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Fan Letters: “Sunderland’s owners aren’t perfect, but they’re not as bad as some claim”

Plenty of opinions on Kyril Louis-Dreyfus, Kristjaan Speakman, and the club’s direction of travel are in the RR mailbox today! Got something to say? Email us: RokerReport@yahoo.co.uk

Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images


Dear Roker Report,

‘Be careful what you wish for’.

I don’t want to shove that warning down some of my fellow supporters’ throats, but I would ask for some caution and understanding of the facts when vocalizing desired changes within our beloved club.

Has our young owner and the club’s sporting director made mistakes? Of course they have, and in the former’s defence, it would be unrealistic to think that he wouldn’t because of his tender years.

Am I appalled at the decision by the club to move season ticket holders out of seats to accommodate 6,000 of our hated enemies from up the road? Yes. (Can you imagine us getting 6,000 tickets in the Gallowgate? I don’t think so), and don’t get me started on the red carpet treatment, the redecoration, and free drink.

Our ticketing fiasco is a disgrace, as is the club shop and the lack of merchandise, and all of our struggles to talk to anyone within the club that seems to give a toss is a slight on everyone within the organisation who could actually make a difference. None of these issues are acceptable, and the management should be held accountable.

All of these things need addressing as quickly as possible, and my hope is that because of the bad press the club has received lately, the process of improvement, almost by default, may have accelerated.

Am I happy with the state of the concourse? No. Not really. Is the food bad? Worse than bad. Does our new head coach excite me? No, even though as supporters, we need to give him a chance.

If we don’t and we make the atmosphere toxic, it makes his job almost impossible. I realise that everything in the garden isn’t rosy, but let’s have some perspective before we make the situation far worse.

Look at what’s happening at Reading. If you do, you’ll see what their Chinese owner has done and continues to do to their club. Therein lies my warning of ‘be careful what you wish for’.

Despite mistakes made and in anticipation of the ones to follow, I don’t want new owners and I hope that the majority of us realise how good a job they’ve done since taking over the club.

I hope the negativity is being stoked up by a noisy minority who choose to jump on the bandwagon and complain about everything without giving any thought as to what the owners are trying to achieve.

Here are the facts since they took over:

• Promotion from League One.

• The end of the decline of our academy. Our U18s and U21s are now very competitive in respective leagues and we’ve stopped selling our prized assets for the first derisory offer that comes along.

• We’re now picking up players from all over the world who’ve played international football at junior levels. Players with the potential, who in time and with patience from us, can be massive assets for our club.

• Domestically, we’ve gained the trust of Premier League clubs as one of the best places in the country to loan out young players to.

• Instead of losing our academy players, we’re attracting young talent to our club from other clubs.

• The club has spent significant amounts of money on employing and creating data-driven departments. We have a scouting network that’s working now, and with time, we could see even more benefit in the future.

• Regardless of whether we agree with it or not, the club has a plan. Can I suggest this is a damn sight better than the way the club was run for as long as I can remember.

Before I get accused of being a ‘happy clapper’, I’m fifty eight years old and I’ve been a season ticket holder for most of my life. I moan, shout, and get frustrated as much as anyone, but I’m also wise enough to look at the bigger picture and not just criticize for the sake of it.

I’ve gone on enough, and if you’re still reading, I hope you agree with some of what I’ve said, but allow me to finish with a fact that can’t be disputed by anyone.

When the new owner took over, we had players like Winchester, McFadzean, Grigg, Baldwin, Burge, O’Brien, Dobson and Younger.

Today, as a result of a lot of good planning, hard work and conviction to stay with the plan, we have a squad worth multiple millions, with some of the biggest clubs in the country and abroad clamouring to take our players.

I can hear the idiots now saying, ‘Yes, but to line their own pockets’, but where’s the evidence of that?

We’ve sold one player of note since the takeover to Southampton and it doesn’t look as if we’ve done too badly out of that deal. The new owner said when we were promoted that he had a five-year plan to get us to the Premier League and make us strong enough to stay there.

Please put some perspective on what’s happening at the club we all love and give some credit where it’s due, before they say, do you know what? It’s not worth all the bother.

Darrin Adamson

Ed’s Note [Phil]: Thank you for your letter.

You’ve made some excellent points, I agree very strongly with many of them, and I think it’s important to remember that at no stage since Dreyfus and company took over were we promised a ‘quick fix’ or a shortcut back to the Premier League.

Fundamentally, there are two ways of doing it: you either spend big, take your chances and hope everything works out, or you put down strong foundations, make sure the club is futureproofed to as strong a degree as possible, and build slowly and progressively to ensure that you can be competitive when promotion is achieved.

To me, it’s a no-brainer, and there’s no reason why it won’t work in the medium and long term.

Sunderland v Coventry City - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Regarding Arthur’s letter, Michael Beale may not be a good appointment as head coach, but the idea that his origins in Kent count against him is a bit shaky.

Kent had the deepest and hottest coal mines in Britain so it wasn’t just the ‘garden of England’.

It also had iron and brewing industries, so it isn’t as different from County Durham as all that.

Ryhope John

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

It’s a strange one, isn’t it?

A manager or head coach’s background seems to be judged more harshly at Sunderland than at many other clubs, but considering that we once took the original madman’s madman Paolo di Canio to our hearts (ahh, the halcyon days of 2013), perhaps it’s not surprising that Beale’s roots seem to be a point of contention.

Just another quirk of Sunderland fandom!

Sunderland v Newcastle United - Emirates FA Cup Third Round Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Mistakes have been made, such as the the Black Cats’ Bar being redecorated for the FA Cup match, and things may not be up to other clubs’ standards regarding merchandise, but Kyril Louis-Dreyfus has a lot to put right, and I think he did the correct thing by sorting the on-field issues before the off-field ones.

I appreciate that the model needs experience to help the younger players, but some fans think it’s a case of us just going out and buying players regardless of the cost, and so on.

If reports are true, Newcastle United are close to breaking the FFP rules, and they have the world’s richest owners, so it isn’t a simple case of Dreyfus putting his hand in his pocket.

Fans complain about the club not giving Alex Pritchard a new contract, but it was only at the start of the season that Tony Mowbray stated that he expected him to have left the club at the end of the transfer window, as he’d asked to leave for personal reasons.

Fans are stating that Kristjaan Speakman is picking the team but if that’s the case, how has Pritchard suddenly been appearing in the starting line up since Mike Dodds and then Michael Beale took over from Mowbray?

Surely if Speakman is selecting the starting eleven, he’d ensure that some of the strikers are in it because he decided to bring them in and is being criticised for it, so he’ll want at least two of the four to shine.

Mowbray did extremely well for us, but towards the end of his stint, the football wasn’t great, with fans around me shouting for him to be sacked when we played Huddersfield at home.

I think Dreyfus did the correct thing by sacking him but I also think he signed his own death warrant by criticising individual players in post-match interviews, which I can’t remember him doing before.

After the Plymouth game, Mowbray said that he took Nazariy Rusyn off as he missed two chances in the first half, and he was also criticising Hemir. Once a head coach does this in public, there’s normally only one outcome.

I never get excited or disappointed when a new head coach is appointed as I never know enough about them, and I never have a suitable alternative, not to mention the fact that a coach can be a failure at one club and a huge success at another. This is why I’m willing to get behind Beale.

If fans aren’t happy about the type of food, the alcoholic beverages on sale or the prices, the simple thing to do is stop buying them. The club will soon realise that something is wrong when takings go down on particular items.

I think it’s time to get behind the team instead of being so negative, which I’m sick to death of reading. It’s totally depressing and demoralising.

Peter Welsh

Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Peter. Thank you for your letter.

It’s clear that after recent weeks and the litany of PR disasters that the club have been guilty of, trust needs to be rebuilt between the club and the supporters, and that’ll only happen with honesty, openness, and a willingness to listen to supporter feedback and act on it where necessary.

Niall Quinn did this when he arrived as chairman in 2006, and I think a similar strategy is needed now.

Of course the fans can be won back around, but the club can’t expect it to happen automatically. Winning games goes a long way, but an improved standard of communication is an absolute must. Let’s hope it happens.

Sunderland v Leeds United - Sky Bet Championship Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

The best course of action for Kyril Louis-Dreyfus would be to sell the club to someone with the financial capacity to invest.

The current leadership is deemed inadequate to manage the club and will not be forgiven for the perceived desecration of our stadium.

Rather than offering apologies, it’s suggested that they should depart.

David Wales

Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, David. Thank you for getting in touch.

The problem with demanding that Dreyfus sells the club is twofold.

First and foremost, he and his team aren’t doing anywhere near as bad a job as some claim. They’ve made mistakes but as today’s first letter highlights, they’ve done a lot of good as well.

The second issue is that you can’t simply pass the ownership of the club from one person to the next until we find a mystical, wealthy benefactor who’s willing to make all of our footballing dreams come true. It’s not a cheap commodity to be hawked to the highest bidder and it never should be.

What’s happening up the road might be impacting some of our fans’ thinking on this issue, but it’s not as cut and dried as that, not by a long way.

Sunderland v Birmingham City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Isn’t it about time that Kyril Louis-Dreyfus did the right thing and sacked Kristjaan Speakman?

Instead of bringing in good managers, he brings in rubbish ones, and Speakman hasn’t brought in a decent player yet, except for Jobe Bellingham.

For the sake of the club, which is fighting relegation again, sack them both.

Ian Frame

Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Ian. Thank you for your letter.

I think it’s harsh to claim that Bellingham is the only ‘decent player’ brought to the club since Kristjaan Speakman assumed control of our recruitment.

He’s overseen the arrival of many talented players (as well as some who haven’t worked out) and that’s perfectly normal for a club operating as we are now.

I don’t think his position is under any threat whatsoever, and nor do I think it should be, even if we do need to add some reinforcements this month.

Ipswich Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

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