went to the far side of the pitch to talk to one of the opposition subs, and the next two to come across and join him were Alex Pritchard and Lynden Gooch, who started passing a ball.

The remaining six subs commenced organised warm up exercises under supervision in front of the dugout, and eventually the three joined in with the other subs in front of the dugout.

This didn’t last long as the three reverted to their former position on the pitch.

Surely we don’t have separate factions within the club, or is nobody interested in the half time exercises?

Regarding the team, the performance was better with quicker movement and more cohesion. However, Bradley Dack has done nothing for the last two seasons, so if he isn’t fit, why is he playing? Would other players be afforded the same luxury?

Why don’t we give up on Ross Stewart and save his wages?

If he comes back and is a success, he’ll walk away in January, and if he doesn’t recapture his form, he’ll stay and collect his substantial salary.

We don’t win, and all we’re doing is paying his salary while he gets fit, so let another club do that.


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

I can’t say I noticed the incident that you’re referring to on Saturday, but I’d be fairly certain that it wasn’t anything sinister. Team spirit seems to be very strong, even after our iffy start, and I don’t see any cliques or factions emerging.

Regarding the Stewart situation, I think he’ll return to the squad in September, apply himself professionally, hopefully hit the goal trail, and then we can work out his contractual situation- hopefully with a satisfactory outcome for all parties.

I don’t see him as a mercenary or a money-grabber, and if he's selected, I’m sure he’ll go about his business as best he can and start bagging the goals that’ll keep us moving up the table.

Sunderland v Middlesbrough - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

The situation regarding the signing of players (especially strikers) has now become a joke.

They’ve taken a fortune from the fans and have just taken them for granted. On top of that, if the stories are true, they plan to sell the experience we do have.

It’s time for Kyril Louis-Dreyfus to send out one of his famous letters to the fans, but not just filled with platitudes. Instead, he should tell us what the real intentions are moving forward.

David Wall

Dear Roker Report,

This letter is doubtless one of many you receive on the subject, but something has to give.

The season is moving fast and we’ve had all summer to bring a striker in but have once again failed to see the seriousness of not doing so.

I feel the owners and businessmen running the club are of the mind that the modern-day player should be able to adapt to a position when necessary, but that just isn’t the case in certain positions.

There’s genuine discontent on the terraces.

We’ve got a golden chance of doing something serious this season but we’re glaringly short of a striker.

They’re waiting for Ross Stewart, but what if he’s injured again and what happens if he isn’t the player he once was?

I don’t like saying this, but I’m beginning to feel we’re being taken for mugs.

The owners do have money to spend and there are times when that simply has to be done for the greater good.

Does no one get it except the fans?

I know we’re back in the Championship after years in the wilderness, but we want to progress, not simply tread water. This league is unforgiving and unless they get their fingers out and stop acting like permanent paupers, we’ll be lucky to be a mid-table outfit and that’s a fact.

I’m not saying spend £10 million, but I’m saying ‘wake up and smell the coffee’ before it’s too late.

It’s not just me. I hear it regularly and the rumblings are growing. The next thing will be Tony Mowbray walking away and if that happens, we’re well in the mire.

Peter Milton

Dear Roker Report,

Without a doubt, this transfer window could make or break our season, as well as whether Tony Mowbray will remain our head coach or not.

Potentially allowing experienced players to leave the club when we have a large squad of youth and inexperience, as well as the possibility of no striker arriving is a recipe for disaster.

It seems to be a game of cat and mouse between Mowbray and Kristjaan Speakman at the moment. You only have to see the gaffer’s interviews to see how withdrawn he appears, and having to point out what he needs.

Unless Mowbray gets what’s needed and if results don’t go our way over the coming weeks, I feel he’ll walk.

I think that he buys into the club’s ethos but he also needs that extra help in the one area we’re seriously lacking. The fans are on board with the club’s direction but this needs sorting before it’s too late.

John McHugh

Dear Roker Report,

On one of the supporter’s messages boards, I read that someone had asked the question of ‘where would we be now if Kristjaan Speakman hadn’t arrived when he did?’

That may be so but the transfer model that he applied left us woefully short of strikers after the January window and has left us woefully short of strikers for the start of the season.

I think it’s extremely short-sighted not to sign an experienced striker just because he can’t be sold for a profit. Had an experienced striker been signed in January, who knows where we might be now.

Signing one now would surely benefit the youngsters in terms of getting them settled in and passing on experience.

The fans want success but they want it as quickly as possible, especially with what’s going on up the road.

Ernie Bagnall

Dear Roker Report,

It’s about time we moved from from Plan A (cheap, out of contract, young lads, which is something I have no problem with) that must fit Mr Speakman’s plan for the future.

Surely we can escape this and go for a Plan B?

A decent Championship striker wouldn’t cost that much, so surely it’s better to buy someone who can fill the void, rather than playing without.

Is the club bankrupt or in liquidation? It certainly looks like it.

Alan Metcalfe

Dear Roker Report,

Let’s face it: there’s no money to spend.

You need premier players and to pay the wages in the Championship.

If we get promoted, you need world class players and wages to match.

Kyril Louis-Dreyfus hasn’t got it, and he’ll have to move aside if we go up.

Charles Proud

Dear Roker Report,

Here we go again: struggling to sign anyone.

Every Sunderland fan knows we need a striker apart from the clowns in charge of our massive club.

They should get their hands in their pockets or go away, leave us alone and let someone else who cares about the club gave it a go.

That also applies to Kristjaan Speakman, who’s signing too many kids so we only have to pay minimum wages, which doesn’t work.

K. Defty

Ed’s Note [Phil]: Thanks for the many letters regarding our transfer policy. It’s obviously quite a contentious issue and one that people feel very strongly about.

I’ll reply to the seven letters above in one go, given that they all come under the umbrella of the club’s approach to recruitment and the way we’re operating nowadays.

When it comes to the question of ‘where’s the money?’, it’s worth remembering that of the seven players we’ve signed this summer, six of them involved transfer fees, with only one free agent.

The idea that the club is bankrupt or that we’re owned by an empty-pocketed shyster who sees us as nothing more than a vanity project simply doesn’t stack up in the cold light of day. Part of Sunderland’s ethos nowadays is spending wisely, not freely, and ensuring that every transfer represents good value for money.

Would new deals have been given to Dan Ballard, Dennis Cirkin and Trai Hume if there was no money? I don’t think so.

We’re also a breeding ground for young and exciting talent, and that simply wasn’t the case for a long time. Does that not deserve praise? Can we not simply unite behind one of the most exciting Sunderland teams for many years and embrace the way they’ve taken to life on Wearside?

The progress of Newcastle and their approach in the transfer market might be spooking our fans and manifesting itself as pressure on Dreyfus to spend like there’s no tomorrow, but do we want history to repeat itself, or to even run the risk of repeating itself?

From 2007 to 2017, we spent a decade in the Premier League, eventually being pushed to the brink of bankruptcy, scrapping for survival every season and seemingly never learning the lessons from the campaign that had just finished.

It was a cycle that was only going to lead to one outcome, and it eventually kicked off five years of turmoil, anger and humiliation before we finally won promotion in May 2022.

The current regime have clearly stated that they want us to regain a place in the top flight, but that the very future of the club won’t be risked in order to do so. That’s an admirable aim. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s clearly not going to change.

Of course strikers are needed.

Everyone can see it, and it feels like a safe bet that deals are being worked on as we speak. However, you can’t ignore the fact that it’s a competitive market, fees are being inflated all the time, and clubs are vying for the best value they can get.

When it comes to football matters, the club is being run in a way that’s alien to many of us, and maybe that’s a little bit unnerving as well. We’re not relying on a rich benefactor and hoping that he doesn’t get bored and turn the taps off, thereby leaving the club up the creek without a paddle and potentially facing financial oblivion.

That doesn’t mean it’s wrong or that the whole thing should be dismantled.

Breaking a cycle of failure takes time, and although we’ve got a long way to go, it feels like we’re on a path that’s a hell of a lot more exciting than we’ve been on for many years.

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

Dear Roker Report,

Looking at the current financial situation of the club purely from a business perspective, it’s obvious that it’s cripplingly under-capitalised.

Unless this issue is addressed urgently, further progress will be at best minimal and at worst zero.

Neither of these are acceptable, because in business, you either grow or go. The financial benefit of being in the Premier League is about £165 million over a period of three years, and that includes three years’ worth of parachute payments if you’re relegated.

The parachute payments, whilst not ensuring an immediate return to the Premier League, do make it probable, as in the case of Burnley.

This has reduced the risk and increased the attraction of investing in a club with our potential.

Whilst the current model of recruitment may prove a success in time, time is what we don’t have. Each year, the gap grows ever wider and more difficult to bridge.

As it has now become obvious, the current owner and board members are either incapable or unwilling to invest new capital into the business.

New funding is the only way to ensure that the rapid progress necessary continues to be made. This isn’t a change in ownership but new board members to invest additional capital.

No club in the world has ever become successful by scouring the dustbins of other clubs for undiscovered diamonds, and nor will we.

Allan D

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

I won’t beat about the bush here: I’m more than willing to bet that if we finish solidly in mid-table this season, you’ll start to see the first murmurings of a ‘KLD Out’ movement on the socials and the message boards.

They’ll argue that he’s had a go and has done some good things, but has ultimately failed to deliver the golden ticket of a place in the top flight, so therefore it’s time for him to step aside.

Not only is the idea of giving the owner of a club a three-year timeframe in which to deliver everything the fans are asking for utterly ludicrous, the more immediate question is: who comes next if Dreyfus sells, or who are these external investors who would inject further capital?

An unnamed billionaire from the Texas oil belt, with a ten gallon hat and a wallet and ego to match? A mystery sheikh who grew up with Sunderland posters on his walls and who now wants to restore us to former glories?

On the other hand, if fan pressure did force Dreyfus out, could we find ourselves in danger of falling into the hands of someone whose intentions for the football club were less than honourable?

The way we’re doing business at Sunderland these days isn’t perfect and it can always be improved and fine tuned, but it’s a hell of a lot better than it once was.

Without financial solidity, sporting success is unachievable, and at the end of the day, it’s always easy for fans to demand that money is spent when they’re not the ones writing the cheques and potentially absorbing the losses if it goes wrong.

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