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Sunderland v Newcastle United - Emirates FA Cup Third Round

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Fan Letters: “A Wear-Tyne derby is never a free hit and shouldn’t be treated as one”

Thoughts on our defeat to Newcastle, questions about season ticket loyalty points and concerns about Kyril Louis-Dreyfus’ ownership are in the RR mailbox today. Got something to say? Email us:

Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

A free hit?

As soon as the experts, pundits and managers referred to the derby as a ‘free hit’, they showed their true colours because there’s no such thing as a free hit in a Wear-Tyne derby.

Although he never uttered the exact words, Michael Beale embraced them and he displayed such a lack of emotion, motivation and interest that it was truly a turning point for me.

I was willing to give him a go but as soon as it became apparent that his view was that we had no chance and the inevitable defeat would be a good lesson for the players, the writing was on the wall.

His lack of belief and motivation was reflected in our performance. We were like rabbits in the headlights when trying to go forward and relied on a decent defensive performance with no expression of our strength in moving forward at speed and getting into the opposition’s final third.

It was very, very disappointing in my view.

He may be a talented coach but he just doesn’t get the passion, pride and ability that you also need to compliment a well-coached group of players.

Stephen Jameson

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

I have to agree that I’m not entirely convinced that Michael Beale understood the significance of this game, even though he was never going to be definitively judged on the outcome.

As someone with experience of the Old Firm, you might’ve expected Beale to have embraced the challenge of facing Newcastle, but during his interviews before and after the game, he seemed to try and downplay the importance of the fixture. Did he truly understand what it means to our supporters? I’m not sure.

Nevertheless, the league is what Beale should rightly be judged on and with two tough games to come in the next fortnight, he needs to oversee a strong response from his players after the disappointment of Saturday.

Sunderland v Newcastle United - Emirates FA Cup Third Round Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

The funny thing about the defeat to Newcastle is the fact that although it’s never nice to lose a game and especially not to them, I don’t feel anywhere near as bad as I have with derby defeats in the past (although you have to go back some way to remember it).

When they were first taken over, I said to a gloating, black and white friend of mine that I felt like I’d lost something.

It was difficult to explain but seeing Newcastle become just another soulless, faceless franchise, lost to the endless amounts of cash that’s gobbling up modern football, was like losing an old frenemy.

I suspected that it would never feel the same again but part of me wondered whether that wasn’t just jealousy creeping in at the thought of the inevitable success that was coming the way of our neighbours.

Saturday confirmed my expectations. I didn’t feel half as sick with anxiety before kick off and nowhere near as deflated at the final whistle. It was just another defeat to put with the rest.

The saddest thing about this is not losing the match itself, but losing something bigger.

The Geordies can thank these Saudi buyers for ‘giving them their club back’ but like anyone else in the modern game, they’re just thankful for the cash, and another huge aspect of the beautiful game has died.

Liam Kendal

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

It’s true that Newcastle are now awash with cash and can boast the financial firepower that many clubs could only dream of. However, it’s entailed the loss of something unique and something precious, as you rightly highlight.

Is success bought at any price worth having? It’s very much up for debate, but on the other hand, after the challenges we’ve endured since 2017, would the majority of Sunderland supporters genuinely turn their noses up at the prospect of a nation state buying the club and investing enormous sums of money into the squad?

Football is controlled by money nowadays, and that’s the sad reality. It’s enabled teams to purchase truly wonderful players, but it’s also come at a very high price for the values of the game we all love.

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

Dear Roker Report,

I wonder if anyone can offer advice regarding away tickets and why I appear not to be able to purchase any more.

Let me say that I’ve followed Sunderland since 1967, but my longevity doesn’t make me a better supporter than anyone else.

Alongside my wife, I’ve been a season ticket holder for over thirty years, at Roker Park and the Stadium of Light, and up until recently, I attended as many away games as possible and over the course of a season, between half and two thirds of them.

We’ve seen Sunderland play at over eighty different grounds, ranging from Wembley to Weymouth.

Of course, there are those who never miss an away fixture, turning up in London on a Tuesday evening or at Southampton on a Wednesday, and naturally those wonderful folk should always be given priority over myself.

However, this is where the issue begins.

The last away fixture we attended was Sheffield Wednesday in September after going to Preston at the beginning of the season.

A family wedding, followed by personal and work commitments meant missing QPR, Coventry and Blackburn, but despite what appears to be normal away allocations, we’re currently never anywhere near and haven’t been able to follow the club since.

This included the Leicester game and the trips in November and December, as well as the Christmas fixtures, all of which we could’ve attended.

At the time of Sheffield Wednesday, our ‘BCP’ was comfortably within the second phase of sale and pushing towards the first phase, but a check on the ticketing page has suddenly downgraded my account to fifteen BCP and I have absolutely no idea why.

Of course it’s easier trying to make contact with the dead rather than the club, either by phone or email, however I’m wondering if anyone can offer any reasoning or advice.

In the meantime, Roker Report is a brilliant source of Sunderland information and opinion and I look forward to reading the comments and content every day so please keep the great work going.

Rob Gilchrist

Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Rob. Thank you for your letter and for your kind words about our website.

Regarding tickets, it seems to be a real minefield when it comes to away allocations, and given that the ticket office is known for not being particularly customer-friendly and the website can often be scarcely better, it seems that many fans are being left confused by the loyalty point scheme and how to secure tickets for away fixtures.

If anyone can help Rob with his ticketing issues, tweet us @RokerReport or send us an email at, and we’ll try and put you in contact with each other.

Sunderland v Newcastle United - Emirates FA Cup Third Round Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

If this model is successful, we’ll sell our players if one of them turns out to be good enough, which will leave us in the same spot.

It’s clear that this owner is simply trying to make money and keep the club floating in the Championship. Even if this team gets promoted, we’ll sell anything good and recruit more kids, and the team would be destroyed in the Premier League.

I’d like to see people and media outlets calling these people out, because anyone not actively calling for the sale of the club is causing harm.

The club said that the derby is a marker of our progress. I agree with that but there’s no hope of success without cash. I don’t like it but that’s the world of football.

KLD out!

P R Henderson

Ed’s Note [Phil]: Thanks for getting in touch.

At this stage, there’s no doubt that Dreyfus is enduring a turbulent time as Sunderland’s owner, and it wasn’t helped by the PR disaster that engulfed the club ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup tie.

However, if we can make some key signings during this window and continue to push towards the top six, you could argue that the plan is working.

Yes, players will eventually leave, but they’ve also been very clear that the plan would be to reinvest the money and use it to keep the club moving forward.

Time will tell whether it’s successful or not, but ensuring that we’re financially stable is not a bad thing at all. 

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

Dear Roker Report,

This game against the Mags wasn’t ‘lost’.

Instead, it was donated to Newcastle to save Eddie Howe from the sack.

Bill Calvert

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

Despite Newcastle’s quality, I daresay that Howe was fairly surprised at how easy we seemed to make it for his team on Saturday, and the fact that Newcastle won the game without really getting out of third gear was perhaps the most disappointing thing.

We didn’t show anywhere near enough fight on the day, and the loss was deserved.

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

Dear Roker Report,

I watched the Sunderland match against Newcastle, and we didn’t have a clue how to break them down.

Michael Beale hasn’t got a clue. He waited until the eighty second minute to make a substitution, when he took Nazariy Rusyn off and brought on Abdoullah Ba.

Why didn’t he take a midfielder off? We had nothing to lose by then.

Bring back Tony Mowbray.

Colin Lee Anderson

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

I don’t think our approach on Saturday was right, and the fact that we insisted on trying to play out from the back, coupled with our attempts to contain Newcastle rather than trying to be positive and take the game to them, was the wrong way to go.

You can accept the difference in quality, but the fact that we seemed to shrink rather than rise to the occasion is something that Beale would’ve been disappointed by.

His lack of trust in the substitutes (something we’ve heard from previous head coaches) was obvious as well, which was clearly why he only made one change during the game.

It’s still very to fully judge him, but the upcoming league games will give us a better idea of exactly how adept he is, and whether he has the tactical nous that’s supposedly his main strength as a coach.

Sunderland v Newcastle United - Emirates FA Cup Third Round Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

After sixty five years of watching this club, I’ve finally reached the end.

Trying to contact someone at the club if I have a problem, as well as access to toilets during the match and finally the disgusting scenes in the black cats bar.

These are small things in themselves but have made me realise the club doesn't care. It did years ago, but now it’s just a business.

I wish the supporters and the players good fortune for the future, but for me enough is enough.

George Brown

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

It’s sad to hear that you feel that you can no longer support our club but on the other hand, there does seem to be a sense of frustration among many supporters at the way we’re going about things nowadays.

There have been off-field problems plaguing Sunderland for years, and last week’s fiasco with the Black Cats’ Bar should really be the catalyst for change. These problems simply can’t be overlooked anymore.

Let’s hope the club takes firm action, reaches out to the supporters, and that you’re back in the Stadium of Light and supporting the Lads in the near future.

Sunderland v Newcastle United - Emirates FA Cup Third Round Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images


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