Dear Roker Report,
The usual excuse in defence of Michael Beale is that he needs time to stamp his style on the team.
On the face of it, that sounds reasonable enough and ten years ago, I would’ve agreed with it. However, the problem is that with our current setup, we shouldn’t need to wait for this to happen.
As a club, we’ve adopted a specific style of play. It’s allegedly embedded into our very DNA, and the whole point of this approach is that we have consistency.
As a result, the role of the head coach is interchangeable as we don’t need a major overhaul every time we replace him. Instead, we’re just bringing in a different person who’s better equipped to execute that style of play.
Logically, this means that any period of transition is minimal, and if that’s the case, it’s not unreasonable for fans to expect improvements from Beale now, and not in two months’ time.
I wasn’t against sacking Tony Mowbray as long as we had a clear plan in place to replace him with someone who could take us to the next level. However, I think it’s fair to say that no such plan was in place.
We might’ve had a list of potential targets based on our data-driven approach, but if that’s the case, I find it highly unlikely that Beale was on that list.
If we’re going to be generous, let’s say that hiring Beale was at best a sideways move, and the problem for Sunderland now is that the evidence so far seems to suggest that viewing him as a sideways move is wildly optimistic.
Nothing I’ve seen so far convinces me he’s the right man for the job, and he’s almost certainly a step down from Mowbray.
Let’s consider some broad comparisons…
- Mowbray was criticised for not having a ‘Plan B’, but Beale doesn’t appear to have a ‘Plan B’ and at times, I’m not even sure he has a ‘Plan A’.
- Mowbray was criticised for not making substitutions until the 65th minute, and now Beale isn’t making them until the 85th minute.
- Mowbray was criticised for playing players out of position, and Beale is doing exactly the same.
- Mowbray was criticised for sticking with his favourite players regardless of form or the opposition, and Beale appears to be doing the same.
- Mowbray was criticised for not playing our strikers, and Beale isn’t making use of them either.
- Mowbray was criticised for not getting service to our strikers on the rare occasions one played, and they’re equally starved of service under Beale.
None of this suggests that Beale is a step up from Mowbray, but coupled with his questionable record in the top job at QPR and Rangers, it does suggest that he’s a step back for Sunderland.
Also, I don’t think that what I’ve written so far gets to the heart of why he’s a downgrade on Mowbray.
Where Mowbray really shone as a coach was in establishing a team spirit. For many of our young players, it really was a bit ‘like playing in the park with your mates’, and they loved life here.
His success in this area was based on the fact that despite all of the data used by our club, Mowbray always remained very human. He was a guy you would fight for and a guy who made you feel relaxed and confident.
In contrast, does anyone think that Beale has those qualities?
If he did, would we have players arguing on the pitch? Did Alex Pritchard look like he had a strong and warm bond with Beale when he went off on Saturday? No, absolutely not.
It’s also a worry that under Beale, our greatest strength - our team spirit - seems to be disintegrating, and that never ends well.
Appointing Beale was clearly in part driven by the fact that we didn’t have to pay anyone to secure his services. I get that, but I’d argue that it was short sighted and a false economy.
The money we saved by not paying compensation for the right man is money we’re just going to have to pay to eventually get rid of Beale. The only difference is that instead of paying the money upfront and moving forward, we’ll pay the money a bit later having spent months going backwards.
Don’t get me wrong: I support Kyril Louis-Dreyfus and I also rate the job that Kristjaan Speakman has done, but we all make mistakes and they both need to accept they dropped a clanger on this one.
They got it wrong, but what would be worse is blindly sticking by that mistake.
Beale is already a dead man walking, so it’s only a matter of time. Best to start looking for a successor now so at least we’re properly prepared for a change.
Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Andrew. Thanks for your letter.
Fundamentally, I share and agree with your concerns about Michael Beale and I’ve been quite vocal about the fact that for several reasons, I don’t believe his appointment will lead to success and that the process that led to him succeeding Tony Mowbray was flawed.
Even though results since he took charge have generally been OK, there’s been little evidence of the tactical sharpness that supposedly set him apart from the other candidates for the role, and I have real concerns about whether the players are buying into his methods, as well.
Your point about Tony Mowbray helping to develop a very strong team spirit was absolutely correct as well, and I’m not convinced that Beale, a far less experienced coach with a less distinguished CV, will be able to build on it.
Time will tell, and we may both be proven wrong, but the early signs aren’t particularly encouraging, and Friday’s game against Hull feels like a fixture of even more significance for the Lads.
Dear Roker Report,
I read Gav’s editorial today and just wanted to say that I think Roker Report is a fantastic place for all Sunderland supporters to voice their individual opinions.
Yes, we all have different ideas but we all want a successful and entertaining team and I don’t think any of us who email in think that these are the opinions of Roker Report.
Just to make it clear, my emails are my personal thoughts only and I’m sure that applies to everyone else.
Keep up the good work, guys.
Philip R Wright
Dear Roker Report,
What a great letter from Karen Kerrison, and I concur with everything she’s written.
Kyril Louis-Dreyfus, Kristjaan Speakman and Michael Beale have undone the great work of the last year or so in a matter of weeks.
I’m afraid that if something isn’t done to arrest this slide, I don’t think I’ll be renewing my and my grandchildren’s season tickets, along with my friends.
Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Arthur. Thanks for your letter.
Personally, I don’t feel as though the good feeling that’s built up around the club since promotion in 2022 has disappeared entirely, although I take your point about things maybe not feeling as positive as they did during 2022/2023 after quite a turbulent season so far.
On the other hand, we still have a very talented squad with plenty of skilful players, and what’ll ultimately keep people’s spirits up are performances, results and signs of continued progress.
If we can turn in a better performance and take three points from Friday’s big televised game against Hull City, the picture will look more positive, such is the fickle nature of football!