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Dear ALS

The recent article in ALS regarding the players brought into the club over recent years who have failed to perform, or in some cases, failed to even make the first team was excellent and shows how badly the club and the playing staff have been managed.

There are one or two players, not mentioned in the article who can be considered to have been a success, Kieran Richardson, Phil Bardsley, Kenwyn Jones to mention a few

But looking at the long list of failures, it seems that those responsible for their acquisition have been simply allowed to gamble with the club and Ellis Short’s money. Clearly no serious scouting or performance assessment have been carried out given the lack of first team appearances, or performance on the pitch. With so many changes of manager there is no consistency or strategy in the signings, merely a scattergun approach by each successive manager in the vain hope that ‘they might come off’.

It appears that Ellis Short has backed each management appointment by allowing this expenditure on fees and wages, certainly none of the managers have complained re lack of support after leaving.

Even the three players brought in by Sam Allardyce have not continued to perform, one is not considered good enough for a place in a struggling team, one had a poor injury record when signed and has continued in the same vein and the third refused to return.

For those suggesting a return of Roy Keane its worth remembering the players he signed including Michael Chopra. When results started to drop off and Ellis Short suggested a change in approach Keane walked out and has achieved nothing in management since.

Rob Robinson

Dear ALS

Can we all agree on a couple of things: We are sick of fighting relegation year on year and getting our arses kicked every week by average teams? It looks like we are finally going down to the second tier of football. I did notice a few of our fans slagging off the owner and David Moyes. In my humble opinion the Mr. Short has spent a lot of money over the years, unfortunately badly; spending big money on very average or in some cases, bad players. We have had 15 managers since 1999, our last successful manager Peter Reid; also 15 managers since Arsene Wenger took over Arsenal.

It has been proven the most successful teams will have long term plans along with long term managers, look at Man Utd. It did seem like last season we had found the right man for the job and I do believe big Sam would have put the club on solid ground and we may have been able to move forward. But as we all know, nothing comes easy to our club and Big Sam left for "greener pastures". My point is all of those 15 full time or temporary mangers were not all bad, but were they given enough time? I am sure Martin O’Neil, Steve Bruce, Dick Advocaat were all good mangers! I think it is time to change the way we do our business and start running the club with a long-term plan and get away from the reactive rule of managing our once great club.

David Moyes is one of the most experience managers in the Premier league and one of the most successful at running a top half club. A few years ago, I would have classed Sunderland as the same size of club as Everton but that has changed now. Give David Moyes time and he will get Sunderland back into Premier Club and take us up the league to be a mid-table team. Unfortunately, the amount and severity of injuries of our players this season has been beyond belief and any manger would have struggled. When Burnley was relegated they stuck with their manager Sean Dyche and look where he has brought them. Burnley, Swansea, Southampton, Everton, all have long term plans; Aston Villa, Blackburn, Wigan, QPR all don’t have a long-term plans and look where they are now. We may have to suffer if we make the drop, but firing a proven manager would be taking the same disastrous route we have taken too many times of late.

Ha-way the Lads
Nick Pearson

Dear ALS,

I accept that this may not be a universally popular opinion (and it is just that, an opinion) but I have come to the conclusion that not only is our seemingly inevitable relegation not all bad news, it may even be a positive.

Consider first the entertainment factor. Is anyone actually enjoying this? Frequent spankings of that lot up the road aside, it’s been grim. And It’s been grim for some time. In almost ten full seasons of Premier League football we have won 94 games. At the point of writing that’s from a total of 369 games. We have another 11 games to play this season, what odds would you give us on reaching a century of victories?

We are regularly embarrassed by clubs who have completely overtaken us. Take for example the recent debacle against Southampton at home; comfortably beaten 4-0 by a team who were in the third tier of English football and in administration by the time we were ‘enjoying’ our third season in the Premier League. Now consider recent thumping’s from Bournemouth, Burnley and Swansea. This won’t be a startling revelation to anyone, but it does show that our decline is not only long in the making but at this point terminal.

I’m not suggesting we’ll smash the Championship at the first attempt but I am confident we’d win the majority of our games. Whilst I acknowledge that the long-term future of this club should be in the top tier, it would be nice to spend one or two seasons going to games in expectation rather than sense of impending dread. I won’t dwell on that lot up the road, but tell me they haven’t enjoyed themselves this season?

As the argument for preserving our Premier League status often revolves around the financial benefit, we must consider the money next. Yes, relegation will mean a big hit on the club’s coffers. High earners must be sold, even relative low earners that can attract a decent fee must be sold. But what I have been pondering for some time now is this; if the Premier League is so lucrative, how have we managed to amass £140m worth of debt? The answer is because we have repeatedly over spent in a desperate attempt to stay in the league. Can anyone really argue that this has not been detrimental in the long term?

Without significant investment from someone with larger pockets than Ellis (which I for one am wary of since this approach is almost always unsustainable) we will only get out of this mess by reducing the wage budget and developing a long-term policy of signing players for whom there is the realistic chance of making a profit. The reality is that we will never achieve this while we remain in the desperately competitive grip of the eternal Premier League survival scrap.

If (when) we drop, we can sell profitable assets such as Kone and Pickford and high wage earners such as Borini, Khazri and Mannone. Contracts for longer serving players such as Larsson and O’Shea are coming to an end and we must also regretfully acknowledge that Defoe is a luxury in that division. It’s all hearsay (unless you have access to the club’s accounts) but a conservative estimate would indicate that this would bring in approximately £40-50m in player sales and reduce the wage budget by about £200k a week. We can use some (not all, that would defeat the purpose of the exercise) to plug the gaps in the team and sign some players with a bit of nous in the championship. We have the realistic prospect of fielding the following team in the championship;

Mika
Jones
Oviedo
Djillibodji
Lescott
Kirchoff
N’Dong
Cattermole
Anichebi
Watmore
Asoro

That lot are more than capable of flourishing at that level and a couple of astute signings could make us more than a threat to the top two.

Chuck in the parachute payments (remember we secured the best in history when we stopped up at the expense of that lot), and the financial impact may not be as bad as all that. Slightly less likely, but worth considering nonetheless is the notion that without the restriction of financial fair play, Ellis is free to wipe some debt and/or restructure it. Admittedly, he is unlikely to do so as he seeks to sell.

In conclusion, I don’t yearn for relegation, but I certainly don’t fear it. I cannot help but feel that survival will merely lead to more of the same, that our fate is set and we are just delaying it. Ultimately, while I want us to be competitive on the highest stage possible I also want to enjoy watching this team. And it has been some time since that were the case.

If (and I acknowledge that is a HUGE if) the club do the right things, if we stick together as fans, if the players that want to stay apply themselves we can rebuild and come back stronger.

Finally, I understand that swapping divisions in such a manner with that lot will be a bit of a ball ache, but I would casually remind them that staying in the league is a lot tougher than getting into it. I know that because they’ve failed to do so on two occasions.

Whatever happens between now and May, a sense of optimism and pragmatism is essential, we are at our best when we have our backs to wall, so keep the faith and remember that it’s supposed to be fun!

Thanks for listening...
Chris Harris

Dear ALS,

It's tough to be a Gooner! Yeah, it's like if you believe in God he must really have it in for Sunderland supporters for some reason.

Mind you, we think we have it bad but can you imagine what it must be like being an Arsenal supporter this season? They are baying for the blood of their manager of the last 25 years because they are only going to finish fourth or fifth this year and have just been knocked out of the European Cup at the quarter final stages. A manager who has won every major trophy for them, many times, and who puts together high quality attacking teams who are a pleasure to watch and who qualify for Europe every season and most often win a trophy. What a total toe rag eh? I think that we should swop places with them for a couple of decades. They need ten years of relegation battles like us followed by Second Division long ball to liven up their seasons.

How boring and expensive must it be to see your team vying for top place each year and having to book travel to Munich, Paris, Barcelona each season. They would obviously prefer it if they were where we are and be saving up the cost for visits to Burton, Barnsley and Brentford, and maybe Fleetwood. They must be jealous as hell.

Still spitting,
Alan Fenwick

Dear ALS,

I am a real fan of David Moyes. He talks sense and he talks straight. However, he does have this habit of coming up with pronouncements which are so blindingly obvious that they simply crack me up.

On our inability to register a single headed goal this season we got, " Ultimately the ball needs to come into the box to score and then what you need is people who are going to head it."

How many F.A. coaching badges do you need to have before they teach you this dark art of the professional game?

I am convinced there is scope for a Christmas compilation of "David Moyes he say..."

Cheers
Kenmintcake

Dear ALS

Barring a seismic shift in fortunes, our club appears to be on the way down to the second tier once again after narrowly holding on to its premier status for the last 10 years, making it feels like we have wasted these years and again are burdened with a load of debt and dead wood.

I can’t help but be reminded of Quinn's words when we were last promoted " the club must consolidate its position." This remark although not provocative or offensive in any way, did at the time fill me with disappointment. The club were in a way saying we were just happy to be there and don't expect too much (of which they haven't disappointed). To me a club has to set its goals high a club our size should be looking at the very top, not just be content with survival.

In my experience since the seventies the club has always had this problem it's never been confident in the top division, the only time we bucked this trend and looked and acted like a top league club was when Reid was manager, which now seems a long time ago.

Thanks
Colin

Dear ALS

I truly believe that this was the weekend our fate was confirmed, sure we have 11 more games and anything is possible as we know, but this side just do not have what it takes to get out of the mire and this is the weekend for me when the players officially gave up, though I think they unofficially gave up some time ago, August, September, with the exception of the magnificent Defoe and Pickford.

I know a lot of us will say that relegation is a disaster, and that we should look at Leeds, Villa, et al to see how bad things can get, but I also say look at the other clubs who have used relegation to clean up their clubs that are corrupted by the Premier League’s greed and hysteria that makes us all prostitutes and addicts to a division that has become so boring and predictable that I genuinely have started to lose interest. I want my club back!

Now we will have to cut our cloth and manage the club like we should have done several years ago, focusing on what is the right way for SAFC and its long suffering, and loyal, fans. I have said it before, we need to go back to our roots. Local talent, and youngsters with something to prove will always be welcomed above has-beens, and over paid, untalented profiteers with not an ounce of loyalty or care for us or our club.

Now we will have to look at how we structure and plan for a season rather than fly by the seat of our pants and hope for the best. We may even start planning how we want to play, what type of system and style to employ to build the foundation for the future. Me may even be able to look forward to a season where we actually wake up on Saturday morning optimistically rather than with the sense of dread that I know fills us all.

I was telling my long-suffering son, there was a time in the not so distant past that I can actually remember being surprised and disappointed when we lost. A time when we had a team to be proud of and a style that got us on our feet and the heart racing. He, as a 14 year old, had not ever experienced this, and like many other Sunderland youngsters looks enviously at those who followed fame and not passion when choosing their team and questions me now when I suggest we get on a plane or train to go see the Lads play, a future generation of supporters are looking away!

What I expect now is that we fight for everything we can anyone else notice the correlation between that fact that we have not had a player sent off since I don’t know when and how this may reflect the complacency and lack of passion in the squad. I want to see them fight, not meekly put their hands up, for every point available. If we go down we have to start building for our return now, not in August

I expect the owner to tell us what is going to do officially with the club as this is also affecting the current situation and I expect the CEO, who I applauded for his honesty, to tell us what the 5 year plan is and for David Moyes to start looking at which players will be around next season and to start playing them now. It’s time for a spring clean out not a summer sale and if Moyes is our manager he needs to fill us with optimism not fear and dread.

Give us back our club and give us something to be proud of!
KTF and FTM
The Munich Mackem

Dear ALS

I have been reading the recent letters published in your great fanzine and find myself agreeing with everything that is being said.

But the main reason for my email is how not on frustrated I am but how sad I am about football has become and Sunderland being a part of that.

Myself, my wife and my son went down to London to visit my daughter in uni on our SAFC weekend courtesy of the FA Cup and our poor performance at Burnley.

On the Saturday my son and I went to watch Crawley v Morecambe and stood with the Morecambe fans swelling the away end to 49 people.

Morecambe won but that was not the best part. The best part was the Goalie making time before the second half to have his photo taken with a young fan. A Dad and his son telling me that there is not much money at the club so the fans chipped in and paid a £1000 fine a young player had received for some misdemeanour. The whole team worked damn hard. I guess knowing that this will be as good as it gets but they clearly were together and were over the moon at the end and made them 47 other fans feel like it was well worth it.

So, following week me and my lad make our way to Everton to watch a team as far away from a connection with the fans as there ever has been. With a couple of exceptions. Run by a manager who is also alien from the fans, a never seen chairman and CE in Bain who drags players up to Penshaw monument to con the fans in to thinking they care. The end result last Saturday was inevitable and didn't change anything other than a new face (Oviedo) jumping out at me on Monday telling me what they have to do to put it right.

Football is now a joke. Januzai, Borini, all of them should hang their heads in shame for taking a freebie to New York and then coming back to find Bain was making staff redundant to supposedly stream line the club and not making any protests.

Some of the football this season as in previous seasons has been a disgrace played by over paid, average, could not care less young men with big egos and bank accounts as far removed from us the fans as it ever has been with a equally egotistical manager in Moyes who for his last Premier League foree has done as much if not more damage than five out of the last six egotistical managers.

No reporter dare ask Moyes what the fans would ask so these pre-game press conferences are a waste of time. The players are never open for criticism as they are controlled by agents and a club that is presently Sunderland in name only.

I long for this football bubble to burst and for clubs to start going bust at the top. To stop that embarrassing wages being paid to under achieving so called stars. For Sky and BT to say we aren't making any money out of this by.

Will it happen, possibly but not for years. Will only happen when the super big clubs pull away and play each other in some super elite word league.

I am sick of people telling me to keep the faith. I always have been and always will be Sunderland it is just that a part of it has died.

Which football match did I enjoy the most. Everton, where a number of players didn't care or Crawley where all the players did care. Undoubtedly Crawley.

With Moyes in charge we are definitely going down.

Dave McKeever
Doncaster

Dear ALS,

When Mr Moyes arrived, he promised to build on the good work Sam had done, he then set about dismantling that team.

He refused to buy M’vila he then sold Kaboul for a pittance. If Kaboul had felt valued he would have stayed, but no, the arrogant Moyes instead bought two rookies from Man U who were on their way to the Championship.

Man United will be laughing all the way to their piggy bank. He should give the money back to our club out of his own pocket. He refused to keep Yedlin, who now plays up the road. Did he think he knew better than Sam? Of course, he did! Arrogance and misjudgment. Why, oh why is he still here.

Get rid of him and get someone who knows the job. The list of his mistakes is endless. Don't blame Short, Moyes has wasted millions

The Galloway Family

Dear ALS

Going to the match at the SoL this season has been like visiting a terminally ill relative. Now and again they rally a little and show some spirit (Hull City, Crystal Palace, Leicester City) but then they relapse again into the terminal decline which started in August. I am afraid the diagnosis is bad, we're going down with a bump. No miracles, no sacking of managers to get someone in who knows what they are doing and who gives a shit, no saviours coming off the injury table. We're done.

I totally empathise with Graham Maddison when he says that the Second Division will be tough. I just hope that there is a relegation clause in Moyes contract and we can dump him, along with a goodly number of the long list of players who have let us down this year.

What is it about us? Managers with real calibre and a fantastic track record (Martin O'Neil, Steve Bruce, Big Dick) come to Sunderland and fail. Ex-players with massive reputations (Keane, Poyet, Di Canio) off the back of incredibly successful careers come to Sunderland and fail. How can comparative minnows like Stoke City (who came up at the same time as us), Watford, Bournemouth, Burnley and the Boro make a better fist of it than us in this division? We spend more on transfers than many, we pay more wages than most of the clubs out of the top 7 or 8, we have better facilities than many, we have a more loyal support than most. What is it about us?

Having the season we've had where disastrous capitulations have been many (Stoke City, Southampton, Arsenal etc.) can anyone see where any points are going to come from between now and the end? I don't want to be a ne'er-do-well, I try to keep the faith but howay man they have made it hard for us this year. Additionally, I have heard some talk (like in previous relegation embattle seasons) that life will not be so bad in the Championship. At least we will win more games they say. But remember lads, that is the second division i.e. the second best, down a notch, not elite. This is a division in which Colback, Dummet, Shelvey don't look that bad when everyone knows that they will be murdered if and when they achieve top flight status.

But I'll still turn up. I'll still sing "Wise Men Say" with a lump in my throat before kick-off and I'll keep on praying that that jolt of blue lightening is going to come crashing down and change it all again.

Alan Fenwick

Dear ALS

What I cannot understand is the apparent apathy there is to the demise of Sunderland AFC.

My suspicion is that we are waiting for our annual miracle. That point where we somehow manage to scrape together enough points to get out of trouble. The point where all the previous pain evaporates and we head into next season with optimism. The point where being a Sunderland supporter is fun again.

Well, I don't believe we are going to have another 'miracle'. I genuinely believe that this time we are going down, and it annoys the hell out of me that we are disappearing without so much as whimper.

We have an owner who has pumped millions into the club, but who has been badly advised in a world he clearly doesn't understand, and now wants out. A manager who took a job, he had turned down several times, because nothing else was available and who seems to have lost whatever drive, creativity, and ability he may have previously had.

Neither appear to even particularly like the club

We are heading into a Championship where there are some serious clubs that have been struggling to get back to the Premier League: Leeds Utd, Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday, Blackburn Rovers etc. The idea that we should go down so that we can sort out our 'problems' is fraught with danger. Particularly if we are there with the current owner and manager.

To a large extent, I blame local sports journalists for the apathy. Their unwillingness to even question the current regime is shameful. Weekly (weakly) they quote Moyes' excuses without appearing to even question his terrible record.

I believe that there should be a much noisier and more open debate about what is happening at our club, and that needs to start now.

Graeme Maddison

Dear ALS

I am sitting here in the south east of England listening to Spurs and Arsenal supporters wallowing on Europe. My heart and soul is with the boys of Sunderland. I was born and bred in Framwellgate Moor.

I went from the Sally every other Saturday with loyal boys for 15 years in the 70's and early 80's before I travelled to cockney land. I have followed our team through good times and bad. This is without doubt the worst team I have ever seen.

But please do give up! The owner of the club must be forgiven. In the last ten years we have bought players that have never given us any return for our outlay. Do not sing get your check book out! Or spend money! We have spent millions on tossers!

The only player who we made a cash return on after purchase is Mr. Bent. There is no other player we have bought and made a profit on!  Look at the books. We got a return from his transfer

Tell me please, have any of the shit managers we have employed bought players we have sold on for a profit.

Please keep the faith. We are doomed but let us keep our heads held high! Till I die

Smites
Aka Colin Stephenson

Dear ALS

One word to describe Sunderland's performance against Everton: terrible. Another would be effortless, many Mackems were irritated by Adnan Januzaj's lackluster and lazy performance. Borini doid little more. Januzaj created a chance for Defoe only for the front man to clatter the bar.

On 79 minutes Moyes subbed off Darron Gibson, the only one that actually looked decent, unfortunately his colleagues didn't have the same desire. If it wasn't for John O'Shea it could've been a lot worse in the first half. Retuning goalie Jordan Pickford made a few first half howlers but was let off. The most notable when he spilled what should've been a routine save and just managed to gather the loose ball. However, the Washington born shotstopper had no chance when Idrissa Gueye released a thunderbolt from just inside the area into the top corner to make it 1-0 to the home side.

The second half saw a little fight from the Black Cats but missed opportunities and an unwillingness to shoot saw Sunderland struggle and make a poor looking Everton side look world class. Seb Larsson failed to beat the first man on around half of his set pieces and the other half beat everyone. Adnan Januzaj slipped in Jermain Defoe who clattered the bar as I mentioned before, but if the former England international had slipped in Seb Larsson then it could've been a different story. In the aftermath of this Adnan Januzaj bottled a challenge out wide and consequently Romelu Lukaku was set loose and ran clean through his shot took a deflection off former Toffee Oviedo and looped over a helpless Pickford. After that nothing much really happened.

Another away day to forget for the 3250 travelling Sunderland fans.

Player Ratings:
Pickford: 4
Made early mistakes but made up for it later on. Could do nothing for the goals.

Jones: 5 (Subbed off '90)
He was beaten a lot but was a good out ball option. Always challenged for the ball.

Kone: 4
Defended averagely. Made sure the ball was clear but should've picked up someone for the 1st goal.

O'Shea: 6
Defended brilliantly, his experience kept us in it first half. Probably the best SAFC player on the field.

Oviedo: 4
Their second went down as an own goal but he had to get something on it. Good going forward but if he'd kept his crosses low then something could've come of them.

Gibson: 6 (Subbed off '79)
Passed brilliantly, only one that showed quality in midfield. Another one of the better SAFC players.

Ndong: 2
Struggled to pass forward and constantly gave the ball away. He's looking like his old self. Wanted too much time on the ball.

Larsson: 3
Ran and did absolutely nothing else.

Januzaj: 2
Bloody useless! Lazy! Played in Defoe who was unlucky. Wanted the ball to come to him. Spent more time on the ground.

Defoe: 3
Didn't really have a touch. Unlucky when he hit the bar.

Borini: 2 (Subbed off '79)
Did nothing. Looked very poor and lacked quality.

Substitutes:
Khazri: 2 (Subbed on '79)
Barely touched the ball.

Honeyman: 2 (Subbed on '79)
Felt sorry for the young lad. Barely touched the ball but constantly chased it.

Manquillo: 2 (Subbed on '90)
Only played injury time, but was better than Januzaj and frustrated less people than the Belgian. Realistically had no time to do anything.

Ethan Thoburn

Dear ALS

On Monday, SAFC held an open training day at the Stadium of Light with around 7000 Mackems turning up to watch the lads train. It started off with the usual laps of the pitch, then a few pace drills and eventually some shooting and set piece practice. Firstly, goalie Jordan Pickford is back in training and looks sharp so him featuring against Everton looks likely.

Also Jan Kirchhoff trained and looked good. Unfortunately, the same couldn't have been said about Tunisian Wahbi Khazri who looked terrible, unfit and lazy. He basically showed why he shouldn't start; shooting was appalling and his efforts in the match at the end were woefully below standard. Overall a positive performance from Fabio Borini and Lynden Gooch but improvements need to be made on Khazri and Januzaj's efforts. In the final game the green bibs won 2-0 with Borini scoring from the spot and a Jason Denayer diving header although the green's goalkeeper Pickford made a good stop to deny Defoe. In goalkeeper training Mannone looked dodgy and Mika not much worse than the Italian. Let's just thank God that Washington born Pickford is near 100% fit.

After the session the lads met with young fans pitch side and signed autographs. However, outside the main entrance some players alienated the fans. Most signed autographs and chatted to fans but players such as: Ndong, Gibson, Denayer, Larsson, Djilobodji and Mika ignored fans, especially Larsson who cheaply used his kids as an excuse not to sign fan's signatures.

On this day I spoke to BBC Newcastle's SAFC commentator Nick Barnes on our recent performances and he agreed that a lot of players don't put effort in and how the players should have time for the fans e.g… signing autographs, considering the money we spend travelling to watch a sometimes effortless performance.

Ethan Thoburn

Dear ALS

So quite rightly, Jermain Defoe has been recognised by the North East Football Writers. The campaign needs to start now to push the little fella for the big awards: Players Player of the Year, National Football Writers Player of the Year, heck, why not Sports Personality of the Year!

That last one is a long shot obviously, but I genuinely feel there is a rational argument for the others. Defoe presently sits 4/5th in the Premier League goal scorers list, joint with Harry Kane. Above him are Lukaku, Zlatan, Costa and Sanchez. Combined cost of those four, arguably justifiably, adds up to gazillions. Jermain cost us peanuts in comparison, is as fit as a flea even at his age, and looks after himself to make sure it stays that way. The strongest rationale though, is of course the fact that he plays in a poor team, with little in the way of service, whilst the opposite is true of the other strikers in the Goal scorers list. It pains me to make that argument, but it's a fact. He punches so far above his weight given our league position.

Defoe fronts up, doesn't shirk interviews or comment, and has nerves of steel: evidence of that being the Liverpool penalties. I haven't even mentioned Bradley Lowery. If ever any of us long suffering Sunderland supporters needed reminding what is truly important, it's seeing that little lad smiling his way through adversity. Jermain would seem to be helping with that.

And of course, in the manner of Niall Quinn, he 'gets it'. He understands what it means to be a Sunderland icon, which is why we should be pushing him for the big awards. He's one of us.

Best wishes, get the campaign rolling ALS, Sue Holden Taunton, Somerset

Dear ALS

The performance against Crystal Palace was a joy and signified light at the end of a very long tunnel.

This turned out to be the light on a Southampton train which ran over and demolished a feeble and once again spiritless inept bunch, (with few exceptions).

Terry Reilly
Burgess Hill Sussex

Dear ALS

A trip to New York You have to be joking.

After the most inept performance I have witnessed in a generation, to send the players on a jolly to New York is yet another bizarre decision by the people who run this club. It is a reward for failure and will do nothing to help the fight against relegation.

John Robson

Dear ALS

I was chosen to be a Sunderland fan over 50 years ago, on the day I was born. Red and white runs through me.

During that time I have had many heroes. All of the 73 winners. Monty, Bobby Kerr, Billy Hughes, Porterfield et al. Rowell, Bennet, Gurney, Shack, Quinn, Superkev, Ball, Reid on and on and on.

Latterly I have despaired of the modern footballer, what with the excess of money and the paucity of loyalty and values that we as supporters used to respect from our lads. We lavish huge amounts of our income, time and emotion in the name of our club and rarely see any kind of understanding from the bodies lucky enough to be draped in our legendary stripes.

Today that has changed for me.

I care passionately about the success of this football club. Success does not simply need to be measured by trophies, cups, or merely surviving in the all conquering Premier League. Singlehandedly Mr Defoe has ensured that our football club has succeeded this year. Our club is about community. About love, devotion, and supporting each other.

The photograph in the press today with Mr Defoe with Bradley shows he gets it. That is a show of compassion and love that little Bradley will always remember.

Thank you Mr Defoe and welcome to a family of thousands that will revere you forever.

Regards
Mark Whittaker

Dear ALS

I went to West Brom last weekend but had to sit with home fans as I now live in Oxfordshire and can't get a ticket from Sunderland because of the fantastic support we deliver away from home.

I have supported Sunderland for over 60 years since I was seven. On a positive note, the Baggies fans around me were saying that they would like to see us remain in the Premier League as we have such great fans!

Some years ago I used to take my young grandson to see Swindon play simply because they are our local team. I was regularly impressed by the enthusiasm, work rate and skills of Matt Ritchie to the extent that I wrote to Martin O'Neil suggesting that he was worthy of consideration for Sunderland. I didn't receive a reply or even an acknowledgement but, hey, I am only a fan whose watched hundreds of games so what do I know!

It broke my heart when he scored such a great goal for Bournemouth against Sunderland, now plays for Scotland and, just to rub salt into the wound, signed for that lot up the road!

Brian McCutcheon

Dear ALS

I started this letter four times, and then deleted it and edited as I genuinely could not express the desolation I feel watching my club disintegrate before me.

Short has to go. He has done his best, and I am not going to slaughter him as he invested, just not wisely, he recruited, just poorly. So for that, I can’t feel any hatred like some fans at other clubs like Hull, Blackpool (the list goes on) towards him, just an honest request he move on, and thanks for the years he tried to govern us to better things.

The squad is a mish mash of journey men, never has, and a few has beens. This is a sad indictment of the fact all we have ever seem to achieve is just enough to stay in the Premiership. There are exceptions, well I can only think of one or two. PVA has stood out more because of the dross around him, and of course Defoe! He has been a legend and fit to be compared with Phillips and Quinn. I salute him and he is always going to be one of us, but other than that we have been like a person at the sales buying clothes that do not fit, or are out of fashion, but affordable. Look at our squad of players, and if you were to wear them on a night out you would never be allowed in any nightclub in town!

On the other hand, the promise for the future is clear, the likes of Watmore (still a long way to go), Pickford (class and I would never sell him no matter what), Gooch (so much promise) and several other prospects are all from our own development and internal structure. When will SAFC management recognise that as probably the most unfashionable club in the Premier, we will never attract the class needed to deliver what we the fans (and we are the ones that count, not those half bake pundits who seem to judge all and sundry) expect and deserve.

If I had a business plan for SAFC, it would be simple. Produce a team like the one that won the European cup in the 60s, wrong side of Glasgow for me, but Celtic’s team of winners, who all came from within the city, should be pour blueprint. I am not xenophobic, but until we try and develop what’s on our doorstep instead of buying mercenary players with no passion or commitment we will always be like a bloke waiting at the bus stop in flares, a stripy jumper and a top hat!

KTF and FTM!
The Munich Mackem

Dear ALS

It is great to see ALS stocking the book on Fred Spiksley that has been co-authored by Sunderland fan Mark Metcalf.

I have just finished reading Flying Over an Olive Grove and it really brought to life a character of whom I have to say I had never heard.

It was all the more enjoyable to learn that this footballer was considered at the time amongst those that saw him play to be one of the finest players in England if not the World.

He backed this up with achievements such as his two hat tricks for England. Yet because of the bygone era (late 19th and early 20th century) he was doomed to a poorly paid life of a club footballer. 

The social and historical context of the book also illuminates a life and career, which taken out of that context could be likened to a modern footballer’s problems (gambling and women).

There are many amusing passages regarding the players of the time. We also learn about how the post-industrial revolution was changing the world of work and how Fred with his apprenticeship and football avoided the worst of the drudgery. 

 In the wider world of football we see the forming of the football associations and Sheffield Wednesday moving to their state of the art new stadium which would become Hillsborough. Fred's life after he gave up playing was just as colourful, coaching across Europe and escaping from a POW camp. For a historical look at football and a footballer’s life and times you could not wish for a better read

Nick Burnikell
London based Sunderland fan

Dear ALS

Yes, we want to be in the top league.

But I’m wondering, would it be so much worse for a while to go to Barnsley hoping to win rather than West Brom knowing we'll lose, or coming away from Rotherham having won instead of Swansea having lost?

Barry Conlin
Nottingham

Dear ALS

I sense now a certain inevitability about our relegation from the Premier League.

We started the season with a squad relatively low in quality which was very quickly compounded by some appalling misfortune in respect of injuries.

It is true that our net investment in the squad over the summer ranked tenth overall but we need to keep in mind that a net expenditure of twenty some millions does not buy a lot of player these days. Sadly, our poor recruitment of recent seasons has finally caught up with us and FFP leaves us very little scope for a January rescue act.

On the brighter side the injuries to established players and the thinness of the squad has created opportunities for some of the younger players to break through. Setting aside Jordan Pickford, who is destined for greater things sooner rather than later, that means that we will very likely be opening our Championship campaign with Watmore, Gooch, Honeyman, McNair, Love and at least one Robson wearing and earning their stripes. I think that is not at all a bad prospect and maybe it will prove to be a solid foundation for our team in the future.

Ideally, I would prefer to see the next four or five months spent on preparing for life in the Championship, rather than more desperate signatures on short term contracts for the “unattached”. That will only serve to waste the opportunity to blood more youngsters and it is extremely unlikely to impact on the inevitable.

Like many in the East Stand I am beginning to think that life in the Championship will not be as bad a prospect as watching our club fail in the top flight season after season. True we will not see such high-quality players in the visiting dressing room but we can hope, at least, that our squad will be able to genuinely compete and will treat us to some winning football for a change.

Kenmintcake

Dear ALS

The team started the season with 25 squad members, and before today’s match have eight injured. Is there something wrong with Moyes's training staff and training methods? When Moyes was at Manchester Utd the story was similar. Should the club management start looking at the quality of the backroom staff and their competence to train?

As it stands the original 25 are now includes 9 injured (Rodwell today), 3 in ACN matches and Papa going to be banned for the punch in the match against WBA. Last year I saw the U23s play and saw a lot of hope for SAFC. With the likes of Pickford, Gooch and Honeyman, who played like it meant something to wear the red and white stripes. Perhaps Moyes should start the next game with more of the youth side rather than players like Djilobodi, Januzaj, Denayer and Mannone!

Aelfrid

Deal ALS

Our beloved club is going to end up in ruins and Short's governance of the club has been disastrous from the start, if the man had any dignity whatsoever he'd leave now and sell the club for the same price he paid for it.

Short and his cronies have no idea how to run a football club and have made so many incompetent decisions and wasted endless amounts of cash on sacking manager after manager, appointed people like Byrne, De Fanti and Congleton who wasted even more money on buying useless washed up players, Defoe being the exception, oh and by the way his stewardship of our beloved club has ripped the heart and soul our proud history and heritage, he has turned us into a basket case.

Now he wants to sell up and recoup all his investment and punish the club for his failures, it seems incomprehensible that this guy could be a successful business man. But people still say he's kept us in the premier league, but when he took over we were mid table and winning a decent proportion of games, now we are expected to be thankful that we survive by the skin of our teeth each season with a threadbare squad of has been players because we've sold all the ones who were any good.

Niall Quinn's legacy has been squandered by a man who knows nothing about football and only understands one thing, money. mind you he's made a right mess of the business side of things too we've made no profit during his tenure and his wreckless actions have got us into eye watering levels of debt. Short has done this all by himself and no one else is to blame and whoever takes over next will have to sort out the unholy mess he has created.

Personally, I can't wait to see the back of him and I'm sure the players and management feel the same because it can't be much fun working for an owner who has no leadership skills whatsoever, no strategy or vision and no clue as to how to improve anything.

We'll try to keep the faith but this is a sad state of affairs for our great club

Jon

Dear ALS

I've read a lot of comments on various websites, including the local press, expressing amazement at our apparent offer of £10m for Robbie Brady when we are supposed to be skint. Well don't believe everything you read or hear. Anyone who thinks Ellis short is just going to let our club sink into the Championship really needs to think again. How much interest do you think there will be in paying top dollar to buy a Championship club next season? Very little believe me. Just ask Mike Cashley.

That cameo appearance by Martin Bain in December, with a supporting role by David Moyes, could well be nominated in this year’s Oscar awards. I'm not suggesting we will splash fifty million in the next two weeks but it's clear that there is a new strategy from the club hierarchy to paint the worst picture possible and lower fan’s expectations whilst holding back the real truth in terms of what we can do in this transfer window.

Or possibly this 'pleading poverty' strategy is simply a way to squeeze the best possible deal out of any potential transfer situation. Or maybe they just intend to sell one of our better players to raise transfer funds to buy other targets and are fearful of a fans backlash as we saw in the summer with the Kone saga. Personally, I don't have a problem with any of these strategies if it gets us the best deal possible for the maximum number of transfer targets to improve our squad.

Anyone who disbelieves my analysis only needs to look back to the summer transfer window when a £7m bid for Vincent's Iborra fell through at the last minute and the next day we agreed to pay double that for Didier Ndong. I firmly believe that for the right player at the right price Ellis will provide the cash somehow. He's a billionaire because he invested the right amount of money at the right time in the right deals. Just because he's lost money in our club overall doesn't mean he doesn't see the sense in investing in an individual transfer deal with a good potential return, whether that's another season for us in the premier league or a profit when we sell that player on.

Just like last year the next two weeks will likely make or break us this season. I hope we get it right again as I for one don't want to risk trying to 'bounce back' from the Championship next year. Any NUFC fan would tell you from the heart that they'd rather be where we are right now than where they are, a league apart. Who cares about beating Burton Albion when you could be drawing with Liverpool.

I wish David Moyes and Martin Bains the best of luck in this window and hope they surprise us all as I think they intend to. I'm looking forward to getting January over and done to with and having a stronger and hopefully refreshed squad to follows from Feb 2017 onwards.

David Pout

Dear ALS

I wasn’t at the Burnley Cup replay like Eve Sayers (her feature on the ALS website). I have however been to all the recent home games and whilst I agree wholeheartedly with Ms Sayers criticism of Januzaj (whose body language, attitude and energy levels remind me of Harry Enfield’s teenager Kevin – I think the word ‘indolent’ is an eminently suitable epithet for him), I don’t agree that Borini should be lumped into the same category. It’s true Fabio had a poor game against Stoke but so did virtually all of the others so he shouldn’t be singled out for that. Borini’s effort is still there to see (unlike the wastrel Januzaj). He (Borini) is also being played out of position. I bet he’d give anything to be allowed to play just in behind or alongside Defoe and I suspect he’d make a better fist of it than the Belgian.

Just my humble opinion (and we know what ALL opinions are like – an orifice at the lower reaches of the alimentary canal and everyone’s got one….).

Sooty the Harrogate Black Cat   

Dear ALS

Imagine this…
A man is hired as a manager to turn around a company. He's told there must be improved productivity, costs reduced and infrastructure maintained.

He's then also told there will be no extra funding, no increase in staff numbers and if those he has get sick there will be no casual workers to replace them.

When the company start to produce shoddy products the customers complain vociferously and some even refuse to buy any of the goods anymore. The staff get depressed and perform worse than before.

Does the new manager deserve sacking or should he be given time to turn the company around with the workers he's got and maybe a bit of help from others he can borrow? Or even possibly a small increase in funding.

Now imagine a different company that has usually been one of the best producers in its field. They hire a new manager to improve production even more.

The manager is given unlimited funds to hire the best workers and the customers love the fact he's in place.

The manager doesn't improve the productivity even after buying what some would consider the best workers in the world, in fact the productivity is much worse than the previous year.

But the customers still love the manager and the PR people still want to tell the world he's the best. Does the new manager deserve sacking?

I know which I'd sack first.

Paul

Dear ALS

Sunderland AFC. will battle fiercely and lose narrowly against the big guns. Against lesser teams the fight disappears and the fear of losing is apparent.

To lose narrowly against the big boys and surrender to the minnows is a certain route to relegation, the performances against those around us has been pitiful.

Jermaine Defoe and one or two others have put up fight, the rest have been inconsistent, unreliable, and in some cases downright useless.

Terry Reilly
Burgess Hill West Sussex

Dear ALS

Magical Mystery Tour Again?

Yesterday we embarked on the 44th attempt to repeat our famous FA cup victory of 1973. The performance of both teams was insipid to say the least.

We survived to try again at Turf Moor mainly because of an inspired display dis play by Vito Manone. Rodwell had a decent first half and Jason Denayer repeatedly made up for errors elsewhere in the defence.

If and it is a big if, we can beat Stoke next week and follow up with victory at Burnley we can maybe kick start a season which only a few weeks ago looked like ending in certain relegation!

Here's hoping the magical mystery tour bus does not get lost.

John Robson

Dear ALS

I have kept the faith for over 55 years and would like to make a plea to Mr Ellis Short regarding the January transfer window.

My Dad first took me to Roker Park to watch the Lads in the 1961-62 season. As a new young supporter I was enthralled by the brilliant goalkeeping performances of a youthful local lad, Jimmy Montgomery, and by the classy goal scoring instincts of an imported centre forward, Brian Clough. I was hooked for life!

Fast forward to the 2016-17 season, when despite finding the club in very difficult circumstances, I am once again encouraged to keep the faith because of the performances of an excellent young local goalkeeper and a brilliant imported centre forward. For the sake of all long suffering older fans like myself, and for the future benefit of our younger fans, the club must retain the services of inspirational players like Jordan Pickford and Jermain Defoe. If David Moyes is really the manager that Mr Short has always wanted for SAFC, then please Mr Short, give him the backing that he requires by ensuring that not only do we keep our two best players, but we also give them the support that they richly deserve by making additions to our severely weakened first team squad.

Still keeping the faith.
Ron Graham
South Shields/King’s Lynn


all manner of random stuff