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Fan Letters: “Criticism of Sunderland’s players/coaches shouldn’t descend to a personal level”

Sunderland’s owners are in the spotlight today, with their decision to hire Michael Beale and their plans for the club’s future under severe scrutiny. Got something to say? Email us: RokerReport@yahoo.co.uk

Photo by Scott Llewellyn/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images


Dear Roker Report,

It seems that the majority of what little support remains for Michael Beale is coming from those who were most vocal regarding the dismissal of our previous head coach.

It’s understandable that they perhaps feel the need to justify their actions, either to the rest of us or to themselves, but describing a gentleman like Tony Mowbray as a ‘p**s stain that needs exorcising from the club’ is beyond justification.

Once again, things look set to get ugly, but with the owner having shown his determination and resolve in the past, this could well go on for a while.

What we all need to appreciate is that we’re discussing human beings as well as football coaches, so please bear that in mind when choosing how to word any discontent you may have.

Remember that we as fans represent the club just as much as the players, owners, and staff.

Phil Clayton

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

You’ve made an excellent point here, because although the criticism of Beale that’s based on the football we’ve seen has been justified, some of the stuff you read on social media is beyond the pale and I don’t think any Sunderland head coach, regardless of how poorly they might be doing, deserves that.

There’s a fine line when criticising those in charge, and I do think it’s important to stay on the right side of it.

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

Dear Roker Report,

Fan unrest at Sunderland was inevitable from the day the club was sold to a young man in his mid-twenties.

The true on-pitch cost of this occurrence was masked by the positive experience of Tony Mowbray, who promised and succeeded in giving hope to the club and its fans that a return to the top tier would be achieved sooner than later.

However, once he was unwisely and prematurely sacked while the club was still in with a great chance of succeeding in the playoffs again, the chickens came home to roost in the form of another unwise decision: appointing a new head coach who talked the talk but in truth, simply didn’t have the experience or track record to take Sunderland forward in a league that’s notoriously tough to get out of.

My own honest opinion, after further recent gaffes at the top, is that Sunderland needs new ownership and a new head coach with real credibility.

Until this happens, the fanbase will not be fairly rewarded and in the relatively short term, ideally, this should (and must) happen.

Renewed growth can’t occur without cutting away deadwood, and surely this is better than the negativity and unhappiness that’ll go on until the inevitable takes place?

I’m sure the fans know it.

John Hopkinson

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

The unrest that’s manifesting itself against Sunderland’s current ownership is no surprise to me at all. Before last season’s playoff campaign, I was of the belief that if we weren’t promoted by the summer of 2024, people would start to demand that Kyril Louis-Dreyfus sells the club to someone else, and the off-field mistakes of recent weeks have exacerbated that.

The big question, however, is who exactly would purchase the club if Dreyfus decides to move on?

Wealthy consortiums or individuals simply aren’t purchasing Championship clubs at this moment in time, and another change of ownership would lead to more upheaval and turmoil, which we most certainly don’t need.

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

Dear Roker Report,

I recently wrote to you and expressed my belief that Michael Beale’s main failure is that unlike Tony Mowbray, he isn’t creating a harmonious atmosphere with a strong team spirit at its core.

I firmly believe this is still true, but it’s also become clear that Beale is failing in other fundamental ways.

Our head coach’s position is supposed to be easily interchangeable because we have a set style of football- ‘the Sunderland way’-and the head coach simply has to implement that style. This is supposedly such a fundamental part of our club that it can be seen at every level.

I think most of us would agree that this is the right approach, and we’ve certainly seen some great football as a result.

It’s allowed our talented youngsters to express themselves; we’ve been able to outscore the opposition even without a striker and even when we’ve lost, it’s been great to watch.

If all this is true, therefore, why have we appointed a head coach that doesn’t play this way?

Under Beale, our football isn’t free-flowing, it isn’t attacking, our talented youngsters can’t really express themselves, we’re not scoring goals, we’re not creating chances, and it’s absolutely diabolically turgid to watch!

If Beale has a different vision of how his teams will play football, that’s absolutely fine, but it shouldn’t be at our club. Unfortunately, the board managed to get this appointment wrong on every possible level.

What should’ve been a simple task of identifying a coach who could implement this style of play has turned into a complete fiasco.

I’m not against the board and I’m not against the ‘model,’ although I do think it needs to be tweaked.

Alex Neil was wrong for us because he wanted to focus on experience, but I’m not sure the same was true of Mowbray. I get the impression he loved working with the youngsters but he just wanted a bit more experience in the spine of the team to help things along, and I think he was right.

The board has to admit they got this wrong - very wrong.

I’m happy to keep supporting them if they can show that they’re learning from their mistakes and at least listening to concerns. I don’t necessarily want them to do what the fans want because let’s face it, we get it wrong too.

The fans wanted Jermain Defoe back, and that was foolish. Many still want Roy Keane back, and that’s totally idiotic! Also, many didn’t want Tony Mowbray but the point is that we can all get things wrong, and we have to admit our mistakes and act swiftly to rectify them.

I don’t know who the best man is for Sunderland, but I do know that if all the data suggests it’s Will Still, we need to pay what it takes to secure his services.

Our reliance on data has served us well in the recruitment of players, so we should trust it for the head coach, too. I’m pretty sure the data didn’t suggest Beale as the best candidate, so it’s better to pay the money upfront for the right man than give it to the wrong man just to get rid of him.

I don’t know how long Beale will last but we know he’s going, and it’s likely to be sooner rather than later.

The game against Hull was probably our best chance of a victory in our upcoming matches, especially as Liam Rosenior said it was the worst they’d played all season, so how badly did we play to lose that one?

I can’t see us getting more than a draw against Stoke, with a loss more likely, and Middlesbrough is also likely to end in defeat.

If we take four points from Plymouth and Huddersfield, I think that’s as good as we can expect, because it’s nailed on that Birmingham are going to beat us.

If Beale manages to get that far, I can’t see him surviving a defeat to Birmingham after what’s likely to be a rotten run of results. It’s ironic that we’ve gifted Birmingham their saviour in Mowbray, just when we get our own Wayne Rooney.

Beale out!

Andrew White

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

Everything you’ve covered is pretty much bang on, as I see it.

The brutal fact is that on just about every metric, we’re clearly regressing under Beale, and the defeat against an injury-hit Hull City side was the most glaring warning sign yet that he’s simply not the right man for Sunderland.

Nevertheless, for everyone’s sake, I hope and pray that we can somehow dig out a victory against Stoke on Saturday.

The idea that we ‘need to lose’ in order to hasten Beale’s departure doesn’t sit right with me, because the Lads deserve our backing regardless of who’s in charge, but it’s perfectly obvious that they’re simply not playing for Beale and this whole situation has the makings of a slow, ugly and drawn-out separation, although quite when that happens is anyone’s guess.

This is a total mess of the club’s own making, and your point about owning mistakes is valid, but the question is whether they’ll do that. Time will tell.

Sunderland v Hull City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

This letter gives me no satisfaction whatsoever, but the reality is stark and it has to be faced: the current owners are actually no better than the previous ones. Instead, they’re just so much better at hiding it.

The famed ‘model’ doesn’t exist, and they’ve proven this with the appointment of Michael Beale as head coach.

For the sake of a few quid, they could’ve had a number of highly talented innovative coaches at the club, but instead they went for the cost-free option.

They didn’t have the foresight to see that hiring Beale will actually knock the club back two or three seasons and that we’ll be lucky to finish halfway up the league come the end of the season.

This latest farce tops their total disinterest in issues such as the ticket office, and so on.

They’re here to quite simply run the club on the cheap and sit back to wait for a potential new owner to come in and offer them more than they paid, at which point they’ll be off like a rat up a drainpipe.

Consider this: if we did manage to win promotion under the current owners, does anyone genuinely believe they’ll open the purse? Absolutely not!

They’ll expect us to ‘survive’ in the Premier League with players who are way below the required standard for that level of football.

Just take a look at the current bottom three. They all went up from this league last year and are fighting for their lives. We’ll plummet like a stone while the regime sits back and tells us it’s all under control. We would also lose half the team as Premier League clubs offer them £5,000 a week extra to join them, and they’ll go.

We’ve all been expertly fooled into believing this was a new beginning, but it isn’t. It’s nothing of the sort.

We have a billionaire owner who refused to fork out a small amount of money by his standards for Will Still, and he instead brought in a clueless buffoon who has the players terrified to show any flair.

That’s the real stamp of things. That’s the proof. We’re screwed under this lot and we all need to wake up and smell the coffee.

Peter Milton

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

Whilst I can understand the frustration being felt by yourself and many fans who’ve written to Roker Report regarding the club ownership, I’d argue that although they’re certainly enduring a tough time right now, we have taken steps forward under them, with plenty of exciting signings, the academy in a far better state of health, and the club as a whole looking forward and not back.

Of course, this might not be enough for many supporters and there are undoubtedly many issues that need to be addressed, but in fairness to the current regime, they never promised us a ‘quick fix’ when they took over.

We all knew that getting back to the Premier League would take time, and we’re just over three years into their five-year plan.

Whether they’ll get the chance to see it through is a question for another day, but I don’t think a change of ownership would be guarantee of success at this stage.

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