Dear Roker Report,
I’ve just finished watching Tony Mowbray’s pre-match press conference and I found it very interesting.
The language he used was in stark contrast to previous weeks, in terms of being much less definitive, much more vague and crucially for me, much less opinionated.
I can only conclude that he was heavily briefed not to put Kristjaan Speakman and the rest of the board under too much pressure by making assurances or offering timescales on signings.
Whereas last week he talked of a breakthrough coming in ‘tomorrow’, this week he simply said that everyone was working hard and he ‘had to be confident that there would be strikers through the door by the end of the window.’
When questioned about reports that a deal had been agreed for Nazariy Rusyn, he simply denied any knowledge.
Last week, he spoke of looking at the loan market and that that’s where the best chance of finding an established forward would be. However, when asked specifically about loans on Thursday, he said that isn’t where the club are looking as it’s not part of the strategy, and playing down links to forwards on loan.
Last week, he was very open that he felt the club should get a target in early to avoid risking losing out towards the end of the window, but this week, he spoke of the need to ensure the right player came in.
I don’t disagree with the latter sentiment, but it’s a stark change in tone which I find notable.
I know on a recent tweet put out by Roker Report, you said that you thought Mowbray looked relaxed about the squad situation. However, I wonder whether ‘relaxed’ is the right word.
Mowbray said that the club have a strategy of signing young players and that’s what he knew he was signing up to.
I wonder more if in a week where his comments have led to daily questioning on the club’s social media platforms over when ‘tomorrow’ will come and his definitiveness that the club simply must bring in a striker, he’s been reminded that this is what he agreed to and he needs to tow the party line.
If we do fail to bring in a striker, the board will need to be able to defend that and Mowbray’s stressing of needing attacking reinforcements will not make that easy.
Instead of being relaxed, I see a man who perhaps is losing faith in the strategy he’s trying to implement but has come to the realisation there’s nothing he can do about it.
On a more positive note, he did talk about incomings in the plural which perhaps is an indication that he still expects there to be three or four more through the door.
In recent days, there have been strong reports linking the club with Rak-Sakyi, Nazariy Rusyn and Jay Stansfield plus a few weeks ago, a very reputable source also said we were in active discussions with PSG over Colin Dagba, so there’s an indication the club are active on many fronts.
By the end of September we will also (hopefully) have Ross Stewart, Eliezer Mayenda, Elliot Embleton, Aji Alese, Patrick Roberts and Jenson Seelt all back in the fold.
Let's hope that come next weekend, everyone is feeling much more confident about the season ahead!
Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, John. Thanks for your letter.
Having watched Mowbray’s press conference, I felt that he offered some interesting insights and plenty of reasons to be optimistic without being too open or leaving himself at the risk of being misinterpreted.
His quotes about Ross Stewart and Eliezer Mayenda being firmly on the comeback trail were encouraging, especially in the news of Patrick Roberts’ injury setback, and as you rightly say, the picture will look much more encouraging with a fully fit squad.
At the end of the day, he knew exactly what he signed up for when he took this job, and the conditions that would have to be met in order for it to be successful.
I didn’t see any signs of discontent on Thursday, and I think that as fans, we can sometimes read too much into these press conferences. Clearly, transfer targets are being worked on, and it wasn’t a surprise to see Mowbray dismiss the Rusyn question with a fairly straight bat.
Alex Neil had a visceral dislike of the media that he didn’t really bother to disguise, and after a summer of rumours and speculation about who we’re signing and who might be leaving the club, you couldn’t blame Mowbray for not exactly turning cartwheels whenever he faces the usual questions from the press pack.
He’s got a tricky job to answer questions without revealing too much- as any head coach or manager would do, and personally, I didn’t see or hear anything to be alarmed about on Thursday.
Dear Roker Report,
Why has it taken nearly eighteen months for things to happen, knowing that we needed two experienced strikers?
It’s all well and good signing young players but if you’re only using them to sell for profit, we’re back to where we are every year. We need to build a team which can stay together for more than one season.
We’re seemingly selling our best players but we never use the money wisely, so where does it go?
I think the board are quite happy getting 40,000+ fans week in and week out, and aren’t bothered if we stay in this league.
I’ve supported Sunderland for fifty five years and I’ve been a season ticket holder for over twenty, so let’s get a couple of experienced number nines in and have a go at getting out of this league.
No more panic buying as the transfer window closes and buying rubbish for big money!
Ed’s Note [Phil]: Thanks for getting in touch.
It’s important to recognise that at the time of writing, not a single key player has been sold by this regime, nor have there been any indications that we’re likely to allow our most valuable players to leave for sub-par fees, either.
If you look at the way that we were able to fend off Burnley’s interest in Jack Clarke, for example, that should offer real encouragement. They were clearly eager to sign him this summer but none of the offers they made were anywhere near fair, and were duly dismissed.
Getting maximum value for players, both in terms of incomings and outgoings, is going to be key, and I think they deserve the chance to keep developing this new way of working.
Dear Roker Report,
I’m growing weary with the way that football is all about money.
The three clubs relegated from the Premier League have three years’ worth of guaranteed funding simply by being relegated, and now they're selling players at inflated prices. One club bought a forward for £1 million and sold them for £25 million!
These clubs, who now have new owners with wealth, are trying to rip our side apart and pay a pittance for the privilege.
I’ve read somewhere that Sunderland are losing £30 million every year, and based on the state of the commercial side of the business, I’m not surprised.
Surely we can get sponsorships and revenue from the Nike stock? The club shop is bare, there’s no stock online, and the person responsible for this carnage needs to be replaced by someone with business acumen.
It’s time for this so-called big club to rise from the ashes, and to start making a profit, not a loss, with far higher standards when it comes to the way we do business.
Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Wayne. Thanks for your letter.
There’s no doubt that Sunderland aren’t currently maximising all possible revenue streams, and if we want to compete at the top level again in the future, we need to change that, as you rightly say.
The merchandise issue is a long-running one, and we also need to fix the issues with ticketing and ensure that customer complaints can be dealt with swiftly and thoroughly.
Elsewhere, there are also issues such as the stadium catering, which has been neglected for a long time and will only be brought up to a higher standard with further investment.
On the football side, there’s been huge progress made in recent years, but as you rightly say, we’re not being run as efficiently as we could be from a business perspective, and it certainly needs to change to give us a chance of mixing it with the elite in the future.