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Fan Letters: “Why are Sunderland seemingly missing out on targets?”

Thoughts on players opting against a switch to Wearside, Elliot Embleton’s future, Nazariy Rusin’s protracted transfer, and the difficulty of persuading players to move north are in the RR mailbox today! Got something to say? Email us:

Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

When will this humiliation end? Yet again, a supposed transfer target has opted for a different club.

When will our local media stop pussyfooting around Kristjaan Speakman and Tony Mowbray and ask more robust questions and challenge the answers?

The questions during the pre-match press conferences sound like they’re being asked by Year Four pupil on a day’s work experience.

When Mowbray says we didn’t sign Jay Stansfield because there was a contractual problem, please tell us how he then signed for Birmingham, was on the bench on Saturday and scored a sensational injury time winner?

Please tell us why another supposed target, Matija Frigan, would rather play in the Belgian First Division in front of 4,000 supporters rather than signing for Sunderland and playing in front of 40,000 fans?

Mr Speakman has told us that due diligence is done on every player to check his suitability for Sunderland before a bid is placed, so that’s not an issue.

Bradley Dack was released by Blackburn on the 17th of May.

In a recent article, Mowbray said that he told Dack that we wanted him to sign but that it would take time, and he eventually signed for Sunderland in August. Please tell us how on Earth it took over two months to sign a player who was a free agent?

Something is fundamentally wrong, and over 30,000 season ticket holders deserve more of an explanation than we’re getting.

After the 2021/2022 playoff final victory, I think it was Steve Davison who made a big song and dance about how they ‘ripped up the League One budget for next season on the coach back to Sunderland’.

Obviously, someone kept a copy on file back in the office!

Steve Williamson

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

I think there’s often a misconception that as fans, we’ve got a right to know about the inner workings of the club and the ins and outs of every potential transfer, whether it’s successful or not.

Personally, I don’t think we do, and there should be clear limits to what the club discloses publicly. We’re certainly not owed a daily running commentary on the way the club operates, to say the least.

In the past, we’ve often been guilty of botched negotiations and of overpaying or simply signing the wrong players at the wrong time. It’s being done a lot more forensically now, and that’s not a bad thing.

In the case of Stansfield, it’s worth noting that he mentioned that Birmingham was closer to London and for family reasons, that appealed to him. I don’t think Sunderland’s recruitment team can really be blamed for that.

As for Frigan, who knows why he chose Belgium?

Maybe it was a money issue, or perhaps he didn’t want to leave continental football at this stage of his career. We know that the transfer market at home and abroad is competitive, and there are also limits to what we’ll pay for players in terms of transfer fees and wages.

Whether we like it or not, that’s the path that the club is on, and the coming years will show whether or not it’s the right option for Sunderland.

Birmingham City v Plymouth Argyle - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Cameron Smith/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I know the topic of conversation this week will rightly be on transfers, but my mind wanders to where some current squad members may fit in for the rest of the season.

There’s one player in particular that has me thinking and that’s Elliot Embleton.

I know a lot of talk has been about Ross Stewart returning from injury but prior to his season-ending injury last year, Embleton had featured in all twenty three of Sunderland’s Championship games and had also chipped in with a couple of goals.

However, there’s been little mention of his role in the squad this year or of any potential transfer away from the club (although this is unsurprising, given he’s returning from a long-term injury).

He’s had his critics in the past but he’s always been a player I liked. He played a big role in our promotion-winning season and is one of the few genuinely two-footed players in the league, capable of providing good deliveries from either flank.

Although he’s predominantly been considered for the number ten role, we now seem well-stocked in that area, especially if Alex Pritchard stays beyond Friday’s deadline.

He’s also shown his versatility in being deployed on both flanks and in the midfield two, and given that we seem short in both of these positions, I wonder if he’s been earmarked for one of these roles this season.

Personally, I think the defensive side of his game is his weakness, so he would be wasted in the midfield two. However, I think he could still play a viable role, perhaps being deployed from the wing to cover for Jack Clarke and Patrick Roberts.

This is also a role I expect Lynden Gooch to take up this season (assuming he remains at the club) given that we have a number of other options at right back.

Embleton and Gooch are two players I feel and hope can play a big role for Sunderland this season and given their versatility, perhaps we aren’t as short on numbers on the flank as we thought.

Given a few more weeks and a few more players returning from injury, I still think there’s ample quality in the squad to be positive of another promotion push, regardless of whether another winger is forthcoming.

John Bagnall

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

I’ve always been a big fan of Embleton and I think it’s great that he's now on the comeback trail and on the verge of being ready for the first team once again.

He’s a very skilful player and without that goal in the playoff final against Wycombe, we wouldn’t have made the vital early breakthrough that eventually set us on the road to victory.

In terms of his potential position this season, I can see him being used in a midfield two.

He’s not really suited to a wide role, in my opinion, so I think his range of passing could be a real asset to us in the middle of the park.

Given how regularly he played before suffering an injury at Hull last season, I’m convinced that Tony Mowbray will see him as a viable option as this season unfolds, and it’ll be great to have another local lad back in the fold and eager to make an impression.

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

Dear Roker Report,

I’m usually a glass half-full Sunderland optimist, but I’ve got a niggling feeling about our latest target, Nazariy Rusyn.

This ‘impending transfer’ has dragged on for so long that I’m beginning to doubt it’ll ever happen.

I hope I’m wrong and that he signs this week and hits the ground running, but as I said, I’ve just got a niggling feeling.

Alan Place

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

I absolutely understand the frustration surrounding Rusyn’s potential move to the Stadium of Light, but it’s important to remember that we’re trying to sign a player who’s playing domestic football in a country that’s currently embroiled in a bloody and hugely damaging war.

In that sense, it’s not a surprise that deals like this take more time, and hopefully it’ll be sorted before the deadline and we can welcome him to Sunderland once the transfer is completed!

Dear Roker Report,

I totally agree with Peter Tyrrell’s letter.

For years, I've been saying that we can’t compete to sign strikers from the English market because they know of our position in the North East of the country.

We have beautiful countryside on our doorstep, as well as a gorgeous coastline and beaches.

However, what we don’t have an excess of are designer shops and stores in any great number, as well nightclubs of huge street credibility or gourmet restaurants where these footballers can entertain their ‘WAGS’ in the style they’re used to.

With that in mind, we have to conduct our transfer business in foreign leagues, and this is what makes the negotiations so difficult and drawn out.

Malcolm Donnison

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

Whenever this topic comes up (and I do think it’s a very valid argument), I think back to what Roy Keane said early in his tenure as Sunderland boss, when he wryly expressed dissatisfaction at players choosing other clubs on the basis that their wives and girlfriends would find better shopping options elsewhere.

Is it still as valid today? Possibly, but I think that it should be the stature, history and potential of our club that sells it to potential signings.

After all, we’ve had many top quality players over the years, so we need to show these lads that Sunderland AFC is a club where you’ll get a chance to play in an exciting team and in front of a hugely enthusiastic fan base.

That’s the best way we can promote our club when doing business in the transfer market, in my opinion.

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