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Dear ALS

I have not the slightest idea if the ‘Mad Italian’ can do it for us, but you know what – already I feel a spring in my step (which probably gives me more pace than the Lads’ midfield) and have a smile on my face. You know that feeling you get just before you get on the scariest ride at the fair? Blind panic, coupled with raw excitement. It’s going to be a hell of a ride.

And he is not Bruce – so that will keep most happy – and he is not O’Neill – which will keep most happy, but not many will openly agree yet. I reckon we can lose 5 at Chelsea next week and still have 3,000 supporters cheering the effort. And if he plays Wickham from the start and absolutely refuses to take him off till 15 May then we will know that we will be on the road back.

Remember ‘Attack, attack, attack’ when we were at Roker. It’s coming back and win, lose or draw we will, after 16 months in our own half, give it a go.

Can’t wait

Dear ALS

As a lifelong proud Sunderland fan, my love of the club came from my Grandad's fanaticism for Sunderland and his own life long support. Sunderland is one of those clubs that despite a small population has a huge fan base and often sells out its away allocation; even thought the round trip from the North is often 500+ miles. The diehard support is rewarded not with constant top flight success, but a roller coaster ride where the memory of fighting relegation in the old division one until Peter Reid came in, is contrasted with the days of Kevin Phillips getting the golden boot and Europe being a realistic target. The underdog winning the FA Cup in 1973 has gained a folklore aura. A contrast of success, failure and underdog innocence which the fans of Chelsea and Manchester City will never experience.

The appointment of PDC on April Fool’s Day is a step in a different direction. This underdog innocence was lost with the Faustian idea to stave off relegation and replace Martin O'Neil with a man who has fascist beliefs.

Reading the forums yesterday, the re current argument was that 'his political view doesn't matter, what matters are the results on the pitch', is that not the same as saying 'his political views don't count, as long as the trains run on time'.

When you hire a manager who is an open fascist and has a Mussolini tattoo on his arm you condone it. When you don't stand up, and say these people should not be put in a position where they will become role models and the image of your football club, you condone it. 

Proud as I am that my Grandad's fanaticism for Sunderland rubbed off on me, I am more proud of the 3 years he spent in North Africa and Italy fighting the armies of Mussolini and seeing firsthand the tyranny murder and violence which scarred his memories till the day he died. Luckily he was able to end his war in Milan in front of the body of Mussolini hanging upside down, and not lying there on the fields of El Alamein like too many of his comrades. In any other job a fascist tattoo on an arm would be something worth discussing, for the manager of a proud Premier League football club to have Mussolini on his arm deserves more than 'Neither Sunderland AFC, nor Paolo Di Canio, will make any further comment on this matter.' Fans deserve a little more.

If anyone wants a ticket for Stanford Bridge at the weekend get in touch, you can have it for a donation to Help for Heroes. 

John Naylor 

Dear ALS

I am feeling rather uncomfortable reading about all the hate mail that the appointment of Paulo Di Canio has generated. I just want him to get on with the job he has been given, which is to get the SAFC players to perform to the very best of their ability and hopefully to win some games.

I don't care what he has said in the past about whatever political views he may have or have had and also I think people should realise that he is Italian and the political situation there is and always has been very different to here in Britain. I find it sad that the Durham Miners have chosen to make such a fuss, I wonder if they would have done the same if the new man had been a follower of Stalin or Mao - who trod on workers’ rights just as much as the men they claim Di Canio follows. 

We have a new manager, he is now the one who will call the shots and prepare our heroes for battle and we must give him our backing, for the good of the club. I would write that no matter who the new manager happened to be, I would certainly not have a hissy fit because he doesn't vote the same way that I do.

If we win a few games now and stay up, and then do well next season the fans will love him. If we now are relegated and struggle in the Championship the fans will scream for his head. It's really as simple as that.

Best wishes, FTM etc
Alan Haile 

Dear ALS

With the hype around PDC in recent days and his alleged politics, should we not spare a thought for David Miliband for resigning at the new manager’s appointment and focus a little on him and his lack of press hype?

As former foreign secretary and one of Tony Blair's cabinet, surely his role in the Iraq conflict and with him being apparently investigated for alleged war crimes, the lack of WMD, rendition trips he did not then did know about on UK sovereign terrority, alleged human rights abuses and then being in court for the UK re torture matters after trying to ban the press to boot surely indeed should be something SAFC should be ashamed to be associated with, but alas he is a socialist and was in the Labour Party so that’s probably OK maybe. To my knowledge PDC has not been involved in the suffering that thousands have been in Iraq and Cuba, unlike our former Vice Chairman. Either way SAFC is a cat’s cradle whichever view you take. Football not politics please from now on if it's not too much trouble.

Keep The Faith
MJ Hay

Dear ALS

Excellent appointment, why? Because it’s different! For years I've watched so called smaller clubs take ambitious punts on untried managers and watched them succeed. Ironically Swindon Town tend to do it. I remember watching my beloved Sunderland being out footballed at Wembley by a Swindon Town with an untried manager. We've had the safe. Steve Bruce for example, plenty of experience, did well at Wigan with limited resources would we want Bruce back? O'Neill the dream for me, proven record with success, but under him, Sunderland were unimaginative, playing with no tempo, no style no threat.

So we come to Paulo, 15 months in management, one championship and leaves a club top of the league over a matter of principle.

Those fans who want to stay away because of Di Canio's publicised political allegiance then stay away. Those calling for his immediate removal, why? I take him on face value, he says he's been misquoted and doesn't want to justify any more. Absolutely correct. How long has he been in the UK? How long has he played football in this country and all of a sudden this is big news?

I for one will sing his name. So what does that say about me? More importantly who cares?

Paul Wood

Dear ALS

It's been a while since I've written in, but this Fascism thing is getting right on my tits.

PDC played in the UK for West Ham, Charlton, Wednesday and Celtic. He managed Swindon for a year and a half, nothing was said. He comes to SAFC and all of a sudden we have employed the Antichrist’s nastier older brother!!

I must admit I had to Google the word Fascist and I, like many other,s had no idea what it was all about. Immediately I thought of race, and although I'm no professor of history, some of it is and some of it isn't. To those who have already jumped on the bandwagon, I would say read up on it, don't make judgement before you have the facts. I for one, have no political views and I'm certainly no racist, but to take what you have read in the papers as gospel is doing nothing more than upsetting the club and supplying the tabloids with more cash to write bullshit stories.

Personally I don't care about PDC's views. Maybe he is, maybe he isn't. But nothing will stop me supporting my team.

I hope he gives the players a good kick up the arse, and I for one am looking forward to future.

Big Gaz

Dear ALS

So, The Nelson Mandela Foundation has declared that it will continue its links with SAFC after yesterday meeting with club officials and Paolo Di Canio himself.

If the representatives of a man who spent 27 years in prison fighting apartheid and what can easily be described as 'fascist' rulers is happy to continue to be linked with our club then maybe all you miners, union members, world war veterans and the like should rethink your positions? You may struggle to find this statement by The Nelson Mandela Foundation on the front page of one of the tabloids, or on mainstream television news, as it's not sensational enough or biased in favour of the storyline they want to run. Take a look at Sky Tyne and Wear News though and there it is. Can we get back to football now?

Emma Summersgill

Dear ALS

The controversy over the political views of PDC has overshadowed his appointment. It has proved to be a distraction which Sunderland can do without facing the threat of relegation. Such issues as his Italian defensive-style tactics and long-term prospects have been buried in much of the hysteria. Even if he is able to keep the team up, is he the man we really want for the future? 

One interesting fact is that like Rafa at Chelski, he has only been appointed as Head Coach and not manager, like MON. Does this mean Short's intentions are to change to a European-style set-up? Is a director of football on the cards? Another Denis Wise and more fireworks, God forbid.

Whichever way you look at it PDC seems to be short-termism. Unlike MON, he does not seem to be the right appointment to rebuild the team. Even politics aside, he seems to be more of Championship League quality at best, perhaps more suited if we do go down. Unless he surprises pundits, it is doubtful if he will be any more than Pulis at Stoke and is that want the fans want? And there is no certainly his strong-arm tactics will work, it didn't under Roy Keane in the long term.

The writing on the wall is that Short is gradually increasing his control and interfering with football issues that he knows little or nothing about. Not sure who his advisers are but this could extend to even buying players. He obviously was oblivious about the political storm he would create over PDC's appointment, including giving David Miliband an excuse to cut and run and the Durham miners wanting their banner back.

The future looks bleak from whichever you look at it. What is certain is that a stormy period lies ahead that unfortunately could be a much bigger issue than relegation but the whole future of the club.

Overlong Suffering Supporter

Dear ALS

I've been a lurker on the message board for years, while supporting my team from overseas. I've interjected at times but for the most part I've stayed out of most things. That's not to say I don't have an opinion, but nothing has given me a bigger opinion than this mess going on in Sunderland now.

Let me be clear, I thought the MON appointment was a good one at the time, something had to be done to right the ship. Things were getting stale and old. That's not to say I'm one of the Bruce-out or Bruce-in people, I just thought there had to be a shake up. Most importantly I thought it would lead to players getting a fire back.

MON's first month in charge seemed to be that kick in the pants that everyone needed. We looked sure of ourselves. We played with fire. I was proud to wear my red and white shirt around. But then things started to sour I wondered about some of the decisions that MON made, but he was in charge not I. I play manager on Footy manager, I don't get paid to do it, and sometimes I wonder if I would even if I got hired. But that is another story.

The decision to loan out Ji and sit Wickham really set me off though. Then the same old tactics are played and result in the same old thing. You start to wonder if at any point he will see that those aren't working. We have to change something. And yeah maybe the players weren't playing up to standard. I'm not going to defend them either. There are a lot of wrongs going on at this point. In fact probably more wrongs than I know.

I'm a huge Sess fan, but he wasn't the player he used to be. With the exception of Fletcher and Mig (and sometimes Gardner free kicks/penalties) I'm not sure where we would be. Well maybe I do, even further down. At least 1 point lower no doubt. That said, I am not playing favourites, Sess seemed disinterested at times, as hell 90% of the squad. It looked to me like some players just ran around and collected a check. It hurt sometimes to watch.

The QPR game was one of the most painful matches I've watched in a long time. I said to a co-worker back in December that we looked terrible, and I thought that we would really struggle. I talked of possible relegation and he laughed me off. A Chelsea fan, he told me that we had a good squad and that we would be alright. Now I feel like an ass because here we are, truthfully talking about relegation. But after the QPR game, I was mad. How could we not push that man advantage down their throat? What about the substitutions? It just doesn't make sense.

And the Man U game, well I did expect us to lose, but I didn't expect an own goal. I was shocked to see MON fired at this point in the season, but to be fair, not that shocked. Pundits can say he should have time to steer us out of the relegation zone, but he steered us to it to begin with. If you could have changed captains on the Titanic would you? If you could insert someone new to light a fire before going down, would you? If you were Mr. Short and saw the club as a business, would you fire the manager that was underperforming in order to shake things up, would you?

As far as PDC goes, I don't know anything about his politics. I've read articles and I've done some research on him. I saw the pictures of the salute. But this isn't politics, and quite frankly I don't care about his politics. No one at Swindon said his politics caused them to lose. Whether he is a fascist or not, I don't frankly care. Sometimes we take politics way too seriously, especially when it comes to sport. In America, many athletes take to twitter to express their political views. My views and your views will more than likely never be 100% the same. He may not have PL experience, much less Championship experience, but everyone has to start somewhere. Alex Ferguson never had PL experience before he got the Man U job. I'm not convinced that you have to have that experience to be successful. What I am convinced of is that you have to motivate and push the players to victory. Sure you have to have tactics and put people in places. But MON had some tactics. Steve Bruce had some tactics. I'm sure PDC does too. I'm excited that he's going to be pushing players. Their job is to play football. So why not push them to play their best?

I will support PDC as he is our new man. Should he be gone then I will support who is next. I'm not foolish though, and I may question what he does. But I will still support him and the players. Though they are part of the mess, they are still OUR team. This is OUR Sunderland. These are OUR lads. We have to get behind them. They are what bring us emotion on match day. They are the ones we wait to see. OUR Black Cats. The time for fighting is done. The time for arguing is done. Now it's time to work, work, work and get to where we need to be.

Let's stop arguing and start supporting
Ha'way the Lads
Jonathan Sager

Dear ALS

Paolo Di Canio’s arrival to Premier League management was always going to attract headlines. Di Canio is one of football’s most enigmatic characters and to use a horrible cliché, is like marmite. He’s in the mould of the Keane’s and Mourinho’s of the football world - you love them or hate them.

Despite polarising opinion, he is remembered by many for his recklessness when pushing over referee Paul Alcock, for his genius with his spectacular scissor-kick volley against Wimbledon and also for his generosity when he was awarded the FIFA Fair Play Award for stopping play when Everton’s Paul Gerard was injured, denying himself and his team a goal scoring opportunity.

The headlines should, in my opinion, be concentrating on whether this Italian hot-head with no experience of managing in the top-flight can save Sunderland from relegation and if he’s the right man to replace Martin O’Neill for Sunderland’s survival run-in.

Sadly, his appointment has sparked a media outrage with a lot of it being fuelled by some of our supporters themselves. David Milliband, who of course has ties with the Labour Party, reacted quickly and within minutes of Di Canio’s arrival as head coach, left his position as vice-chairman at the club. Milliband’s departure has helped ignite the media’s stories but you can’t help but question the double standards from some journalists.

Di Canio’s comments were eight years ago and according to the man himself, taken out of context during a long interview. I understand the Swindon job isn’t as high-profile as being manager of Sunderland AFC but nonetheless, there was no furore when Di Canio took charge of them nor was anything said when West Ham made the decision to open a lounge named in honour of the player at their ground.

The Sun (surprise, surprise) opened up a can of worms with their front page today, discussing a war veteran boycotting the club because of Di Canio’s appointment. Sky Sports News and other media outlets have also gave airtime to fans who are saying they’re boycotting because of Di Canio’s beliefs.

I find it all baffling that people are going to let politics get in the way of supporting our football club. If supporters are to have a problem with Ellis Short’s decision, I can understand grievances about Di Canio’s character and lack of experience but I can’t understand the idea of not supporting your team for someone’s political believes because the fact of the matter is – this football club will always be here as long as its fans are there for it. It will outlast Di Canio, it will outlast Short and it will outlast all of the players that are partly responsible for the decision to appoint Di Canio in the first place.

We’re slowly being portrayed as the ‘enemy’ all of a sudden but that doesn’t bother me. As long as we do our talking on the pitch, I am happy. For too long this season, we’ve been exposed to the same pre and post-match interviews by the players talking about how they’ll do better than they have been doing and how they’ll make the fans and club proud, etc. We’ve witnessed the same interview each week without fail, just by a different player each time.

The players have been quiet since the announcement of O’Neill’s departure. Hopefully this means they’re all focused on playing instead of talking. We have seven games to save our season and whether the press want to continue to focus on Di Canio and politics, it doesn’t matter because the only real thing that will matter to our support is whether this man can save us from the drop.

Ryan Doneathy

Dear ALS

It was a weekend suffused with symbolism, events in those mad March days that seemed to be orchestrated by an unbalanced, certifiable hare. It was as if we had nailed Christ himself to the cross only for the Devil incarnate to reappear from the tomb, complete with horns and cloven hooves.

As we drove past the miners’ lamp on our way out of the ground on Saturday, my Dad remarked that even the bulb had gone out. If we were looking for a sign that our club was in as big a fix as we thought then that was it. We both knew, in our heart of hearts, that O’Neill would not make it past the summer. The body language displayed by him and his backroom staff before the defeat against QPR was a clear signal that something was gravely wrong. We were on a downward spiral to yet another relegation. It would be my Dad’s tenth, my ninth, and the tell-tale signs of misery were easy to spot: poor defending, lack of energy and confidence, no attacking intent and yes, on occasions, sheer bad luck. Ellis Short would sack MO’N and a new man would be brought in, in all likelihood charged with getting us out of the Championship.

On Easter Sunday afternoon I took my family for a stroll along the beach from Roker to Whitburn as we pondered the new appointment. Paulo Di Canio had been mooted as a potential manager. It was obviously a smokescreen, a clever piece of media manipulation to throw the pack off the scent. As we neared the home of Whitburn Anglers’ Club I noticed a familiar figure. There was a man hunched over his mobile, clearly not wishing to involve anyone else in his conversation and looking agitated. It was David Miliband. I merrily munched my choc ice and thought I could engage him in a steer about the new man. His body language did not indicate that he was prepared to entertain a bit of jollity so we left him to make his way over to his family.

I arrived home and it just seemed a matter of time before PDC would be confirmed as the latest SAFC manager, probably by the end of the evening. The point about Alice in Wonderland is that not everything is as it appears and the irony has not been lost on me that Lewis Carroll used to spend some time on Wearside visiting his sister. Did he have an inkling that we do things differently here? That Sunderland is a strange place sometimes, full of sound and fury? Texts, emails and social media fizzed and popped with friends and family offering their opinions and outrage. I responded in my usual fashion and told my wife that I was going to the pub for a few stiff drinks.

Ellis Short does not strike me as a showy kind of individual and I do not suppose for one moment that you get to be a billionaire without having something of a ruthless streak in your make-up. The noises coming from the SOL about the scouting, training and general set-up are what any self-respecting CEO should be asking if the output is poor and of such a low quality. MO’N should have known that he and his staff would be under close scrutiny and that his time would have been up sooner or later. Short saw the white rabbit disappearing down the hole, trailing an extra £60 million quid behind him and he had no choice but to follow. The Premier League is a madhouse and all who operate within it appear to have been infected by its insane principles. As a piece of theatre, Sunday’s events will take some beating.

So, PDC is here but for how long? A cool, hard look at the shelf life of any manger, let alone one who manages Sunderland, says that he will be lucky to last more than two years. The likelihood is that he will be gone by the end of the calendar year. I hope to be proven wrong but I cannot see the present side having the gumption to pull us out of the nosedive we are in. The new management team will have to construct a fresh side in the Championship and the demand will still be there for an instant return to the PL, a tremendous task for a manager with limited experience. If we are not out in front by the end of the year then a few visits to Short’s office will be on the “to-do” list. DiCanio is a combustible character who is ready to erupt at any time. What you see is what you get and he is not going to change.

On the other hand, the temporary insanity of the last few days may be a prelude to a whole new way of doing things. I get the impression that, rightly or wrongly, PDC is very much Short’s appointment and not one that has been made on the back of football men like Niall Quinn. Bruce and O’Neill were, it would appear recommendations from “experts” and our owner appears singularly unimpressed by the misuse of his money by these managers.

Of one thing we can be sure: the politics issue will not go away and will be a subject that will haunt the club for the remainder of the manager’s tenure, especially if things do not go well. Our last game of the season is against Spurs, an avowedly Jewish club. Let’s suppose we need a win to stay in the league and they require three points for the Champions League. The pre-match build up and subsequent fall-out will make headlines around the world. Can you imagine the (understandable) gloating of their supporters if they beat us to send us down?

This dream has been a bizarre one. Wake me up when it’s over.

Garry Stout

Dear ALS

I have always believed that the best way to affect change is from inside the tent rather than outside it. For this reason, I won’t be taking a leaf from David Miliband’s book and resigning my position following Ellis Short’s decision to appoint a self-confessed fascist to replace Martin O’Neill. Fair enough, being the white, forty-something female representative on the SAFC Liaison Group isn’t as influential or exciting as being Vice Chairman of SAFC but it is the best that I have been able to achieve and it still gives me a passport to regular meetings with the Board.

Unlike some of the callers to the Easter weekend’s local and national phone-ins, I also won’t be relinquishing my season card. Regardless of who is at the helm and what their political views are, the team need my support like never before and an empty seat in the East Stand will neither help the lads nor the club’s finances at this most challenging of times.

With regards to the personality and political views of SAFC’s managers, I feel very strongly that you can only speak as you find. I wasn’t one of the Sunderland fans who had been calling for Martin O’Neill to be appointed for years before he arrived. When he did come, I based my conclusions on the evidence of my own eyes and not on the broadcasted views of others. I will never forget the first four months of Martin’s tenure. The excitement of the early victories and our FA Cup run was tremendous and reminiscent of the best of the Reid years. Sadly, the improvement was not sustained and I still don’t know why. O’Neill’s advancing years? The eighteen months that he was out of management before joining us? The absence of John Robertson from his side?

I was fortunate enough to meet O’Neill at a Sportsman’s Dinner in March 2012. The man that I observed was courteous and patient. Although the evening was headlined by Peter Reid, O’Neill made the effort to turn up and stayed until the end. He signed autographs, laughed politely at eager fans’ anecdotes and posed for numerous photographs. The word that sprang to mind then and returned when I heard that he had been sacked was a ‘gentleman’. I am desperately sad that the dream did not work for him or us but don’t think any the less of him for trying.

I am yet to meet Paolo di Canio and truthfully have not followed his fledgling managerial career with any great attention. I’ll therefore watch carefully the brand of football that he serves up on the pitch. With a bit of luck I’ll have a chance to meet him at a future SAFC event and weigh up the man as well as the manager. Only then will I make up my mind about him. If only everyone else would too.

Laura Johnstone

Dear ALS

I am and always will be a Sunderland fan. I wish to register my protest at the appointment of di Canio as Manager. Politics, particularly the extreme right and football hooliganism have always gone hand in hand. Fascism goes hand in glove with racism and anti Semitism, they are inseparable. To employ someone with di Canio's views is to slap in the face the hard work that anti racism and anti Semitism groups have done over the years in changing the face of football from what it was in the 70's to what it is today. The board have given the green light to thugs by saying that not only is it OK to hold extreme views espousing hatred and racial superiority, but that you can reach the highest position in a top tier football club despite these views. It is a mistake.

The background of the North East of England is one of working class struggle and a constant fight against fascism. This appointment betrays the memories of all the Sunderland supporters who fought wars in Germany, Italy and Spain against the very people whom di Canio supports and praises.

I cannot stop supporting Sunderland; some things are just in your blood. I live too far away to hold a season ticket or to attend many games, so all I can do is cancel my SAFC credit card, stop receiving email alerts from the manager and don't attend the few games that I would otherwise be able to attend whilst the club is run by fascists. It's a small thing but it's all I can do.

Peter W Hawkey

Dear ALS

I appreciate the differences of opinion about Paulo Di Canio's appointment.

However I do feel that the use of the terminology "Durham Miner, Shipbuilder or Soldier" can be very condescending. My parents were not miners, shipbuilders nor soldiers, nor am I, yet I was born and raised in Sunderland and am as connected to the club as any supporter.

Please ask and remind letter writers to express their own opinions and not sweep up their comments with terms such as "Durham Miners, Shipbuilders and Soldiers" as if to justify their point or indeed to imply they represent others.

The purpose of the fanzine is for individuals to express their personal opinions - which we all should respect - I hope my opinions can be accepted in this manner without the need to refer to others whoever they may be whether they support my views or not.

That said let me now express two personal opinions;

Firstly I am of the opinion that until Paolo states in simple terms that he is against fascism or alternatively resigns he will he hounded by the press and the effect upon our club will be precisely the opposite Ellis Short intended

Secondly, Mr Short if you are reading this letter and the opinions of others, please ask Paolo to make a further statement or resign if you want this appointment to have precisely the effect you originally intended.

Chris Cummings

Dear ALS

Being a lifelong supporter I have seen a lot in my sixty-odd years following “THE LADS”. Good times and bad, I was at Wembley in 73, I have seen us play European football in Budapest. So I feel I can speak as a supporter and fan.

It saddens me to hear so called fans saying they will never come back because of Mr Di Canio’s appointment. I say let them join our faithful vice chairman who was looking for an excuse to ditch the club, just like he spent time looking for a excuse to ditch the labour party, for no other reason than his brother is beat him in the leadership election. Are these the people we want at the S of L cheering on the team? Judge Mr Di Canio on his football record, not his views. Get behind the team and cheer them to avoid relegation and grow again next season in the Premiership. The one man we all thought could do it, clearly could not, so that should not affect our support of the Club’s choice.

Get behind the club, our club, our love. Give them a real Love Supreme.

Jimmy Traynor

Dear ALS

All of this talk about our new manager’s non-football activity is nothing more than a media with nowt better or more important to report on. Led by Murdoch’s Sun (remember how they treated the Scousers after Hillsborough?) this morning, I cannot understand why we are not treating them with the contempt they deserve.

Also, the papers are not interested to report that Martin O’Neill has been absolutely shite for us. O’Neill committed the greater sin for me – a more wasteful, dreary manager I have never seen. It will be great not to have to read his no content after match emails whose only saving grace was their brevity. It will be great not to have to listen to his unenthusiastic after match interviews which were embarrassing in their lack of insight and interpretation. He always seemed not to want to be there. And indeed with his record, who can blame him. This is the first time O’Neill has been sacked but is anyone going to say that his actions do not deserve it? His performance in all departments has been appalling and I am enthused that we might now see someone with a bit of spark rather than the damp squib we’ve had to suffer for too long. What on earth happened to a man with such a good record? – I thought it was a real coup to get him but any job should be judged on results. What you deliver is all important and his record was worse than Keane and Bruce.

Who knows what Di Canio may do, but I know it will be exciting. I wasn’t going to renew but this brave decision from our Board, unafraid to make controversial decisions in order to give us what we want, has made me put my hand in my pocket again because I know for sure I’ll not be put to sleep by this new guy like I was with Weary Willy. Right now let’s get ready to kick the Mags backsides.

Alan Fenwick

Dear ALS

Over the weekend I have read countless fan letters, media articles etc concerning the appointment of PDC. People clearly have strong opinions, less so on his ability to perform a miracle in 7 games but obviously more on his alleged past or current political views.

This in itself has lead to numerous ignorant allegations being levelled against the man; ‘if he is a fascist he must be a racist’. The two do not automatically go hand in hand and any research on political ideology would recognise this. As with most political ideology it is the extreme factions of society who leach to them that cause the problem which in turn results in the worst of man; wars, genocide etc...

PDC claims he was misinterpreted back in 2005. His ‘roman salute’ is a little more difficult for him to defend. Was it a political gesture, a one which he knew would anger away fans or one that he knew would ingratiate him to the hooligan element of Lazio fans he was once part of? Was it an extreme form of ‘banter’? Only he can look at himself in the mirror and answer that.

But let us all be careful on this before we judge and condemn. I used to have a season ticket in the South West ‘singing corner’ and some of the chants and songs I heard and now older and wiser, ashamed to say participated in, were at best shocking. When is ‘banter’ acceptable and when does it become distasteful (or even racist lest we forget recent incidents reported in the press about our club)?

Now exiled in Scotland with many friends who support both sides of the Old Firm, all agree and acknowledge the phenomena of the ’90 minute bigot’. The bile that pours from the stands in Glasgow in particular is shocking but on Monday back at work these guys are the best of friends. The point is that we do things, sing things and say things whilst in a crowd, amongst friends or supporters at a football match that in most cases you wouldn’t do during the rest of the week. The brain is switched off momentarily and I’m prepared to give PDC the benefit of the doubt that his has too on occasion.

How many of our supporters have watched over the years in the local Miners’ Welfare Club comedians that have built their set on telling racist jokes? Have spent good money going to watch Roy Chubby Brown? Is that right? Is that acceptable? Racism is not the preserve of the far right; it is the preserve of ignorance which unfortunately exists in every social and political class...

My issue is with the activists of these extreme views, you can educate the rest. I don’t believe PDC is an activist. Raise his arm like he did in his capacity as our head coach and I’ll be the first to say I called it wrong...

I do believe he has the confidence, self belief and work ethic to get us out of this mess. Check out what Tommy Miller had to say about him whilst at Swindon. Some ‘pundits’ claim his style is not suited to the Premiership; that you can’t treat top flight players that way. Why the hell not? That is exactly what is wrong with the game, that some of these guys live in a bubble and have no appreciation on the real world. If they held real jobs many of our first team would be on a final written warning. If PDC ends up selling off Bramble or N’Diaye it won’t be because he is a racist, more a realist; they just can’t cut it in this league.

Forget about the political shite for a moment and remember the predicament we face as a club. I’m sad to say that MON was never going to turn the ship and despite the fact PDC only has 7 games to prove his worth we must give him, the club, our full support. Whilst I respect everyone’s views on this the last thing we want is in-fighting amongst supporters. Let the media circus focus on the non-football topics and not us.

For those that worry about extremist groups perhaps looking to attach themselves to our club we must denounce that at every opportunity. If it is witnessed inside or outside the ground it must be condemned and reported.

My fear is surrounding what we have become? Do we now have to complete a political questionnaire before we appoint a manager (or head coach), buy a season ticket?

The fact that I wouldn’t have shown Blair a bird’s nest, and would never get tired punching Ed Balls in the face may give a clue to my political bias. Does that make me an upper class capitalist? Does this now preclude me from entering the SOL ever again? I would hope the answer to both is ‘no’ but given some of views currently being expressed I may yet be tarred and feathered.

I abhor political extremism across the entire political spectrum; I just never thought I would ever feel compelled enough to state it on the ALS letters page..

Derek frae Berwick

Dear ALS

I write this with my feelings about Sunderland all over the place. I disagree with Di Canio’s appointment on grounds of managerial inexperience, but also based on his dubious comments and actions in the past about fascism. The impact on the club, and on all of us, is of great consequence. The last century saw our relations and ancestors battle against the forces of fascism and, along with other forces taking away our industry, this created our modern selves. Has the club no understanding of this?

Did no-one consider what might happen if they appointed Di Canio? The club’s actions and PR have been appalling. Are they idiots? Did they not think about the fact that a high profile member of our board was from a Jewish family that fled the Nazis? That having an African charity as sponsors, and having a Nelson Mandela Day only on Saturday, gave a good impression and suggested we were a club with a bit of class? Their official statements have just made it worse, and I’m not enjoying seeing tabloid front pages with our head coach making fascist salutes. More negative media attention will continue to weigh us down and we risk becoming a circus at a time when we are fighting for survival in the top flight.

I don’t accept the argument that this should only be about football and that politics and history are irrelevant. The club is all we have – it represents us, our city, our region, to the world. It is in many ways the only forum we have to express who and what we are to outsiders. That’s why you can understand the miners asking for their banner back, and for the cautious response by the council. My relationship with my club is sullied, and the next time I hear fans sing phrases like ‘We are Sunderland’ and ‘Wearside’ I will be less proud than I was. I don’t expect everyone to feel the same, but I also don’t expect people to have a go at me for feeling this way.

I don’t feel angry, I just feel sad. But I will be here long after the club’s owner and management, so good luck to the team and I’m hoping we can win some games and secure our Premier League status. I am, after all, Sunderland till I die. But sometimes the people in charge don’t make it easy.

Andrew Wilson

Dear ALS

I am grateful and fully appreciative of Ellis Short's continued support of the club, out of all of the candidates available Di Canio is probably the business man’s punt to save us from relegation.

If I were in Ellis Shorts shoes, I may also have had to bite my lip and take the plunge in appointing him. What is made apparent by the press statement issued (far too late as the BBC had been running the story for 17 hours before its release) is the woeful naivety of certain sections of the board.

Within the first paragraph it blames certain individuals and sections of the media, this illustrates the woeful handling of this whole situation. In the 21st Century the media is unfortunately the most powerful and influential form of communication there is. If you make decisions in the public eye and are not savvy to it as an organization, then the result can have a profoundly negative impact on your company. I am aware that a decision regarding the managerial role had to be made quickly, but there was still enough time to prepare for the media reaction which would obviously occur with Di Canio's appointment, this is after all the Premiership which has a global media profile.

The statement should have read;
“We have obviously underestimated the reaction to Paolo Di Canio's appointment to the role of Head Coach at SAFC and can appreciate the concern of many with regard to his historical political statements and gestures. We have spoken with him at great length with regard to this and are assured that he is not prejudice against any section of society, we have appointed him as we feel that he will behave with great professionalism in the role at SAFC and any form of extremist politics by members of the club or fans will be treated with a zero tolerance policy.”

Instead the statement reflects all blame away from the board and Di Canio, this is surely poor management and judgement, far more respect is gained in life and within media perception if a certain degree of responsibility is taken by those involved.

Leo Moreton

Dear ALS

Why don't we all grow some balls and give up on all the bullsh*t rotating around Paulo's appointment and focus on the pressing issue? Giving him and the players our total support!

Let’s trust him to re-invigorate our team and if that means upsetting a few egos so be it, as let's be honest there was a growing resignation in them that we were going down. The players after match rhetoric of we must do better and try harder next time had certainly worn thin with me and there seemed an inherent acceptance of our fate. Theirs could always be resolved in the summer by jumping ship attitude was too much of a safety net for them for my liking.

Saying that if we'd had better luck we probably should be 6 pts better of than where we are, but we ain't and have lacked any tactical vision or nous of how we were going to get out of this relegation battle when its spectre started looming.

What I mean is we had 2 options, play deep and defensive and get the requisite pts with negative draws (aka Allardyce) or a more Gung Ho approach, especially against some of the poor teams we have played recently and achieve it with a handful of wins. Then to re-focus for next season…

Whilst a big fan of MON I think he did neither and relied on his classic counter attack methods, unfortunately whilst probably on paper him having the personnel to do this we fell woefully short in executing it. Not all down to MON I hasten to add as most of the players need to take a long hard look in the mirror, but he should have realised ages ago that the likes of AJ and Sess weren't playing to their capabilities and made the changes we could all see needed doing.

Whether there were behind the scenes shenanigans going on between him and Short we will probably never know, but it’s his train set and there would only ever be one winner.

Finally let’s get the chorus going

Paulo's a Canny Lad,
Paulo's a Canny Lad......

Micky Gosling

Dear ALS

Paulo Di Canio could clear this matter up in a second if he wanted to, but he seems determined to divert the issue away from fascism to racism where he clearly feels more comfortable. The question here, however, is not whether he has racist views but whether he supports fascism.

If he supports fascism then he should be sacked immediately. Thousands of Sunderland fans died in WW2 fighting fascism, fighting Hitler and fighting Mussolini. Appointing a fascist as Sunderland manager is a grave insult to the memories of these fans and also to their families and friends.

If Di Canio has abandoned fascism, well in my opinion that is a good thing. If he is still a fascist then he should be booted out of Sunderland.

If he stays a fascist then Sunderland will become a centre of attraction to the likes of the English Defense League and other fascist scum.

The ball is in Di Canio's court; Reject fascism or Get Out Of Sunderland!

Paul Rogan

Dear ALS

I write to you for the very first time, as a supporter of over 50 years to express my dismay and disgust at the appointment of di Canio, a self confessed fascist manager. He claims to be a non-racist fascist, which is almost a contradiction in terms. More importantly, he is on record as saluting a section of fascist Lazio supporters who are both racist and violent.

Again, he is on record in a book about him that he is a supporter of Benito Mussolini - who signed off on the death warrants of many Italian Jewish people. There is no guessing about di Canio's position - he is on record about his views.

So just how naive has the club been with this appointment?

How will the club react when a section the Stadium of Light is taken over by fascist supporters, just like they did at Lazio? Imagine the delight of these morons when the manager of the club salutes them back!

The club has just provided a platform for the most extreme elements of society to express their obnoxious views and a focal point of leadership in di Canio. Lazio are currently under review by UEFA for the fourth time this season for their racist, fascist behaviour - the club would like to disown them, but appears to be helpless and will be inexorably linked with this section of fans. Think Lazio - think Fascist. Remember, these are the fans that di Canio saluted!

So what would the all important sponsors say? What sponsor will want to be associated with Lazio in the future? Just how can Sunderland's 'Invest in Africa's sit with a club who have appointed a fascist as their most public figure? Knowing his views, just how many black footballers would want to play for di Canio? It is hard enough to attract high class footballers to Sunderland without creating this self inflicted barrier.

How many times would Sky want to show live games from the Stadium of Light if the type of behaviour as shown by the Lazio fans becomes a feature? How many Premier League/EUFA reviews of fans behaviour would the club tolerate? No reasonable thinking person could tolerate the behaviour of the Lazio fans when Spurs visited recently. Is this what we can expect at the Stadium of Light when Spurs visit there? Make no mistake this scenario can happen. There have been reported links between the right wing elements of various clubs in Germany, Austria and Italy - they are organised and they may just have found an ally at a Premier League club. This is a rallying call to them.

It may only be a minority of fans (as it is with Lazio) yet we, the salient majority will also be tarred with the same brush.

The proud history of our club seems to have been tossed aside on a whim. Forgotten are the vast numbers of Sunderland supporters who built the ships which were used to fight Nazi fascism and not a thought given to those supporters from our local military such as the Durham Light Infantry, many of whom lost their lives to keep us free from such evil. A football club like ours is all about tradition, values and a place in the community which it represents. Take that away and you have nothing - tarnish its reputation and values, then you will severely diminish its standing and jeopardise its future. What parent would want their children associated with a fascist supporting organisation and to allow them to watch the kind of behaviour experienced at Lazio.

One wonders why Ellis Short thinks that this is the right move - an unproven manager at this level, no experience of handling top players or being involved in a relegation battle. So, no footballing reasons whatever! Just political or what?

Disgusted fan
David A. Ord

Dear Mr Short

I write to express my concern regarding several decisions made over the last few days.

Firstly, the sacking of O'Neill appears to be both ill timed (with only 7 games left) and demonstrates a lack of patience. Alex Ferguson would not have survived this type of short-term approach that seems to dominate modern footballing. O'Neill inherited a squad of players that was lacking in quality and depth, and has not been given an opportunity to oversee this transition. Admittedly, not all of O'Neill's purchases have been successful, but this affects all managers. I sincerely believe that O'Neill with time would have turned the club into a premiership force. Unfortunately, he was not given the opportunity. This is a real shame.

However, the appointment of Di Canio reveals an incredible lack of judgement and risks alienating many supporters and social programmes the club appears to be interested in supporting. How can someone who has declared he is a fascist, with many photos of him making fascist gestures be appointed as manager of Sunderland? His intolerant political extremist views are relevant, and can only alienate players, supporters, SAFC association with Africa etc.

As a consequence and despite being a loyal SAFC supporter for 30 years, I have no choice but to suspend my support for my beloved football club until Di Canio is sacked by SAFC. I can think of no other circumstances that I would have been forced to make such a drastic decision.

Very disappointed and disillusioned
Yours sincerely

Dear ALS

As a local cockney Mackem, and with NO socialist leanings, I have to resort to comments from family members who are West Ham fans.

Their take is “Look after him well – so we can one day have him back at West Ham” they love him, so did his previous chairman at Swindon, and there was no press hullabaloo about politics when he was there, so welcome Paolo !

Mike Crossman

Dear ALS

There probably couldn't have been any more polarising appointment than that of Paolo Di Canio. Some will (and have) said that they can no longer back a club that employs a man who has made comments about fascism in the past. Whatever PDC says about it being misquoted you cannot misquote the picture that earned him a fine and a ban following a Lazio match.

However some will say that it's the club that matters, and the fans who define who we are. As after all they are the ones that will be around long after staff, owners and managers have occupied various positions within the club.

I'd like to say that I'm the most moral, right minded, ethical person in the whole world. However I'm not. So if some people noses are put out of joint by me saying that I'm 100% behind the club still, then so be it. I have no problem whatsoever with people who choose to withdraw their support for the club because of Di Canio's appointment. That is their choice and should be respected. The fact is, although I disagree with appointing him, it won't change the way I think, and feel, about Sunderland.

For me however Sunderland is a big part of my life. I will spend one million times longer worrying about whether we will get a result against Chelsea, against Newcastle or indeed whether we will gain enough points to survive, compared to the political leanings of our manager. Wrong as they are, they are not a factor in what I consider to be in the best interests of Sunderland AFC, and it is not something that I factor in when considering the backing that I give to the club. If I withdraw my support for the team I won't gain any moral satisfaction by knowing that I'm not behind a club who has a manager in charge who has made totally unacceptable comments in the past.

I find it entirely unsurprising that Miliband decided to go. I expected it and I respect his decision. It's nothing to do with the fact that he's got this job in the USA. He cannot be involved in a project that has him standing side by side with Di Canio. Points about supporting the war in Iraq are irrelevant. He's taken his decision.

One thought I did have - if Paolo Di Canio was a BNP supporter, would I feel the same? My answer would be no, I would be outraged, disgusted and would in all likelihood refuse to return in the future. And if Alan Shearer or Lee Clark was appointed, I would probably think similar. So what's the difference here? It's the weird, illogical moral compass that many football fans will live by. I can't explain it; there is no way of squaring off the circle that I'm battling with. I've just chosen to accept it and concentrate on the football and let others discuss the issue further.

One final point - I was really disappointed with Margaret Byrne's comments saying that to say he was a fascist was insulting. That's just complete blindness on the part of the club and it makes her, and us, look pretty stupid.

Anyhow, here's praying for a victory over the Mags and survival.

Ian Bendelow

Dear ALS

Anyone who has seen my letters will know I am a Steve Bruce fan and that I was not best pleased with the appointment of O’Neill. Look, I am a Sunderland fan but I could no more manage this lot of uncaring, dispassionate bunch of players than my mother could. Skill is a blessing; closing down; denying space, in your face defending is a must.

We are doomed and about to be passed on our way down by Hull City – a team with a healthy contingent of Sunderland players, keen to play for a manager who knows exactly what is required but who had the temerity to lose to Newcastle.

Boy – don’t you reap what you sow. What now – some nothing who is willing to kiss the badge. As long as he never visited the Metro Centre.


Dear ALS
If it's one absolutely good thing that has come out of the whole political mess that has come out of the club in recent days, it's that there have been lots of people, especially our younger supporters, all over forums and social media asking what fascism means and what fascists stand for.
Less ignorance about it is no bad thing.
Many thanks,
Jonathan Walsh
Shenzhen, China

Dear ALS,
Message for Margaret Byrne, Chief Executive:-

Dear Ms Byrne

Your statement quoted in the press today “to accuse him now of….having fascist sympathies is insulting” is quite simply one of the most ignorant and extraordinary statements made by someone in such a position of responsibility as yours. You appear to blindly ignore:-

His clear statements that he is a fascist

The deep socialist roots embedded in the NE of England.

The many soldiers from, iner alia, the DLI and other regiments, sailors and merchant seaman who died fighting fascism.

Your statement is deeply insulting to the supporters of SAFC and to the people of the NE of England. Your ignorance is patently obvious.

To accuse him “now”? Are you suggesting that it was acceptable to accuse him of being fascist when he acknowledged that he was in 2005 but somehow it is not acceptable now? If so, what has changed? This is someone who has tattooed on his arm “Il Duce” – which, in case it has escaped your limited intellect, is a reference to Mussolini.

My family has supported SAFC since the beginning of the 20 th Century. My grandfather was at the 1912 cup final at Crystal Palace and my mother at the 1937 Cup final. I first saw SAFC play in 1966. This appears to be not the same Club that it was.

Malcolm Allinson

Dear ALS

Watching the press conf on Sky News my 6 year old son asked what the word in the headline banner beginning with 'f' was. "Fascism" I told him and muttered something about right wing.

Quicker than anyone on our team this season he respond, "Well he must be talking about McClean and AJ as it also says pathetic and ridiculous! At least if he knows about wings dad he can sort those two out!."

Keep the faith!
Andy Mavin

Dear ALS

Typical politician that he is, Miliband is using Paolo di Canio as the excuse he needed to abandon his responsibilities in NE England.

This week he announced his decision to resign as an MP and take up an appointment, no doubt very lucrative, in North America. Leaving the board was obviously a next step, now he has an excuse. Typical unscrupulous politician.

John Longstaff

Dear ALS

How come the club can get away with saying Fascist di Canio was misquoted when he said he was fascist.

Let’s look at the facts:
1. He has a tattoo on his right bicep with Mussolini's nickname, was that a misquote as well? Did he ask for something else?
2. During several of his games for Lazio, Di Canio made a fascist salute to their right-wing fans. Was he waving every game to someone?
3. In his autobiography, he praised Mussolini as "basically a very principled, ethical individual" who was "deeply misunderstood" or did he mean something else?

How naive have the Sunderland Board been?
a. Did they know about his views and quotes?
b. Did they ask him about these facts?
c. Did they give a toss about them?

Or are they like a lot of letter writers on the site who condemn politics in sport on one hand and have a dig at David Miliband in the same letter? Maybe some people are getting the manager they deserve.

Philip Malyan

Dear ALS

I wrote in on Friday pleading you to do your best to stop Steve Maclaren taking over-could have stayed in the pub-but never expected the Easter weekend never to be forgotten. If anyone says when was PDC appointed as Sunderland manager its Easter 2013-easy.

I loved MON-I had faith in MON -I trusted MON-and even in the shit times we have had he was the second most successful manager behind Reidy in recent history. Fergy was crap at Man Utd and wouldn’t have survived at Sunderland-3 more points and Pardew would have been looking down the barrel not MON. Who knows what really goes on in a football club-there is already rumours that MON didn’t show until Thursday after the Norwich game-whatever happened thanks for coming to us Martin and I know you will always get a good reception in the town

Ok we now have PDC and everyone has suddenly gone mentally political-how many of us really worried about fascists before this weekend? David Miliband looked like he was leaving anyway and has sent 50 rabbits running with his reasons-he is no great loss just as no one got excited when he signed-how many goals has he scored-0 If you read the PDC websites it is distorted but he hasn’t exactly helped himself. It is an absolute gamble-it seems to have worked in Swindon as he worked their bollocks off and within 8 weeks he had the fittest team in the league.

Slight problem we have 7 games left and you would hope that Premier League players are already a bit fitter than Swindon’s. But what does it really boil down to-the next few games. I expect a narrow defeat against Chelsea and the Mags to either lose or draw with Fulham-this is then the biggest derby in our history. So let’s please forget all the racist fascist distraction and give our club total support in the coming weeks. A win at Newcastle ( and I thought MON would do it) and suddenly Everton look not like Everton-4 points from these 9 and Stoke and Southampton at home -come on forget the distractions and lets get behind the club that we love and is ripping itself apart at the minute

Mackem Paul

Dear ALS

Being of a firm socialist persuasion I was not over the moon initially about reports of our new managers "political sympathies".

Then I got to thinking that having been a Mackem for nigh on 50 years, the home match to Chelsea in May 1963 was my first attendance, and have counted in that time at least 23 managers and who knows how many players. What were their political views? My guess is they were not all card carrying socialists but that has not stopped me following the team.

Andrew Bailey l

Dear ALS,
I am not usually one for writing into fanzines, or expressing my views on phone ins but the recent media coverage regarding the appointment of Paolo Di Canio has made me want to write into yourselves.

The appointment of Martin O'Neill was greeted by euphoria and whilst I was very pleased to see him appointed, I felt the reaction at the time was way over the top. Granted, I was soon swept away by the immediate impact Martin had on the team's results and was soon dreaming of bigger and brighter things rather than constantly finishing in the bottom half. However, after the disappointment of the Everton Quarter Final replay at the SOL the season fizzled out rather dramatically. Yes, we were in no danger of relegation but the decline had set in. Despite spending a fair amount of money in pre-season, the level of football served up this season has been dreadful apart from a handful of games. Yes the players have a lot to answer for but I don't subscribe to the fact it wasn't his team, Rose, Cuellar, Johnson, Fletcher, Graham, Big Alf were all his players and he has praised Mig and Cattermole to the high heavens. That's over two thirds of a team. It appeared he had the lost the dressing room towards the end - most probably down to the fact he kept playing the same players regardless of form and whether they were playing in their correct position. I have nothing against MON, I genuinely wanted him to succeed and wish him all the best in the future. The fact is, I feel we were destined for relegation this season and a gamble needed to be taken.
The appointment of Paolo Di Canio has been met with horror in some quarters. I can see their point; I don't agree with fascism and certainly don't support it. However, it is not illegal and everyone has portrayed PDC as some nut case who shouts out about his political views on a regular basis. Incorrect, his quotes were said in 2005 and came in a long article. He hasn't said anything since and in fact has lent his support to numerous anti-racism campaigns. Yes the man is no saint but he is passionate and will give his all to save the club from relegation and then improve us from there. I didn't agree with David Miliband’s political views but didn't express my displeasure when he was appointed. I'm glad the man is gone, his annual wage will be better spent elsewhere and his charitable post in the US will net him a reported $0.5 million. Yes the appointment of PDC is a risk but life is a risk and I will certainly continue to support the lads with the same passion as I always have, even if we suffer relegation. I just hope Paolo is now left to manage the club without this political cloud hanging over him, he deserves his chance after his excellent stint at Swindon and I for one, believe he will improve results on the football pitch - surely that is the most important thing if he keeps everything in check off the field?
Haway The Lads
John H, York

Dear ALS

So PDC has said he has been misquoted about his politics in the past. I’ll accept that. And the club have addressed the adverse reaction to his perceived politics – as they should do, to try and defuse the situation and re-assure they are a caring club.

I’m now willing to see what he can do in football managing terms. We’ll certainly get passion. However, to those who say politics have no place in football, how would you feel if Margaret Thatcher had been given an honorary position on the board?

Onwards....and hopefully upwards!

Sooty the Black Cat

Dear ALS

I'm really shocked by the narrow minded, ignorant, prejudiced and biased views of some of our fans, and in particular the media towards our new manager's 'alleged' views. Anyone who bothers to search for and read the truth on the internet will find that Di Canio also said that Mussolini was vile and cruel. Where was that quote on the news?? No, all that's reported is that he's a fascist Mussolini sympathiser!

Sadly the media seems determined to twist this football matter into a national political story and our fans who are buying into this, and then writing in their views based on this biased reporting should be ashamed of themselves. As should David Miliband, a war criminal by association, for using this convenient misrepresentation of Di Canio to his own end. Enjoy the big apple Mr Miliband... I'm a businessman who is used to making decisions for the good of my company and I admire Mr Short for doing the same thing for his. Much braver than continuing to allow further damage to our great club by MON and that fool of a coach. I've supported Sunderland long enough to recognise the stench of relegation and I'd rather go down fighting than with a whimper. Come on Sunderland and come on Di Canio!!!

E Summersgill

Dear ALS

As with the majority of SAFC supporters, I am so sorry to see MON go and in the manner and timing of his departure. But he has gone…

I certainly did not expect PDC to be appointed and I do not think he is the right man for the job. But he has been appointed and he will be with us until the end of this season (at least).

So, as I see it, there is only one way forward. Every fan has to back PDC to the hilt and roar on the players with encouragement and passion. Who can do that better than us? If we go down (and I think it is still a big "if"), it must not be for lack of support from the supporters. Supporters support... it's what it says on the tin. No alternative, no backing down from this scrap. We are all in this together, supporters, PDC & the previously under-performing players. End of!

Malcolm Bland

Dear ALS

Anyone claiming, or hoping, that football and politics can be “separate” need only read the letters posted here today to realise how naïve they are being.

Not as naïve as Short and Byrne if they thought their appointment would pass by attracting footballing comments only. I felt real pride in the people and supporters of Sunderland reading so many of their comments doubting the wisdom of the appointment. Apparently the “team” were out partying in celebration of Stephen Fletcher’s birthday when they heard of the sacking, rumour has it they were shocked, bless ‘em.

Di Canio is horribly tainted by his own actions and written words. All we can hope for is that he keeps his trap shut about everything except football. Of course if he is successful then he’ll be okay, won’t he?


Dear ALS

What fun! I was seriously getting a bit bored towards the end of last week and now look what's happened. I honestly have no idea if this is a really brilliant or really terrible appointment but it sure as hell is not dull. Interested in the letter from Nick H, same as him I haven't really liked any of our recent managers anyway all that much with the exception of MON, but as soon as I heard about Mr Di Canios appointment my first thought was that he would probably take Pardew out at some stage of the derby - hope so!

I'm quite enjoying all of this, very pleased that that silly Chuckle Brother bloke has left us too. Onward into the unknown, keep smiling, all the best.

Chris M

Dear ALS

I cannot believe some of the crap that is being said and written about PDC. Listen to what the man is saying; what is wrong with being proud of your heritage? All these people saying they will never go back to SOL. Good riddance, you are obviously not true supporters.

More like the ones who leave 10 mins before the match ends. About time we had a clear out in the stands, too many plastics ruining what used to be a club with passion. I would rather have 20,000 true supporters than 40,000 who come because it’s politically correct.

Shel Ellenor

Dear ALS

I can't really understand all the hysteria surrounding the appointment of PDC and does it matter a jot what his political views are, he will be running the football not running for parliament. As for Milliband resigning, since when did any politician have any principles and has he really done that much for our club anyway?

Sadly it didn't work out for MON and all we can do is wish him well and hope he can re- find his mojo which clearly he lost in his short time with us.

We need to now all get behind the new regime and give our 100% support so that we can win some matches and survive what has been a massively disappointing season for SAFC.

It will definitely be a roller coaster ride with the new manager who is no shrinking violet, so let's hope that he can inject some much needed passion and igniting spirit into our under performing team.

Haway the lads

Dear ALS

I am a deeply committed Sunderland supporter (now London-based) and I have always been immensely proud of the town and its traditions. I must therefore register my horror at the appointment of Paolo di Canio as manager of our football club. Ellis Short, acting with astonishing ignorance and myopia, will bring unprecedented shame upon the town. The people of Sunderland, who would no sooner elect a Tory MP than the American electorate would put a communist in the White House, now have a self-proclaimed 'fascist' as the manager of their emblematic football team! And these days a manager is also an ambassador, especially for a one-club town.

Football is inseparable from the nation's social, cultural and political life. I fear that opposition supporters may now do derisory Mussolini-type salutes when playing against The Lads; or, heaven forbid, that some of our own fans may do fascist salutes to express their oneness with di Canio (even if, as he now protests, he has been misunderstood or no longer holds these views). Can ALS please do everything in their power to discourage this ultimate own goal.

Under Niall Quinn Sunderland became a byword for a listening, compassionate, socially responsible club; what on earth must he be thinking!

Yours faithfully
Ronnie Landau

Dear ALS

I got back last night and it was only then that I discovered the news.

Am I saddened that MON has gone? Yes. I think the whole of Sunderland was united behind the man in a way I've not seen since Bob Stokoe. Am I surprised? No. I think having seen us draw with a 10 man Norwich who at times looked sharper than an 11 man home side Sunderland, it was clear that MON just wasn't getting the best out of the side. Larsson looks shot. He is a great free kick artist but Gardner kept taking them. Sess gets the ball and can't find anyone to pass to if he can keep it. It was pathetic.

I'll stick my neck out. Ellis Short made the right but deeply regrettable and unpopular decision.

Di Canio? What!!? He may well prove an inspired call. Yes he clearly has already won the BBC Sportsperson of the Year most Mental Manager Ever award and is likely to do so until Joey Barton manages NUFC or Roy Keane Man U. However, he has a good track record with Swindon and without trying to upset the SOL faithful, Jose Mourhino hasn't got a burning ambition to manage Sunderland.

The other candidates, Laudrup - why would he move? Moyes - ditto, Mark Hughes - not as good as he thinks, Curbishley - MON lite, Roy Keane - o no not again! Ole Gunnar Solksjaer – just as limited experience, Kevin Ball -hello Malcolm Crosby.

As for the fans handing back their tickets because Paulo’s a fascist carry on and do so. If he was a communist or a socialist worker would that be ok? Dear old Uncle Joe Stalin killed more people than Hitler and Mussolini put together. The Fasces in Rome were a different proposition to the Fascists even though they provided the latter with their name and as far as I know Di Canio is a Roman.

One of the main stories on BBC was that David Milliband has resigned as Director because of Di Canio. David you are off to America why don't you tell the truth? You would be less use as a director than you already are if you're not even in the same country! It’s more political spin from the man who would have been leaving anyway.

I was sure MON would be just what we needed but then I thought Lawrie McMenemy was a good choice until I started visiting the likes of Southend for away games. I’ve no idea if Di Canio will work out but I’ll support him as the manager.

Haway the lads
Stevie S

Dear ALS

I am writing to highlight the growing divide between the club and its fans, into what is becoming a more cold and corporate SAFC. I have posted about my concern regarding the politics past or present of Paolo Di Canio, but I feel they highlight a greater issue at our club. With Niall Quinn at the helm there was a feeling that the fans were important to the running and success of the club. Quinn acted as the bridge between supporters and SAFC as a business. Communication regarding developments within the club was open and clear with a feeling that the fans were an important and valued asset to the club. There is now a great sense that the ownership and current board are far removed from the fans. Di Canio has obviously stated his admiration for Mussolini in the past and delivered what is a Fascist salute, whilst since that occasion he has maintained he is not a racist. There is no excuse for such a salute, poor judgement or not, the Roman context in this day and age is irrelevant to its Fascist appropriation.

What has not helped the situation is any discussion from the club surrounding this issue and the total lack of a press conference. Di Canio is obviously a bit off the wall to say the least, but from everything I have seen and read he seems to be full of contradictions. Clarification of his position from him and the club may help, as anything like this has implications on the club's Public Relations. Unfortunately PR in today's game is essential, do brands or organizations want to associate with anything that has a possible negative let alone fascist implication for their product. I do genuinely think football is more important to Di Canio than anything. However given the heritage of our club, the slightest link real or not to any form of discrimination based on religion, ethnicity, ability, gender or sexuality is going to cause alarm. This is not just among supporters but potential business partners and investors. Ultimately this is not down to Di Canio, but the decisions and reactions of our clubs board and a widening divide between the club and its fans, without whom lets face it there would be no club to profit from.

A loyal fan

Dear ALS

I’ve followed them for fifty years, some ups but a lot more downs. No doubt I’ve cheered for some unpleasant or even wicked people, but my dad and both my granddads were down the pit, I don't cross picket lines, I don't believe some human beings are better than others, and I don't associate with people who do.

I love the club, my heart will always be there - but I just can't be for the time being 

Barry Conlin
Lowdham, Nottingham

Dear ALS

We all agree that MON is man of high principles with a wonderful reputation. Unfortunately after witnessing the debacle against 10 man Norwich City it became apparent that the club were sleepwalking into oblivion. Let Paulo Di Canio do his job of turning round a sinking ship and judge him on his ability to motivate the team and avoid relegation.

The resignation of David Miliband is no loss to the club or the North East. He was parachuted in to the safe seat of South Shields to ensure he got elected. He is a champagne socialist from Notting Hill who has no feeling for the area, has never had a proper job outside politics and good riddance.

Terry Reilly
Burgess Hill West Sussex

Dear ALS

I don't think I have ever seen as many letters and comments about any SAFC related item until yesterday's appointment of Paulo Di Canio (PDC for ease of typing) as manager.
Let's face it, it will be either the most inspirational appointment we could have made or it could be an absolute disaster. No one will know for sure until the final whistle goes at White Hart Lane on May 19th.
I have read and heard the comments about our new manager's political beliefs and while I don't agree with his politics, equally I didn't agree with our previous vice-chairman's role in the invasion of Iraq and the killing of thousands of innocent people and UK armed services personnel in that country. In the same way that James McClean’s views are determined by where he was born and brought up, this is likely to have played a similar role in PDC's beliefs.
I would prefer to look at things from a football perspective. As much as I was delighted to see MON take over, things just haven't worked out. I decided not to renew my season ticket after the Norwich debacle as I couldn't see anything but relegation. If PDC keeps us up then I will reconsider. We needed a change and while he does not have any top level management experience, neither did David Moyes when he took over at Everton all those years ago. We need passion on the pitch. I have watched enough rubbish in my time supporting Sunderland and while I can accept players with no or little ability, what I cannot abide is a lack of passion or effort which we have had to put up with this season.
If the players can display even 10% of PDC's passion on the pitch, this may be enough to keep us up. That is the priority as far as I, and I would guess the vast majority of fans, are concerned.
David Cruise
Low Fell

Dear ALS

I write with a heavy heart today. For the first time in nearly 40 years, I find myself questioning whether I can continue to support our great club in the way I have done over the years.

I am sickened by our appointment of Paolo Di Canio, a self-proclaimed fascist, Mussolini sympathiser, and someone who is on record as having made remarks that could be interpreted as anti-semitic.

This decision has, rightly, attracted terrible publicity for our club from all quarters and put us in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. It flies in the face of everything good we have tried to do as a club i.e. supporting Nelson Mandela Foundation, partnership with Invest in Africa, and so on. This appointment has also made the position of David Miliband untenable and he has quite understandably resigned. Shame on Ellis Short for putting him in this position.

I now want, for starters, Ellis Short out of our club. It is now patently obvious that he has no significant understanding of the culture of football in this country and I think his ethics are questionable to say the least. I no longer think he is a fit and proper person to own and run our club. Obviously, I also want the appointment of Paolo Di Canio rescinded immediately.

With respect to the ALS magazine and merchandise, you are in a difficult position. I certainly would be extremely disappointed if merchandise celebrating Di Canio's position at Sunderland were to be sold. I also hope that ALS will be able to take a position against this appointment and against those who openly hold fascist views, who are Mussolini sympathisers.

Kind regards
Richard Parker

Dear ALS

I was gutted when I found out that MON had been sacked, however after the last few performances I did have little hope that would be staying up.

I now have some hope! Despite all of the controversy surrounding the man, he has given me that. Without hope we are nothing.

Steve Walton

Dear ALS

If at the start of the season you told me with just seven games to go, O’Neill would be sacked and Paolo Di Canio would be drafted in to save us from the drop, I’d have thought you were mental. But after a surreal 24 hours, that’s the case.

Although no-one seemed to comment during his time at Swindon Town, every man and his dog has commented on his fascist beliefs, for a start; this is football not politics. Every decision a club on the ‘world stage’ makes, seems to be scrutinised and this appointment has caused a lot of criticism. Although I’m grateful for his work off the field and the many partnerships he brought to us, Miliband seemed to have caused a press storm by announcing his departure due to Di Canio’s past political statements.

I personally don’t care what his views are, he has slammed Mussolini’s actions as ‘vile breach of ethics’ but clearly admires his leadership. And for bloggers of professional newspapers to call for football fans to boycott our club is ridiculous. Politicians don’t seem to understand the loyalty of football fans, it’s worlds apart from politics.

What is potentially a great appointment, has been overshadowed by irrelevant opinions. On the pitch, which is where it matters, Di Canio can bring aggression and flare. He can make Johnson, McClean and Sessegnon look vibrant again. He will bring passion and cause a storm on the touchline. Instead of criticising his political views, give him a chance.

As well as political views, people have also commented on his lack of experience in the Premier League. He does lack experience, yes, but he is only 44 years old and had a great run with Swindon Town. As a player, he worked under some great managers. He doesn’t have an easy run coming up, especially in his first two games in charge but he’s clearly a man who likes a challenge and a man who makes his players graft.

I’m gutted for Martin O’Neill but anyone who has watched our games since March last year can see we’ve been a team on decline and with our squad, it’s hard to make sense of it. Yes, Cattermole and Fletcher are out, arguably two of our best players but we’re not the only squad in the league with injuries so ha’way Paolo. Keep us up.

Eve Sayers

Dear ALS

I am sad to see MON go in this way. Sacked for the first time after such a long and distinguished career. But the sacking was justified all the same. 9 wins in 44, tactics, substitutions, team selection, transfers – everything he tried, failed.

Without Robertson he was like Cloughie without Taylor. A manager who sits in his office and lets his second in command train and work with a team so desperately lacking confidence and in need of hope, motivation, inspiration and passes judgment on himself. And funnily enough that was Steve Bruce shortcoming too. And it is a mystery to me what happened to MON’s man management and motivational skills, which made him the outstanding manager he was for so long. His end was a replica to SB’s. No changes, no risks, a stubborn perseverance with players obviously out of their depths, too late and often backfiring substitutions. Short had to act and he did.

Di Canio is the last throw of the dice really! He could make the difference, all the other candidates wouldn’t. He is passionate, fierce, intense, outspoken to the extent that it transcends into foolishness. A man involved in a lot of controversy due to his character and the intensity of his convictions. A borderline candidate, but was Brian Clough or Roy Keane any different? He was stupid enough admitting having sympathy for fascism, not racism. He probably intended to say that he did not like the “anything goes” mentality of western pluralistic societies and rather have a strict no nonsense approach to the more questionable aspects of our very tolerant societies.

And looking at Italian politics nowadays he might even have a point. And his remarks go back to 2005, but giving the Roman salute even in the heated atmosphere of a derby game is a total “no go”, because this was the salute of the most murderous political movement of modern times. And he now is much more under the magnifying glass because he has taken over a once famous old club, and the appointment backfires already in a way Short probably did not expect, because it produces controversy instead of unity. If di Canio saves us and avoids the political quagmire, we might be ok. If he fails and all the controversy was in vain, it will signal the end of Short’s tenure. And that would be really a catastrophe, because who will want to take over and bankroll us then? Spes contra spem, as the old Romans used to say, hope against all hope.

Best Regards
Udo Marin

Dear ALS

I have been watching the responses rolling in and I feel that I had to share my views. I'm gutted that it didn't work out for MON. My perception of him was of a very intelligent bloke who exudes class and who represented a safe pair of hands. But I'm yet to speak to one SAFC supporter who could envisage a U turn in the last seven games. It should have translated into us actually showing up for more than 45mins more regularly than we have been. By that logic, sticking with MON would have meant certain relegation which would have been catastrophic.

In this respect, Ellis Short has made an incredibly brave and calculated decision, one for which I thank him. Now there is some degree of hope that we may just pull off an escape. When you look at Di Canio's record and approach (read all of the info available, this guy is about more than volatile tendencies and lots of noise) I believe that he's possibly the best bet and could offer the degree of impact that we need in the very short time that we have.

Instead of being the whipping boys of the league (I don't see Wigan and Villa failing to beat the likes of Norwich and QPR) the club has a bit of edge. I hope that Paolo will restore some of our passion and drive which is missing on the pitch and in the stands. I couldn't care less what he's said in the past and which beliefs he has grown up with. It's all about what he does for our club.

Finally, I'm not suggesting for one minute that there's no scope for this appointment to go badly wrong. It's a big gamble but if the alternative is certain relegation then Mr Short has done the right thing in rolling the dice and refusing to accept the inevitable. We've well and truly lit the touch paper and it's time to stand back and watch the fireworks. I say bring it on, get rid of the apathy that has surrounded the place for too long and get behind Ellis Short and Paolo. We haven't given the guy an 8 year deal; he's initially signed a 2.5 year deal. Mr Short is clearly saying "Paolo, keep us in this league and we'll take it from there." In my view, if he does that, then his appointment had been justified. The critics can say what they want. We are Sunderland.

Forza Di Canio, Forza SAFC
Thanks for listening

Dear ALS

Those fans who say you should separate politics from football are naive to say the least when we now have a figure head a self claimed fascist.

The Oxford definition reads “The term Fascism was first used of the totalitarian right-wing nationalist regime of Mussolini in Italy (1922–43); the regimes of the Nazis in Germany and Franco in Spain were also Fascist. Fascism tends to include a belief in the supremacy of one national or ethnic group, a contempt for democracy, an insistence on obedience to a powerful leader, and a strong demagogic approach”. That says all we need to know.

I am ashamed of what Short has done to this club on very day they were encouraging its supporters us to support the Nelson Mandela Foundation. What a joke!

Melanie Shee

Dear ALS

So now we have a minority who have googled some history about Mussolini and are now thoroughly disgusted about Di Canio's appointment.

If the politics of Sunderland Football Club were so important to you then where was your disgust about David Milliband's appointment? Is he a political saint backing his leader to invade a country that had no weapons of mass destruction as we were all lead to believe, an invasion that lead to thousands of deaths, 1.3 million people still displaced and the horrendous birth defects which still occur today?

And why is it ok for us to refer to our friends up the road as 'scum' and buy t-shirts with 'FTM' written on, on this very site? Are we good examples for our club by expressing such vitriol? I don't recall Mr Di Canio ever being so offensive towards another football club and their fans.

Please stop throwing the first stone, we have not employed a nazi and we have not employed a racist. Our players need someone to fire spirit and passion in to them and if Paolo does that then good for him because something needed to change.

Michael Gilroy

Dear ALS

I think it's shameful that a club that honoured Nelson Mandela on Saturday at the Stadium of Light could appoint a self-proclaimed fascist on Sunday. What a difference a day makes. Better relegation under O'Neill than survival under di Canio.

A lot of you seem to be saying "this is football, not politics" or seem to think that's it's not a big deal. Like the rest of ALS readers, I'm no fan of Newcastle United but it's truly sad that for some fans it's seemingly more outrageous to be connected with the Mags than Mussolini. I just have one question: Just how many of you who are OK with di Canio's appointment also criticized Steve Bruce just for being a boyhood Newcastle fan? If that's you, you need to get your priorities straight.

Keep the faith, not the fascist.
Jay Ganno

Dear ALS

When Martin O’Neill joined SAFC he got more than Steve Bruce did out of the players at the club and we stayed up. During these early days he will have assessed the strengths and weaknesses of the squad and, working within a predetermined budget set by Mr Short, set about improving the quality of the playing staff. He will have seen what we all had seen before him, we needed a left back, a central defender that would play most of the season, some pace and guile in midfield and someone to score goals. To address these obvious areas of concern he did the following before the start of the season.

Brought in Danny Rose – big tick
Brought in Cuellor – tick
Brought in Adam Johnson – at the time of purchase a big tick
Brought in Steven Fletcher – at the time of purchase a tick

Everything at SOL looked bright. After a very rocky start and a number of injuries and suspensions we entered the January window needing a workable alternative for Cattermole and a standby for Fletcher as an absolute minimum (given that Conner Wickham was not good enough for the premier league). O’Neill brought in N’Diaye as a replacement for Cattermole and Danny Graham as support/standby for Fletcher. N’Diaye was a risky strategy that would/will require time and Danny Graham was a proven goal scorer in the Premier league so, on the face of it these should have improved the squad. Other than time I cannot see what more Martin O’Neill could have done in trying to improve the squad he inherited from Steve Bruce. I know that some of his signings were higher risk bench warmers, Saha and McFadden for example, but you can’t have everything on a limited budget and at least he tried to put some proven talent on the bench.

By doing the above Martin O’Neill was systematically and strategically trying to improve our football club. He has been sacked because this strategic approach did not bring instant success. Does Mr Short and company not understand that strategic approaches are not designed to bring instant success, they are designed to bring long term stability and success.

Extremists, whatever their political persuasion, will by definition swing from triumph to disaster and sometimes back again, think about life under Roy Keane – very exciting, nerve tingling and quite an experience – which unfortunately left the club with a lot of overpaid mediocre players that took nearly 3 years to get off the pay roll and stalled any long term improvements. Saint Niall, Steve Bruce and Martin O’Neill have laid down the foundations for longevity I just hope that Mr Short doesn’t throw it all down the drain with, what seems to me to be as fine an example of PANIC as we are ever likely to see.

If all of the above is beyond Mr Short then I would direct him to the back of the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy book for advice before he makes his next big decision in life, where he will find the words “Don’t Panic” emblazoned across the back cover.

Come back Saint Niall we need you more than ever.
Chester –Le-Street

Dear ALS

It is very apt that at this time of year that we sack MON and appoint Di Canio.. Will he resurrect the underperforming team and lead us to glory and the promised land of the riches of the Premier League next season?

Time will tell obviously but should he do so and give us glory against the scum buckets he will be a ledge irrespective of his so called media hyped views. We supporters let’s face it, are fickle, we will prostitute our mind and bodies for a sniff of glory and we won't care who the manager is as was proved when Bruce got the job as his allegiances to the scum were well known when he started and only became an issue when he was dragging us down. I suspect that we are in for a mad ride and when the bus goes over the cliff and it surely will the question becomes this, Ellis Short where do you go after this, this really will be your man, I really hope you know what you’re doing?

Keeping the faith forty and more
FTM Jeff Davison

Dear ALS

It is with regret that I have just posted the non renewal of my season ticket.

I will continue to support Sunderland in my heart but I cannot give my hard earned cash to help pay the wages of someone who says he is a fascist.

Ok, some of the letters say we should keep politics out of football but Di Canio, not me, has brought it in. There will be many managers who share different views to me about lots of things but a manager who promotes fascism through their behaviour and body markings just does not square with the traditions of our club in my book.

Kath (Sheffield)

Dear ALS

Words can hardly express how sickened and ashamed I am by the appointment of Paulo Di Canio as our new manager.

Lest we forget, during WW2 267 people were killed and over 1000 wounded in Sunderland by Nazi bombers. Di Canio is the ideological bedfellow of these murderers. His 'hero' Mussolini ordered the use of poison gas on tribal villages in Abyssinia, and provided the inspiration for many of Hitler's methods and techniques, including the 'Roman salute' which Di Canio is so fond of.

I find the arguments of those who say that football and politics are somehow separate extremely naive. There is an on-going struggle to rid the English game of racism and homophobia. By appointing a fascist as our manager, we have aligned ourselves with a twisted ideology that preaches hate and which has no place in football or in civilised society.

I will be boycotting SAFC as for as long as Di Canio is our manager.

Yours Faithfully
Rob Johnson

Dear ALS

I think we should all calm down. The previous letter from the Swindon fan is very interesting. The new Manager should be given a chance. And as for politics, how many of us totally disagree with David Milliband’s politics and were appalled when he joined the Board?


Dear ALS

Irealise that many people think that Ellis has just appointed the "maddest frog in a box of frogs" to be head coach and I do accept that whilst MON had run out of ideas the appointment of Di Canio is a huge gamble but ... will the readers of your excellent fanzine please concentrate on footballing matters and not be sidetracked by politics.

Whatever Di Canio may have said in the past he is not shunned by former players or managers who wish to distance themselves from his personal views like our former vice chairman (at £125,000 for 15 days work a year I suspect we could all be very PC too!).

I am no supporter of his views; I am a supporter of my team and provided he sticks to footballing matters who am I to judge the man and his personal views? Let the first letter writer amongst us all cast the first stone if we are to continue this line of argument.

As for Ellis I hope you are a lucky chairman because this may be the only thing that saves us from the dreadful efforts on the field recently. As for "the box of frogs" I will take what we have been given in Di Canio; the previous frog was barely able to muster a croak at the end!

Chris Cummings

Dear ALS

I would like to say to those who are bleating on about how politics has no place in sport that Di Canio is the one who has brought politics into it- most players and managers quite rightly never mention politics- he quite unbidden showed his tattoo and says how Mussolini is his hero in an interview. He can have whatever politics he wants but he should keep it to himself like everybody else in the game does. If he thinks it’s some sort of eccentricity which will endear him to the British public he's sadly mistaken.

Whilst racism and fascism seem more popular and accepted in Italy I'm proud to say this country has consistently rejected fascism down the years. Of course I hope he can keep us up but I for one will not be setting foot in the SOL whilst he is charge. Apart from any politics he's a loose cannon I would not trust him and I strongly suspect his tenure at SOL will end in a similar way to Mussolini's involvement in WW 2 - in a farcical embarrassing humiliating defeat. I really hope this is all a bad dream and I can wake up tomorrow and we will have Roberto Di Matteo or Gus Poyet as manager. Both Italian (and not self-proclaimed fascists) both with proven records in English football both young and hungry for success. And what's with this Head Coach business?

Does that mean we are going to have a Director of Football? FFS I cannot think of a single case where that's succeeded in this country. Does he need someone above him to make sure he doesn't drop/sell all the black players? If he keeps us up I will acknowledge his managerial talent but I won't ever warm to the man himself. I hope Short will see sense and get shut of him in the summer whatever happens.

Leo Leeds

Dear ALS

Martin O'Neil has gone. Fact. Di Canio is in. Fact. There is nothing anyone can now do about either. I agree that the club needed someone to come in who will motivate and give them all the kick up the back sides each and every one of the players desperately needs. Hopefully Di Canio can do this. 

What I am writing in about is the reaction of our fans. The players and manager have a responsibility to uphold the reputation of our club but so do our fans. We will all be here a lot longer than any manager or player will be. I am outraged by some of the things our fans are putting across social media currently and the effect this will have on the reputation of our club.

I was not thrilled at first by the appointment but have taken some time to read a number of insightful interviews with Di Canio that can be easily viewed on the net. I don't think he is a racist; in fact he has worked to fight racism if you read about it. I also think you need to read fully in to his political opinions before you make a judgement about him here. However what I cannot understand or forgive is Sunderland fans who post so openly that they do not care if he is racist, they do not care if he agrees with extreme fascist views, they care so less that they are going to go and buy a black shirt for the next match. All of these things read over the past 24 hours on various social networking sights and that is just the tip of the ice berg.

Sunderland fans you are the club, you are the reputation of the club. Do not bring our club down. Of course you would care if we appointed a racist. Or I damn well hope you would. Your ignorant, pea brained views are being published for the world to see. I swear some of you would happily appoint Nick Griffin if he beat Newcastle. Get a grip. Your views, your morals, your beliefs are what make our club. They are what will remain in two year’s time when it is most likely Di Canio and the majority of our current players won't. I can sympathise with those standing by their morals and expressing their outrage to the appointment, however what I would do is suggest they research Di Canio and his views a bit more before they hear the word fascist and write him off. I wouldn't however tell them I don't care/it doesn't matter if he is the biggest racist, Hitler lover, to walk the planet as long as he beats Newcastle. It is those views that some of you are currently expressing that would make me want to bin my Sunderland shirt not the appointment of Di Canio. 

It is not Di Canio's appointment that I am upset with now. It is our ignorant fans who are ruining the reputation of a club I love. We are not a racist club; we are not a fascist club. Do not defend these things. Do not say you don't care. And for those of you that are defending setting profile pictures with him doing a fascist salute because 'it's what the Romans did too', again get a grip. You are trying to stir trouble; you know very well what that picture will mean to a lot of people. Stop trying to polarise opinion, stop making out you are OK with that, get it off and put a picture of a Sunderland badge back up if you actually care about the club. We are Sunderland together. We will remain when he goes, as will our morals. Well for those of us that still have some.

One last point, imagine he doesn't make a difference, imagine we don't beat the Mags, imagine we still go down. Imagine all that happens and imagine Sunderland fans are also quoted all over Facebook and twitter saying they don't care about racism or fascism. What proud Sunderland fans we can all be then. 

SAFC fans, think before you speak
Anna Dyson

Dear ALS

I can’t believe all these so called SAFC fans who are saying they will not support the club anymore due to di Canio being appointed. The man has come here to win football matches not preach. With O’Neill we were going nowhere. It has been an abysmal season playing the most boring football I have seen for a long time.

Let’s just give di Canio a chance and hope his no nonsense approach and passion give our overpaid under achievers a kick up the backside that they need.

Ben Stephenson

Dear ALS

So finally, at 52 years old, I have to choose between my football team and my politics!

Let's see, I have been going to SAFC since I was 9 - I've watched them under Mc Menemy and seen them as low as they have ever been. I fell out with SAFC briefly in 1974 /75 season when Jimmy Adamson wouldn’t give Bobby Kerr a pay rise and subsequently sold off most of the cup winning team. Since then, up to this season I have been rock solid in my support for them. I have worried about them as a club for in 2012/13.The management do not get it - principles matter!!

Should have got rid of Bramble over his conduct, should not have recruited dodgy sponsors, and should not bought Danny Graham despite the fans protest who remember that shite Geordie midfielder and how he repaid us. But this action of appointing a fascist like Di Canio proves to me that currently SAFC is out of step with reality.

Go to opportunities, and read their statement and see the picture of the Sikh lads supporting the team. What happened to that club? When I can be certain that SAFC do actually mean what they say I will be there again - until then I put my energy and positivity into politics, my family and my community and not SAFC.

I have seen SAFC lower in the football hierarchy but never as low as they have gone today in this appointment.

Phil M

Dear ALS

Did Paolo do a Nazi Salute? Or a Roman salute? It's hard to know. Although, I don't blame fans for not renewing their season tickets if that's how they feel, I'm prepared to give Di Canio a chance because he's not a politician by trade and he's clearly not racist. And when you see him interviewed  ( you can see he's just a daft lad who gets carried away by his own enthusiasm, which you can't say about the likes of John Terry.

Politically, I'm more in the Tony Benn camp: I'm anti-EU because it's not democratic, I detest Miliband (as Blair and his cohorts are fascists) and I detest the extreme Communist left, as they've killed more working class people than all the fascist regimes put together.

Living in Spain, I worked with a lot of great people and was shocked to discover that some of them, even in Catalonia, were pro-Franco, namely because they credit Franco with saving Spain from Communism. My point is it's a different context over in Spain and Italy. I'm massively against Fascism, but if Di Canio is not racist, it only means he's anti-communist and into authoritarian nationalistic leadership. Of course, associating with the Ultras has to be condemned.

I also think people can change especially daft footballers that fell in with the wrong crowd. Growing up, my granddad was racist, but as he got older he changed his mind and had Indian friends in his sheltered accommodation and had respect for the Eastern Europeans on Sea Road who started off begging and ended up opening a shop.

It's also possible that Di Canio is being misrepresented by the tabloids. However, if he does come out with pro-fascist statements while at the club, I'll join the protests to have him removed.

What disgusts me most is David Miliband, a Blairite, trying to make political capital out of SAFC. If he's really a man of political conviction why not stay involved and fight his corner? Why not talk some sense into Di Canio? I'm sure that's what the likes of Tony Benn would do. If he wishes SAFC success, he can resign quietly and piss off to the States (until he's invited to back to take over the Labour Party).

Lifelong Sunderland Fan

Dear ALS

I hope you don’t mind a Swindon fan coming onto your site, but I really envy you having got Di Canio as your new coach. He came to us two years ago when we were rock bottom and raised the whole club, staff, players, fans and town to highs that had for many never been experienced before. Ignore all the stuff about his politics; if it exists we never saw it. What we did see was a man of passion, a man who wears his heart on his sleeve, a man who is a hard task master who believes in supreme fitness and will train his players for seven days a week if needs be. A man who works into the small hours watching videos of the opposing team so as to prepare his players for the next match.

Certainly you will be heading for a roller coaster of a ride as he speaks his mind and pulls no punches, if a player gets it wrong or does not pull his weight he will let them know about it and the rest of the world whilst about it. If a player does not have his heart fully in playing for your club, then they are out, no matter who they are, reputations mean nothing. You will find a man who recognises how important fans are and will wait until every player has acknowledged the fans and left the field before coming out to salute you.

You will have people who say they will stop going to matches because he has arrived, that though is their choice and to be honest they will be the losers. The pundits will give you a load of waffle, but the only ones who can tell you what great times lay ahead of you are us Swindon fans who have had the Di Canio experience. Just enjoy it.


Dear ALS

I would to suggest to Ellis Short and the board of SAFC to look up the hero of our, sorry, their new manager Benito Mussolini and the invasion of Abyssinia in 1935 and ask themselves how they can have a relationship with the Nelson Mendela Foundation yet employ a fascist.

It is sick! I thought my club was being run by decent men and women with ethics I could be proud of. Well how stupid am I? I would rather see Sunderland in the Northern League than contribute a penny towards this club I have supported for 42 years.

I am no longer interested what happens at SOL

Dave Bosher

Dear ALS

First off, let me state quite clearly that I abhor fascism, and will never like anyone who declares "I am a fascist" and has Mussolini's nickname tattooed on his arm.

However I didn't particularly like Roy Keane either. Or Steve Bruce. Or Howard Wilkinson. Or Michael Chopra. (Or David Miliband for that matter). But I didn't hold my personal dislike or their personal views against them, and gave them a chance. Martin O'Neill seems like an intelligent and likeable man... but that didn't make him perfect for the job. Personally I'm far more concerned about the board cozying up to an outfit like Tullow Oil than I am about the odious opinions of our manager.

If Mr DiCanio puts a rocket up the backsides of a few of our more pedestrian players and wins a couple of his first three games the crowd will take to him massively. And if he gets into a fist-fight with Pardew on the touchline and gets banned for life he'll be an instant legend and then we can get on with appointing a rather more sensible choice for next season. Whatever their non-football opinions.

Nick H

Dear ALS

As soon as the Di Canio rumours started, it seemed that a proportion of our supporters were looking for skeletons in the cupboard. Almost as if we were trying to force out the new man before he even started.

Politics and football do not, and should not mix, but doesn't just about everyone in football have something in their past that they'd rather forget about?

I don't agree with *those* views, but we hired Paolo di Canio to be manager, not a policy maker. If we're back here in the thirteen months' time and we've been relegated (this season or next), then that is the time to criticise. Not now, when he's probably not even said hello to any of our players.

To all of those supporters who are so keen to mix football and politics, saying they'll no longer support SAFC because of this... pull the other one. It's not a fair comparison, but how far do you want to take the "I don't agree with the political views of the manager, so I won't support the team". How many of those dissenting voices stopped supporting when James McClean's views were made public? And that's my point - Paolo, like McClean, is just ONE MAN. One man does not make the club. Even David Miliband, whose departure from the club was conveniently timed with the new charity job he got in New York that caused him to step down as an MP. But there we go again, mixing football and politics.

When we play Everton in three weeks, I don't think the SOL will be half empty, regardless of how we do against Chelsea and the Mags.  Di Canio will leave Sunderland one day. As supporters, we will always remain. No matter what bravado some of us are putting on today.

IH, Harrow

Dear ALS

It is such a sad time. The sacking of MON could not have come at a worse time and in my view was not merited at all. MON needed much more time to turn things around. We can all moan and groan about his tactics but at the end of the day it's the players who are at fault. It's not rocket science to know that the aim of the game is to get the ball into the opponent’s net. The players have let MON down so badly. There has been no leadership on the pitch as Captain Clattermole is either being sent off or getting injured due to rash tackling. He above all others has been a disgrace to the shirt and to MON who has defended him to the hilt. 

MON had the best interests of the club at heart and I feel he would have brought success next season. Now my club is in turmoil and I'm devastated. Who the hell is going to come in now? Please no, not Di Canio as I've just heard he's on his way for talks with Ellis and could be announced as manager any minute. This is clutching at straw and I would rather go down with MON than have a fascist like Di Canio in charge. I don't want a foreign manager in charge who has no idea what the club means to so many both at home and in far-away places. I would prefer Alan Curbishley or dare I say it David O'Leary. Why not give Kevin Ball a chance? Please, please not Di Canio. I feel sick at the thought.

I fear for my club. This managerial merry go round has got to stop. We desperately need some stability as I look to what has happened at Portsmouth, Blackburn, Leeds and Wolves.

OH MY GOD!! Just hearing on the news that Di Canio has been appointed. Can't believe it. I feel sick. I feel I've been stabbed in the back and shit on from a great height. This is just not right. That's Sess, Alf, Danny and the outstanding Mignolet gone.

Thank you MON for all you tried to do for my beloved club. In MON I still trust. Somehow still keeping the faith but I'm in tears.

God help us

Dear ALS

Is Ellis Short about to score two own goals in quick succession? The first could be the sacking of O’Neill at this exact moment in time. The second, appointing a confirmed fascist to manage a team where surely the local support and area is predominantly left of   centre? Those who say Di Canio’s politics are his own business are right. However, they are in the public domain and may just influence the reaction of the fans whose politics are their business as well and who could well make their opinions well and truly known if PDC gets the job.

Are we expected to accept anyone irrespective of their politics provided out team stays up? If the manager was BNP, what would we say? Ellis could be going for the hat trick of OGs – season tickets need to be renewed this week to get the ‘discount’. Short’s desire to get someone in quickly could just backfire. He may be hoping people will flock to renew if PDC gets the job but it’s a big gamble and the actual reaction from fans may not be something either of them bargained for. One step forward, two steps back?

Sooty the Black Cat

Dear ALS

Hope Ellis Short and our moneybags vice chairman can understand the message.

Paolo Di Canio, no, no a million times no.

South Shields

Dear ALS

Will we have to get rid of all the black players if we appoint a fascist manager?

After 77 years of supporting The Lads I’m afraid it is, “Goodbye”, if he is appointed.


Dear ALS

Is it not about time, given that it’s the fans who contribute financially to the club that we as the customer get a say in who is appointed.

The selection of Paolo Di Canio is insensitive, in an area which has some degree of BNP and EDL support, not to mention the fact our kit is emblazoned with Invest in Africa. This is appalling; it’s about time the fans were consulted on the new appointment. This will reflect badly on the club and the area. Examining Di Canio's credentials, he's the least qualified contender. This will end in another expensive payout and the possible tarnishing of our image and the good work both Quinn and Miliband put in. Making sure we are a family club with a socially responsible relationship between club and community.

A loyal fan

Dear ALS

If it is to be Di Canio, shouldn’t his politics like his religion be a matter between him and his maker. What’s this fascist salute all about, every football manager sticks one arm up when something exciting happens.

Far better to hope that a man of such passion for the game would give our players the short sharp shock they badly need.

Look what happened when Peter Reid took over the dressing room.

D. Lambert

Dear Mr Short

Please think of this club and its reputation. Do not in any way associate us with a fascist sympathiser in Di Canio.

Totally agree with letter from Mr Metcalf below. Well put.

M Aitken

Dear ALS

A shame that MO'N has departed in such depressing circumstances. I never thought he was quite the Messiah hailed as he arrived, but I thought he would bring ambition and a little more success to the club than has happened in recent years. Unfortunately, this is not the case, nor is it altogether MO'N's fault. We can never quite know what happens off the field, during the week and in training, but somehow, players who have come to the club in recent years with good reputations have almost to a man, failed to deliver. Sunderland have not been able to even buy goals this season and, as I live away, I have to depend on Match of the Day to see Sunderland play. Their outfield play is often quite neat, passing is sometimes adequate and tackling more often than not stops opponents. Passing against Man U was often poor with the receiver having to wait for the ball instead of being able to run on to it at pace. But teams which are neat, adequate and for the most part tackle effectively are the teams most likely to be candidates for relegation. Sunderland have played with little imagination and flair this season and in the game against Man U they looked beaten before they started. Certainly Man U's early goal took the steam out of them.

MO'N needed to instil some terrier like qualities into his team, but somehow, he didn't. The team has looked lacklustre for most games this season and signings such as Adam Johnson have added to the depression rather than playing as well as their transfer fees suggest they can.

MO'N's offloading is a pity. So who can do better with the bunch of players in the 1st team squad? There is some fanciful speculation as to who will be next in the hot seat, but whoever it is will need to spend wisely and with a lot of luck. MO'N's signings have let him down badly as well as Sunderland supporters, but nobody doubts MO'N's good faith in these deals. The next man needs to establish that the players must make a point of really supporting the fans. It’s no use players going off after losing waving their arms in the air and clapping the very fans they have let down over the previous 90 minutes. There are times when this seems not only to be a self- serving and useless gesture, but a rather cynical one too.

But there is one bright spot. If Sunderland miraculously avoid the drop this season it will be almost entirely due to the heroics of Simon Mignolet: A tuppeny article in a penny bazaar if ever I saw one.

What an interesting lot of letters there are on this site. Again, if only the team was as good and interesting as its fans.

All the best
David Bacon

Dear ALS

I’m not gonna say I know an awful lot about footy. But I’m a Sunderland supporter. Last match I managed to get too was the Fulham match. We had a lucky result there.

As I saw it during that match, there was very little for our supporters to get remotely excited about, shown by the amount of fans that left even before the whistle had blown for the end of the first half. I’m no great football tactician, but it didn’t even look to me as though they were playing as a team. It seemed like it was every man for himself. No inspiration. No creating chances, no getting free and into space, no pushing forward. Sorry but there’s just no spark anymore.

I was shocked to see the news on Match of the Day last night, yesterdays result was better than I’d hoped for, even with the own goal taken into account. But I have noticed lately that MON’s demeanour during post match interviews has slowly changed. At the beginning of the season, he seemed much more positive during his post match reaction, whether it was win, lose or draw. Lately, he’s been very downcast, he’d lost his spark. Sad to see, as I held high hopes for the club when he took over, and his presence seemed to work when he first took over.

Our next few games are depressing to look at to say the least, and I am more than a little worried about the threat of relegation.

But, maybe now, as a result of MON’s departure, it might just give our players the kick up the arse they need. They’ve got to accept their part and their reponsibility in his downfall, after all it’s them on the pitch at the end of the day, there’s only them that can change things. His downfall is as a result of their downfall in my opinion.

Who do we need to take over. God knows. I wait with baited breath. But they’re gonna have to galvanise our team and no mistake.

Like I say, I’m no tactician, many will say I don’t know much about football, they’re probably right. All I can do is say it as I’ve seen it. No more no less. And I’m sure that maybe a fair few people would agree with me.

One last thing I do have to make comment on is Simon Mignolet. He’s the one player who is last on the pitch at the end of the match, walking round and applauding the fans, something that I for one appreciate. Like I say, I don’t get to many matches, cos I work most weekends, so cannot say that this is always the case, but it would be nice to see more of the players doing the same. At least he’s showing his respect to the fans, win lose or draw. Fair play to him. I get the feeling the other players maybe don’t do that so much anymore because they realise it has been less than inspiring for us fans to watch them of late. Player of the season for the fact alone as far as I’m concerned.

Lastly, I’ve gotta say good luck to MON for the future. Yeah it hasn’t been great, but he gave us the lift we needed last season, and pulled us back from the brink. Respect to him for that. At least he’s gone before a major witch hunt began, which to be honest, I don’t think he would’ve deserved.

Lastly, to all fans, keep the faith!

Dear ALS

Anyone who believes I am a Steve Bruce supporter is correct and I don't deny I did not want O'Neill. Naturally I was pilloried from Sunderland to the Middle East about my views.

Today all I see is disaster. As late as last week the 'MON' club was offering every excuse but at the same time you could see from his interviews he had lost the desire to take us any further. Steve Bruce never lost that desire and absolutely never put out a team with less ambition. Boring, unimaginitive football against Norwich when three points were a must and no football at all today tell all you 'MON' fans just how poor he was.

Now with not enough games to go we are looking for a new manager to eke out some sort of class from an inept team which does not care. 


Dear ALS

The simple fact is that it is the manager's job to get players to perform and MON has unfortunately been unable to do so. There has been much debate wondering why. Questions have been raised about coaching staff, about tactics, lack of pace, quality and whether a crucial missing link was John Robertson or similar assistant. It seemed that he lost the dressing room but all this said it was a crazy move to sack him at such a vital time.

The truth is that Sunderland do not deserve to stay in the Premier League with the way the team has played all season even if on paper they should be mid-table. Like other instances, including Darren Bent's departure, what has happened behind the scenes is unlikely to be ever known.  But I wish people would stop thinking of Ellis Short as a charitable institution. He is a ruthless businessman, like many other club owners, out to siphon off millions in an unregulated and shady market.

Sunderland is run by accountants without any interest in football or the fans other than as a means to make money. The squad has been pared down to its bare bones. In the past, MON has tended to depend on only around 15 or 16 players and has worked under Clough rules. Yet this is not the name of the game anymore as is the way of handing prima donnas on and off the field.

If the job proved to be a task too far for MON, it is certainly also for Short in reaching the right balance. The fear is that Sunderland is in a downward spiral. I just hope that some brakes are found to prevent the club becoming another Blackburn, Portsmouth or Leeds.

Overlong Suffering Supporter

Dear ALS

I have to say when the text came through last night I was pretty shocked. Three months ago I bet a mag £50 that MON would still be around at the end of the season-so that’s probably £100 I owe him if they finish above us as well. When Bruce went I was delighted-I genuinely thought that MON would get it right eventually-and I think the majority of fans would have left it until the end of the season at least. Thanks anyway for trying MON.

I can’t believe however this morning’s headlines that the wally with the Brolly and fake Dutch accent is favourite for the job. Please god no-and if there are others who share this view please let it be known and ALs can air these views before it’s too late. Remember the appointment of Wilkinson? Absolute madness to the average fan and so predictable what happened. McLaren would be doomed from the outset. Apart from looking and sounding like a twat post Smoggies he failed to get England to qualify for the Euros had a good year with Twente in the Dutch league then been sacked by Wolfsberg, Notts Forest and even Twente-come on surely we didn’t get rid of MON for that? Please ALS try to stop it happening…

I can’t see the obvious appointment. Hughes was a disaster at QPR, Di Canio is mental, Poyet probably fancies his chances at Brighton. Zola has done quietly well at Watford-albeit not as well as Bruce at Hull. Di Matteo seems a good bloke as is Brian McDermott but most Reading fans thought he wasn’t big enough for them so that should rule him out. What a shambles

Mackem Paul

Dear ALS

It all seemed so perfect. Standing with my arms stretched out, singing, but barely able to hear my own voice for crescendo of noise reverberating around the Stadium of Light as 'the Lads' took to the pitch, nothing could be better. The sense of hope of optimism bled around ground and, by extension, the City as a whole. This was it, this is what we'd been waiting for all these years. Even though we were playing our so called 'boogie team' in Everton, there was no doubt that Wembley was the next stop on this magic carpet ride. The only concern we collectively had was, where would it stop. Little did we know that the brakes were screeching before our very eyes?

Martin O'Neil came to our club as not so much a knight in shining amour, but more as our savoir in a tracksuit. Anyone under the age of 30 had wished for him to come to our club since the end of the Reid era. His ability to take unfashionable teams by the scruff of the neck and mould then into a successful unit was something we craved, nay, needed. Watching him repeat this success time and time again whilst we fumbled our way through the last decade with a succession of nearly men made for frustrating viewing. Knowing he was 'one of us' the whole time made the situation even more unbearable. And as the years went on by it became less and less likely that we would ever see the prodigal son head up to where he had once worshiped Charlie Hurley as a boy.

As we all know he did come, and in a fashion that know anyone who was there will never forget. As the last of the boo's from Steve Bruce’s reign ebbed away we finally got to see the man we had lusted over for so many years finally hoist the red and white scarf over his head. Watching from the stands as at Molineux he cast a eye over a typical Sunderland performance, full of flem and hustle yet lacking in any real polish, a team who always had one finger on the proverbial gun to its own head. It was clear there was work to do.

Going into the home game at Blackburn there was an air of optimism which had been missing from the Sol for some time. And for a good chunk of the game it was same story, alternative manager. But this time there was something different in the air. A team who previously rolled over and died suddenly became a unit that didn’t know when it was beat. A sprinkle of fairy dust here and inspired substitution there and before you know it we are all Partying with Marty. 

The following months was a blur of gut busting performances, outstanding goals and scarf waving, White Stripes inspired celebrations. Where once was a limp puppy now stood a snarling Rottweiler, striking fear into anyone who dared get in its path. Being Sunderland fans we all knew that this run couldn’t last forever and it came as no surprise when post Everton the wheels somewhat came off. Yet, even as we limped towards the end of the season confidence was still high, with one eye always on the next season. O’Neill had done his best with what he had at his disposal and had sewn a pigs ear into a silk purse until the stitching had come undone. Imagine what he could do with his own team.

Close season any year, especially a year with no International torments, is always a mixture of boredom interspersed with moments of rumours, madness and downright lies. With this in mind a air of scepticism washed over any self respecting punter who perused the back page of a now deceased Sunday rag come late August. Adam Johnson, England international and Premiership winner, coming to us? Bollocks. Yet we were all wrong and so bloody happy for it. Whilst talk of Clint Dempsey came and went we all went to bed at the end of transfer deadline day thoroughly content in the business that had been done. In a reversal of previous years we had gone for true quality as opposed to of a abundance of journey men quantity. The thought of McClean and Johnson hugging the wings, pinging balls into Fletcher whilst Sess mopped up what was behind left us salivating. Combine this with O'Neil in charge and talk of Europe became the order of the day. What could possibly go wrong?

As a Sunderland fan we are ingrained to expect failure. Unless you have had a telegram from the Queen it’s pretty much all you’ve ever known. Yet the start of this season felt different. Even as the season started with a wimper it could be passed off with a variety of excuses. Players weren’t match fit, they needed time to bed in, we still had a game in hand after the Reading wash out......But as the weeks turned into months it was clear there was something wrong. Performances were turgid and even the games that granted us victory came at a price of utter tedium. A slight upturn in form over the xmas period gave hope to a happy 2013 but as the end of January rolled around there was a all too familiar sense of disgruntlement. The signings brought in did nothing to alleviate this feeling and before you know it we are back where we started. 

Looking back at that Everton game perhaps this all was inevitable. We are Sunderland after all, this is what we do. But for a brief period there was feeling of true optimism. A feeling that finally it was all going to come together and we were going to get the team we truly deserve. O'Neil had a enjoyed respective success at virtually every team he had managed. Why couldn’t we do the same? Why shouldn’t we? Yet, as news filtered through of his sacking the only surprise was the timing of the decision rather than the decision itself.

With all the right ingredients in place, this should have been a purple patch for the club. How and why it isn’t will be debated over for some time. Has the game moved on? What difference would Robertson have made? Or has Martin O'Neil simply lost his mojo??? 

Where we go from here is anyone’s guess. Relegation is a very real possibility. If it happens we will have to deal with it, if not a different set of challenges present themselves. I suppose we can thank O'Neil for the memories, brief as they may have been. Is it better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all? Suddenly that 6th round FA cup game seems like a very distant memory.

Chris Hardy

Dear ALS

Well, it seems that an extraordinary range of plonkers have suddenly become experts on SAFC, when they generally ignore us for most of the time. Mary Poppins thinks it was "bizarre", that footballing great Kevin Kilbane thinks it was "wrong", and a large number of fans from other clubs are now sticking their oars in where they are not wanted. The only thing that is bizarre Mary is how you earn your living these days, being paid a fortune to state the bleedin' obvious about football matches on TV. The only opinions that really matter are those who pay to watch the team week in and week out, and who can see that something has been wrong at the club for some time. Something clearly had to change but it was a difficult one to call for all of us.

My view, as a mere fan with a season ticket, who makes a round trip of almost 200 miles for each home game, is that there was no obvious clamour for Martin O'Neill's head at this juncture. People tolerated the negative football when points were won, and would have tolerated defeats if the football had been more entertaining, but the combination of poor football and a lot of defeats was unacceptable. None of the "experts" in the media have spotted what is likely to have been the real reaon for the sacking however: the season ticket deadline this week. The prospect of relegation, or more of the same next season in the PL, must have dissuaded large numbers of fans (myself included) from renewing their cards, and this was the key factor in MON's departure. Ellis Short is a very successful businessman first and foremost, and he will have been shocked when he saw the low levels of renewals, threatening revenue next season. Of course the biggest potential loss of revenue next season is the obscenely large amount of TV money which comes from Premier League membership and the disastrous financial consequences of relegation. It shouldn't be like this, but Mr Short is not the only chairman who has panicked at the prospect, and he won't be the last.

So I'm sure I'm not the only fan of SAFC who feels desperately sad about the departure of MON. He is such a nice bloke with a real affinity for the club and its fans, and that is why there has been no "O'Neill out" campaign at matches. He was however badly let down by those around him - coaches like Walford whose training methods must have been abysmal, the scouts who recommended the likes of Graham, N'Daiye, Mangane and Bridge, but above all players such as Johnson and Larsson who looked like they couldn't be bothered at times. MON was too loyal to them, but a small squad meant that he had little choice but to keep playing them.

Who should replace him? Well we have made so many mistakes over the years with this, the most important decision facing any football club, that surely we will get it right one day? No more managers who have failed elsewhere please (Hughes, McClaren) and no more dinosaurs like Wilkinson again. My idea of an excellent candidate, for what its worth, would be Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, a young, hungry manager who has been successful abroad and who would love the challenge of English football. But what do I know? I was desperate for Martin O'Neill to come to the SoL in November 2011.

Keep the faith
Mike Painter

Dear ALS

I am a Sunderland supporter who works in the Middle East; one of the advantages of working here is that I have the ability of being able to watch all of “The Lads” games live, regardless of kick of times. The disappointing performances recently have been discussed many times so I will not dwell on that; however the decision made yesterday evening to dispose of MONs’ services has left me a little bewildered to say the least, especially the timing of the decision.

MON is a man I have a great deal of admiration for; he is honest and passionate about our beloved football club. Yesterday against Man United if he could have pulled on his boots at the ripe old age of 61 he would have showed more passion, drive and determination than the starting 11 yesterday.

I realise that it is the manager’s job to set the tactics for the team, decide formations, buy and sell players and importantly to try and inspire, instil passion and desire into what is a bunch of hugely overpaid gutless individuals who have pulled our red and white shirt on for the majority of the season.

MON has gone, maybe he would have gone anyway in the summer regardless, but every player needs to hang their heads in shame, they have been shocking all season.

We as Sunderland fans are used to disappointments, I have lived with it for almost 50 years, we will always follow ‘The Lads” and remain loyal as long as the players leave blood sweat and tears on the pitch. None of the current players have done that this season, so I say to them, regardless of where we end up at the end of the season, be honest with yourselves, stop accepting 10’s of thousands of pounds very week under false pretences, if you do not want to be part of our Sunderland, a club we all love with a passion pack up and leave.


Dear ALS

Following the dismissal of Martin O’Neill, I read and hear that one of the favourites for the vacancy is Paolo di Canio. Can I express my dismay that this individual is mentioned as a possibility; Di Canio is a self-confessed fascist and is on record as being an admirer of the dictator, Mussolini [an associate of Adolf Hitler]. Di Canio has also been pictured giving a fascist salute. Given the club’s commitment to anti-racist activities, how can we be associated with such an unsavoury individual?

If the club does appoint this fascist, there is no way that I will ever attend the stadium of light whilst he is charge and I would demand that the money I have already paid for my son and I's season ticket for next season to be refunded. I believe that principle always takes precedence over any other consideration and would be devastated if my club betrayed he memory of the millions who have suffered under the politics of fascism worldwide and, more particularly during the period of fascism in Italy, Germany and Spain in the 1930’s and beyond.

I would hope that the club would issue a public statement disassociating itself form speculation around Di Canio and affirm its commitment to anti-racism/fascism in principle and practice.

Best wishes
Mark Metcalf
North Stand season ticket holder 

Dear ALS

Pure speculation abounds about who will take the reins of the runaway horse that is SAFC in an attempt to prevent the carriage going over the cliff.

Personally I think if the players, who are paid more in a week than we earn a year, did the job they are paid for to a competent level we'd not be debating this issue.

However, the usual failures are top of the bookies list as favourites. Managing a football club must be the only job in the world (possibly with the exception of investment banker) where failure doesn't matter to a chairman.

The list tweeted by ALS today has Di Canio as the favourite, oh really! Well if that suggestion has legs and he gets even a sniff at the job my 50 year allegiance will cease immediately. I'll not be associated with a club run by a Fascist.

End of.


PS: heard Garry Neville at half time and was hoping his speech would be relayed into the home dressing room at 90 dBs so they could all hear some common sense.

Dear ALS

Finally Ellis Short has run Marty out of town. I hope the replacement is lined up, but the facts remain that every club who has changed there manager after March has been relegated. I hope the man charged with saving the club in the short term is Peter Reid at least the team will not lack motivation in the final weeks. Maybe he can get the players to take a good hard look at themselves particularly Adam Johnson who blames coming to Sunderland for his omission from the England Squad. The reason why you are not in the England squad are simple your performances are totally inadequate as are those of your colleagues. If you only you players, Simon Mignolet accepted could walk the rubbish you talk in the press every week we would not be in this predicament.

John Robson

Dear ALS

So we’ve managed to retain the banana-toting non socialist man from International Rescue and lost MON which to me sounds like the wrong way round.

For a full explanation of this madness take a look at Len Shackleton’s chapter on The Average Director’s Knowledge of Football. It doesn’t take long. Then take a look at Blackburn Rovers, the champions of 1995 for a glimpse of one possible future.


Dear ALS

So MON is gone, he’d clearly lost the ability to motivate this particular set of players – the number of times recently we’ve heard him comment after an improved second half that if we can perform like that we’ll be OK only to have another poor first half in the next game followed by another improved second half and so we go on….

That leaves us all wondering if Ellis Short has got someone lined up and if so who that might be.

It’s very late in the season to make such a change, I can only guess that the thinking is to hope that the new boss will produce the sort of turnaround MON produced in his early days here and I can’t think of anyone who is available that would give me any confidence that they could make that sort of improvement.

If the new man achieves that we’ll be fine (well, we’ll survive, which passes for fine these days) but if not then its bye bye promised land.

Desperate times breed desperate measures.

Looking for a silver lining to what certainly appears to be a very dark cloud at the moment a side benefit for me if we did get relegated would be I could get rid of the Foxtel (read Sky in the UK) subscription and save some cash!

Bob T

Dear ALS

What are we doing to our club?

A crazy, knee jerk, pointless decision which will make no difference. Congratulations on making us to be absolute certainties for the wilderness of the Championship. Only a fool can believe this is for the clubs best interest. Madness absolute madness. I am speechless.

FTM Jeff Davison

Dear ALS


The timing of this is unbelievable. I only hope it is linked to the fact that we have someone spectacular lined up.

Let's hope Di Matteo Laudrup, or Mourinho are in the frame but please, please please, NOT Mark Hughes I would definitely cancel my season ticket if we appoint him.

Clive North Yorkshire

Dear ALS

I have not made millions through business acumen, nor have I invested millions in SAFC. Ellis Short has earned the right to take whatever steps he sees necessary to protect his investment and thus to take the Club forward.

I have not taken advanced coaching badges or managed successful top ranked football clubs. In this case I have to accept Martin O'Neil's experience & judgement. As is the case for footballers, 'form is temporary, class is permanent'. Or, over the course of many years of developing strategies; is it?

However, because of my love for SAFC, I am entitled to an opinion & it is this...

I am astounded by the timing of the sacking of MON. If it had to happen (which I doubt), it should have happened several weeks ago when there was more time to change things around & before the current malaise took such a firm hold. Of course this has the benefit of hindsight. The Reading result yesterday shows the danger of bringing in a new management team. Can Nigel Atkins get them to play the way he wants them to in time to save them from relegation? Southampton took the plunge earlier and seem to be getting things right now, but there did not seem to be much wrong when they sacked Atkins so perhaps they would have been safe anyway!

I have severe doubts about the faith placed in short (forgive the pun) term solutions. I had hoped that, once appointed, MON would have been given at least three seasons to build Sunderland into a Premiership 'top half' side on a firm & more permanent basis. To this end, I would even have kept him if we are relegated this season. Surely there must come a stage at which the board has to make a carefully considered appointment and carry it through. I would have thought that a successful businessman would weigh up the pros & cons, act decisively and then back his judgement. I thought that this was the case when MON was appointed.

I hope for some stability over the coming years. Chopping and changing managers has not worked in the past, it's time to lay foundations and build. My attitude to MON was, 'Keep Calm & Carry On'. (I still think we would have beaten the drop.) Who next? For how long? Only time will tell.

What an irony if Sunderland & Hull pass each other travelling in opposite directions! Given more time could Bruce have turned things round at Sunderland, or is he just a Championship manager?

Malcolm Bland

all manner of random stuff


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