Dear Roker Report,
Watching Liverpool and Chelsea fight it out to sign two young players with less than one hundred senior games between them highlighted how hard it must be for Kristjaan Speakman and his team to persuade players to join us.
It’s not just about money.
Both clubs offered £170 million for Moisés Caicedo and Romeo Lavia but both of these stars of the future preferred to sign for Chelsea.
Was that because Chelsea is a better club, a better team, or that they have the better manager? Are their salaries higher? I doubt it.
It’s likely they found the bright lights of London a more appealing place to spend their new-found wealth than whatever Liverpool has to offer.
If Liverpool fail to appeal to these young players, what chance do we have?
How do we attract young talent when we’re up against the likes of Brighton, Brentford and any other team in the south east who are searching in the same market as us?
Speakman has shown that it’s not impossible but he starts with one huge disadvantage, so let’s give him credit where it’s due.
Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Peter. Thanks for your letter.
The issue of attracting ‘big name players’ has been a dilemma at Sunderland for quite some time. Obviously we’re not competing for the same calibre of footballers as Liverpool and Chelsea, but your wider point is valid.
Geographically, it’s possible that our location doesn’t make us the most attractive proposition to footballers who play down south, but on the other hand, we’ve been able to attract the likes of Kevin Phillips, Stefan Schwarz and Darren Bent to the Stadium of Light over the years, so there are some notable exceptions to the rule.
We’d all like to think that the club’s potential, fanbase and stature is what sells Sunderland AFC to potential signings, but the market is as competitive as it’s ever been and there’s no doubt that we face a real battle to improve our squad in the face of offers from clubs elsewhere in the country.
Dear Roker Report,
I couldn’t agree more about supporting our owners and the business that’s been conducted recently.
I’m led to believe we’re about to sign Nazariy Rusyn from the Ukrainian league, and there are a number of very impatient ‘fans’ who think they know more about football and its dealings than anyone else.
However, it’s quite clear they don’t and I’m so pleased that the club haven’t been flustered by the copious amount of impatient fans trying to pile pressure on the owner and recruitment team.
Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Malcolm. Thanks for getting in touch.
What’s perfectly obvious is that nowadays, Sunderland isn’t a club that’s being run on the basis of demands from supporters on social media.
We flirted with that during the League One years as Stewart Donald attempted to play the role of ‘people pleaser’, with predictably disastrous results.
Ultimately, this recruitment team will be judged on the strength of the squad once the window closes, and that’s the way it should be. If we sign our targets and retain key players, they’ll deserve praise, and if we’re left short in key areas, they’ll rightly be criticised.
It would be nice to think that the debates will be kept civilised regardless of what happens this week, but this is Sunderland, so I won’t hold my breath.
Dear Roker Report,
It appears that Tony Mowbray is working under impossible circumstances.
He has no say in which players are bought and is just given young players to use. At the same time, his target is to move the club to promotion.
Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, George. Thanks for your letter.
I don’t necessarily feel that Mowbray is working under impossible circumstances. It might be a different kind of setup to clubs he’s previously coached at, but at the same time, he would’ve known exactly what he was signing up for when he took the job.
The way that Sunderland are operating nowadays is based on a structure that’s becoming ever more widespread in modern football, with sporting directors working alongside head coaches in order to strengthen the squad and help the club to progress.
So far, it’s worked quite well for Sunderland, even if it’s something that we’re not used to, but there’s no doubt that a radical change was needed after so many years of failure and hopefully the decision will be proven right in the years to come.