Dear Roker Report,
What a difference fifteen minutes makes! Another inspired half time team talk on Saturday and we came out looking like a completely different side.
The first half wasn’t brilliant, with sloppy passing across the park and no obvious cohesion going forward.
The performance was compounded when Ryan Hardie somehow made a run from just inside his own half and chipped Anthony Patterson. From where I was sitting, I was convinced he was offside but the replays suggest otherwise.
Despite that, the second half was exceptional!
The first set piece of the day to beat their first man resulted in another goal for Pierre Ekwah, who’s just so much more effective in the final third.
We had a slight scare shortly afterwards when Plymouth had the ball in the net but the linesman got that decision bang on, and then came the two wonder strikes from Jack Clarke and Jobe, which no goalkeeper in the world was getting near!
We played with such fluidity in the second half that it was hard to keep track of which position each one of the lads had started in, as they were constantly moving and looking for the ball.
I do honestly think Abdoullah Ba needs to play some U21’s games in his ‘preferred’ position, as he looked lost in the number ten role, especially during the first half.
Resting Jobe until the sixty fifth minute was a great move as he came on, provided some directness against a tired Plymouth side and strutted his stuff with ease! He practically walked into their box, sold a few dummies and bent one towards the top corner.
I’d also like to give a special mention to Nazariy Rusyn, who just runs and causes problems for fun.
If he’s not scoring goals, he’s causing problems and that’s what you need from a centre forward.
He even out-jumped their big lads a couple of times and I can see him having a field day against Huddersfield on Tuesday.
Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Calum. Thank you for your letter.
Saturday was certainly a tale of two very different halves, as it didn’t quite click for us during the first half but we upped the intensity after the break and gave Plymouth a real going over. I do think we still lack a clear identity under Michael Beale but hopefully that’ll come with time.
Regarding individual performances, I thought Nazariy Rusyn was very impressive once again. Even though he didn’t score, he was a threat all game and he seems to enjoy giving opposition defenders a tough time.
Pierre Ekwah’s goal felt like another positive step forward, and Jobe and Jack Clarke added some gloss to proceedings with their goals.
On Abdoullah Ba, it’s clear that he’s more suited to playing on the wing, where his pace and trickery can be best utilised. I don’t see him as a number ten and it’s going to be interesting to see how Beale can accommodate Ba and Patrick Roberts to best effect.
Dear Roker Report,
Whilst inside the ground on Saturday, I was disgusted with the state of the Stadium of Light.
It’s absolutely filthy, both inside and out. The roof no longer looks white and is clearly leaking in several places.
Also, the hospitality seating in the West Stand had standing water in several rows! Hardly a good look for those spending the most money, as I wouldn’t want to put my shoes in filthy water for ninety minutes.
The red signs around the back of the lower bowl are full of dust and the seats have an awful layer of filth on them, too. Who is meant to be cleaning the stadium during the week?
The concrete path around the bottom of the stadium has mould on it, and let’s not even get started with the ‘red’ runoff areas around the side of the pitch. They look dark brown at the very best.
As a paying customer, my experience has to be way better than this. I’m paying nearly £400 to sit in a dirty seat, surrounded by litter and filth.
These are basic things that the club needs to address, otherwise people will stop going!
Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Mathew. Thank you for getting in touch.
I fully agree that our once-proud stadium, a mere twenty seven years after it first opened, has fallen into a state of disrepair in many areas, and that’s to say nothing of the condition of the toilets on the concourses, the chipped paint and grime that seems to be everywhere, and the questionable standards of the food and drink options.
It’s a problem that needs to be addressed, because taking pride in your stadium should be a basic requirement for any club ownership, and I really hope that it’s dealt with sooner rather than later.
Dear Roker Report,
I’ve returned to chuck my two pence in again regarding the Lads, and I’ll start with the centre forwards.
I’m sure Mason Burstow will be a fine footballer.
You can see bits of it here and there but Nazariy Rusyn and Hemir have shown about the same if not more, and most importantly, they’ll be here next season…probably.
Rusyn looks the part for me, so if Michael Beale is reading this, give him a run!
I also follow the ‘Sunderland Analytics’ account on Twitter, which leads me to believe that Rusyn fits the bill with his running. He just wants to be playing and it’s very endearing to see how he defends from the front.
I’m confident that Beale will be thinking something similar and will give him a good run of games, which leads me to my next point: that listening to his press conferences hasn’t been anywhere near as bad recently.
I think the win over Stoke City has made him realise that he’s onto a winner here at Sunderland.
We have a good team and we’re going to go up. It’s just a matter of who’s in charge and he could be a part of it. The fans are also very forgiving if things are going well so I think we’ve seen the last of the passive/aggressive and frankly weird digs at the ‘outside noise’.
The main reason I decided to put pen to paper, however, is Yann M’Vila.
I absolutely adore that man. He’s an amazing footballer, he has a good relationship with the fans and is very good in a position I think we’re a little short in.
Recently, I noticed that he’s in advanced talks with West Bromwich Albion, a team who have a good manager and are looking the part again this season.
I’ve seen a few of our fans questioning his credentials on the internet, and I had to refrain from telling them what I thought of that, for fear of a spell in Twitter jail!
He was in the Greek league ‘team of the season’ for two of the last three years. He’s at a good age and was playing in the Champions League not too long ago. Our side had one player with top flight experience against Newcastle, but M’Vila is on another level, so bring him home.
For what it’s worth, I love the model.
Our team is great, the football isn’t quite as nice as usual but we’ll get there, but what I’ll never understand is why the fans don’t come into consideration.
Yes, these players fit the bill on the pitch, and ability-wise, nobody does more than M’Vila, but there’d be a palpable buzz around the place if he returned, with more bums on seats, people buying merchandise and supping pints.
It just makes sense. The man’s a superstar and we’re missing out to some cowboys in the Midlands.
Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Jake. Thank you for your letter.
Regarding our striking options, I do think that Nazariy Rusyn has earned the right to be given a run of starts after his recent displays.
In contrast to the often-passive Mason Burstow, Rusyn is sharp, alert, and always looking for openings. He seems to relish the battles with opposition defenders and if we can get the ball to him in the right areas, he’s got the ability to add more goals to his game.
I’d also like to think that Hemir will see more game time during the coming weeks as we slowly start to build his confidence back up and ease him back into the first team picture.
When it comes to Yann M’Vila, I can see both sides of the argument.
He’s undoubtedly a classy operator who would’ve added some real guile and physical presence to our midfield, but I always had a feeling that bringing him back to Wearside was a long shot, and if he goes to Albion, it would be a classic signing for a team who, like ourselves, are scrapping for a playoff place.
Time will tell how it all plays out, but I don’t think signing players in order to provide a short-term boost is our game anymore, and I get a feeling a lesson was learned with Jermain Defoe’s ill-fated return in 2022.