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Dear ALS

Before this season's campaign began some of your writers announced that we would be a 'big scalp' in the Championship. I beg to differ. I think other clubs see a glorious opportunity of three easy points when facing us. Our reputation is now so damaged by a constant succession of feeble performances, catastrophic handling of certain players resulting in many not wishing to play for the club, general mis-management, poor dealings in the transfer market, lack of ambition from the steering committee, lack of motivation amongst many players and a palpable sense of an all-consuming lack of belief running through the whole stinking place.

We are a joke and have zero respect anywhere. Nobody fears us, what's to fear? Fortress SOL? Best fans? How come the Mags still got 50.000 + when they were in the Championship?  

I'm sick to death of hearing and reading shite from players "the mood is good amongst the squad", "we need to be a bit more consistent", "we played well for the first 20 minutes, but, but, but" … on and on this drivel goes. We are a nothing club, devoid of spirit, direction, focus, ambition and professionalism. We have no solid structure as a club, no backbone and nothing to be proud of anymore.

Blunderland

Dear ALS

I am 55 years of age, have followed ‘The Lads’ since the age of 4 and have continued to do so for the last 30 plus years whilst living in exile in S.W. Bedfordshire. Although I can’t get to as many games as I’d like I did manage to make it back home last Saturday to watch us play The Mighty Hoops from West London (QPR that is!) Here is my perception of our current crop of players and club based on what I witnessed during that traumatic afternoon (I delayed the writing of this communication to yourselves in an attempt to let my anger subside before I did so) –

Jason Steele (GK) good shot stopper but doesn’t command his area and has poor distribution;
Adam Matthews (RB) lacking in confidence but more importantly lacking in ability;
John O’Shea (CB) doesn’t owe us anything but nearer the end than the beginning;
Billy Jones (CB) can’t fault his integrity but capable of making basic errors from his favoured full back position let alone at CB:
Brian Oviedo (LB) neat, tidy and a good attacking outlet;
George Honeyman (RM) perhaps one for the future but needs to become physically stronger;
Lee Cattermole (CM) a shadow of the player I’ve come to admire, are his recent injuries taking their inevitable toll;
Aiden McGeady (LM) very tricky player but lacks the pace to exploit the gaps he creates, still our stand out player;
Duncan Watmore (Striker) can only hope that he can (when fit) live up to the hype of press/supporters &
James Vaughan (Striker) loads of perspiration but very little inspiration.

Substitutions –
Lewis Grabban (Striker) I’ve never before seen a target man who won’t jump to compete for high headed balls;
Johnny Williams (CM) neat, tidy and gave the team (& myself) a lift when he came on &
Callum McManaman (LW) was only given 10 mins but looked canny.

Ellis Short (Chairman) his lack of interest makes him even less popular with our supporters than Mr Sports Direct is with their supporters up the road;
Martin Bain (Chief Exec.) player recruitment record, don’t make me laugh &
Simon Grayson (Manager) could do with a change of luck on the injury front but struggling to make an impact.

When we went on that run at the end of the 2015-2016 season and beat Everton under Big Sam to secure our Premiership survival I was buoyed with optimism. I can’t comprehend how far we’ve fallen both on & off the field in such a short space of time. I really am struggling to come up with any positives unless someone out there who has seen our team on a more regular basis can offer me some?

Nev. Johnson
Leighton Buzzard

Dear ALS

It’s clear that almost everybody who writes for A Love Supreme, or people like us who e-mail our thoughts, are very worried about the future of the club.

I’m not particularly taking issue with Tom Lynn who looks for Simon Grayson to be axed, soon. But, if sacking managers was the road to success, we’d now be a very powerful Premiership club. As it is, we look very much as though we’re in free fall from the Premiership to Division One - relegated before we’ve had time to blink.

But would sacking Grayson help? Since 2002, 15 years ago, we’ve sacked 15 managers and for much of that time we’ve struggled. Admittedly, of those 15 managers’ tenures, there have been three periods when caretakers have managed the club: Kevin Ball, twice and Eric Black, once. Black spent most of his managerial career as a caretaker and Kevin Ball is still with us. Otherwise, most managers have lasted around a season, give or take a bit. So, I think if sacking managers was the solution, we’d have found it by now.

If Simon Grayson follows the usual managerial route out of the club, who is available to replace him? My thoughts are that the problems lie largely, not necessarily wholly in the boardroom: but there is a problem there. If, in our dreams, we could get a rejuvenated Alex Ferguson in as manager, what chance would he have if the board and players remained as they now are? What if we could bring in a manager with a good track record such as Wenger? Given the same board and players, he’d probably do as well as most of our managers since Roy Keane left. The essence of very successful clubs such as the two Manchesters, Chelsea, Spurs, Liverpool and Arsenal is that they have money to burn. They get a, perhaps, unfair advantage because of this and can afford top quality players and managers. But these stable, wealthy, well-managed, dominant clubs only take up the top six places in the league table. There are plenty of others who have found a decent and creditable niche in the Premiership in recent seasons such as Southampton, Watford, Burnley, West Bromwich, Everton, Leicester City to name just a few. On their day these clubs can, and sometimes do, put the wind up the top teams. So far as I know, all of these clubs as well as others unmentioned are all well managed and are not serial sackers of managers after a season or so at the club.

All of this suggests to me, that much that is wrong lies with the board: what is Martin Bain’s role in all of this? How inspiring is he? What good is Ellis Short? At least Simon Grayson, like David Moyes, can point to a list of decent players who are injured. Some, like Duncan Watmore, have been injured for most of last season and all of this one so far. The recent signings have been well hyped, but have yet to really impress. It was wrong to sell Mannone and sign two goalkeepers who are not as good as him. Whose decision was that?

So, sack the manager, by all means. Then what? Are there any newly sacked managers of standing out there?

If there are, how many would want to come to the SoL? My guess, though not an educated one I hasten to add, is that nobody would want to come. They’d prefer to keep their P45s in their bureaus. Having managed at Sunderland featuring on one’s CV probably means the CV would be headed straight for the waste paper basket. Sunderland is a managerial risk these days. We’re down on our uppers and nobody at the club seems to know what the next move is. Another relegation then follow Leyton Orient into oblivion? Does anybody fancy putting £25 on us to beat PNE this week-end? I certainly don’t. The last time we played Yeovil, we lost. Who’s up for a trip to Forest Green? Alas and alas, fixtures like these start to beckon.

Hoping against hope: i.e. a miracle,

All the best, Dave from Sheffield

Dear ALS,

The hammering of Sunderland by the Tractor Boys has made me wonder what is the cause of the Wearside disease.

In the past when Middlesbrough ran out of steam one could blame the smoggy atmosphere for reducing lung capacity.

There must be a virus hanging over The Stadium Of Light which sucks management skills from the owner,diplomatic skills from the chief executive and tactical and motivational skills from the manager.

The virus affects the team by sucking out the ability to play football like other teams,the ability to tackle, head a ball and shoot at the opposition’s goal have all but disappeared.

Mr Short needs to employ a top virologist to identify and eradicate the source. The virologist will identify the source as Mr Ellis Short.

Terry Reilly
Burgess Hill Mackem

Dear ALS

During the run up to the end of last season, and probably even before then, I wrote fearing that Sunderland were in free-fall and that one relegation could be followed by yet another into Division One at the end of this season.

The writing is on the wall now, as last night’s capitulation, 5 - 2, to Ipswich Town shows. Ipswich are a decent side, but even so, one only expects such a score against a very weak team.

I have also thought that there is something wrong right at the core of our club. Everything which happens at the SoL just seems so uninspired and uninspiring. No wonder decent, ambitious players want to get away and time servers want to stay. There are a few decent, reliable players: Catts, for one and McGeady looks as though he will be useful, but how long will he want to stay with a losing team, or want to play in League One? Jermaine Defoe, whose loyalty to the club was beyond question and who, during his stay, scored the majority of the team’s goals as well as earning a call-up to the England squad left mainly because he was getting little or no support on the pitch and playing for us was so uninspiring. Who can blame him for wanting away and who can replace him?

I’m sure that the club’s inner, boardroom circle must be eyeing Simon Grayson as the next managerial sacrificial victim. But it should be evident that of all of the managers dismissed over the last seven or eight seasons, only Moyes was really a poor manager. Allardyce looked as though he might work a bit of magic and, once again, save us from the drop, but he left: glad to get out, I’d think. Sacking managers has been a useless tactic.

It’s interesting that whenever Sunderland come up against one of their old players, he usually scores, like Waghorn did for Ipswich. Are we losing decent goalscorers and signing goals-shy strikers?

This season’s absolute priority must be to avoid relegation. If we come fourth from the bottom of the league at the end of the season, it will look like success. If we go down again, Sunderland will be like an old banger and Short will actually have to pay a new owner to take it away.

I suppose we can hope that we end up still in the Championship this season, but the logic of the situation says we won’t.

Best wishes,
Dave from Sheffield

Dear ALS

Good times for a change
See, the shite we've had
Can make a good fan
turn bad

So please, please, please
Let me, let me, let me,
Let me get what I want
This time

Haven't had a win in a long time
See, the shite we've had
Can make a good fan bad

So, for once in my Sunderland-supporting life,
Let me get what I want.
Lord knows it would be the first time.
Lord knows it would be the first time.

Deb, Seaham

Dear ALS

This is the first season since the early 90's where I have not purchased a season ticket, do I miss the match experience well the answer has to be no. Having been born into a family who followed the club I naturally carried this custom on, but really becoming a passionate fan from the early 80's attending all home games (paying at the door as very few people purchased season tickets then) and often traveling to away matches a few of the most memorable games I remember are the Liverpool away win little Stan Cummings scoring to retain our top flight status, Man City last day relegation Peter Reid was their manager at the time, Chelsea Milk cup semi-final nasty atmosphere in and outside that ground and the ski slope at Wigan one of the many away wins which helped regain our place back into the second tier of football having previously fallen into the 3rd division via the new play offs. So why did I stop this season after all those years of continuous devotion well I think it was coming for a while.

It's like eating top quality food prepared by a top chef having been used to normal fare served by the local cafe. Following Sunderland until the late 90's was a case in type of hoping for a cup run and trying to get into the top flight, that was our only aim no more and Sunderland would deliver just enough a cup run but no cup a stint in the top flight a scrap then the inevitable relegation, Then, out of the blue a chairman with the club at heart and a new manager who had previously dealt us a terrible blow began to drag the club forward. We moved into this new state of the art stadium and the turn of the new millennium saw us in the top flight not expecting a relegation fight but with a squad full of internationals we expected a lot better. Finishing seventh two seasons running yet we should have finished higher and captured a European slot, I honestly thought relegation was now a thing of the past, no more would we be listening for results around the country at the end of a season to seal our fate. Unfortunately, somehow they managed to muck it all up, just when fans were actually waking up on a Saturday morning praising the above that Sunderland were playing at home, it came to a crashing end. Those 2-3 years were mine and I would imagine most Sunderland fans of my generations most fervent times, we won nothing but it was a great spectacle of attacking exciting football.

Humdrum lower league football again took over with the odd cup run again no cup, until Quinn and Keane rode in, once again a chairman with the club at heart and a passionate if inexperienced new manager. Keane's media appeal straight talking and drive managed to attract some decent players and again we reached the promised land. This was the last time in my eyes the club was run like it should be run a chairman and a manager, Short’s arrival ended Keane's tenure and he brought in CEO's to over lord future proceedings. Although we remained in the top flight for roughly 10 years the longest continual stint I have witnessed it was not pleasant viewing, not a season passed without some heart in the mouth end of season moments which contained usually dull flat defensive football.

It struck home on Sunday watching Spurs beat West Ham with an exciting young team, my mind went back to a holiday in Turkey 2008 and watching Sunderland play spurs away winning 1-0, Yet here I was almost 10 years later watching a Spurs team who over the same period of time never fought a relegation battle but has progressed to become a top 6 club. In my mind Spurs and Sunderland are of similar size and stature, but unfortunately that is where the similarities end as our club has not been run to their standard and our fans who remain faithful continue to pay the price of poor acquisitions on and off the field. Unfortunately, my patience has finally ran out as I feel bitter and betrayed by the club I once adored and followed religiously, will the faith return not sure.

Thanks
Colin

Dear ALS

A while ago I wrote suggesting that the rotten core at the heart of our club was to do with the board, its members and the leadership of the club. I still maintain that this is still the case, but what about at player level?

It is always a manager that carries the can, it’s the easy choice, and in one case it’s still amazing to think he was even given the job…. but let’s not forget that we have had some decent managers at this club during Shorts reign who before coming here were more than capable and produced good results.

On a recent, and excellent, fan podcast it was stated by a highly respectable, articulate and knowledgeable ex player, that the club is generally considered by the players as being like a holiday camp…. that it’s an easy ride, a place with low expectations and where it would appear that doing the minimum is enough. I look at the comings and goings of players over the last years since the decline in performance really became notable and there are 2 or 3 players, who I would suggest are senior, and also highly influential in the squad…who are still here and look like a common denominator during that period. What is their role in this decline. Why are they not driving a change or is this one of the core reasons we have failed so badly over the last years… we have a rotten core in the Board, but what about in the dressing room….?

It is clear that we are going to struggle big time this season, and that if we are lucky we may survive the drop….  still think we do have the quality to avoid this but the more I look at where we are, the more the players need to take responsibility and not allow the manager, owner and whoever else to be the sole recipients of our wrath.

KTF & FTM
The Munich Mackem

Dear ALS

In the summer, we learned that talks with a German consortium on a proposed purchase of the club had broken down. I smiled when Ellis Short via Martin Bain explained that the deal had not been right “for the club” since they were unconvinced that the Germans had sufficient investment capital available to mount a successful promotion campaign.

As we know Ellis Short made and makes his money from the purchase and sale of distressed assets although generally this involves buying the assets distressed, polishing them up and then selling them as assets with future potential. In the case of Sunderland this appears to have gone much awry i.e. he purchased an asset which was troubled and has over the years turned it into an asset which might now genuinely be described as distressed.

I would suggest that the real reason the negotiation fell through was that Short asked for legacy payments consequent on the club being promoted back to the Premier league. Taken with the parachute payments and transfer price that would have seen him roughly break even. However, it did depend on the Germans having sufficient capital not only to buy out his interest but also the funds necessary for investment to mount a serious promotion challenge.

As things stand now he is pursuing a classic exit strategy i.e. cashing out the club’s assets, retaining the parachute payments and squeezing capital expenditures to the minimum necessary for survival. Broadly speaking he should be able to sell the club next summer for a sum equal to the future parachute payments only and walk away without losing much or indeed any of his investment.

I imagine that Simon Grayson’s brief is to simply retain our status as a championship club and I am reasonably confident he can achieve that. There are at least 6 clubs in the division who are worse than us and I believe that after the squad finally beds down then we should start to climb the table.

Grayson’s team yesterday, after numbers of enforced changes, comprised 5 defenders, 2 defensive midfielders and a three-man attack of Gooch, Honeyman and Vaughan. Not a exactly a trio to strike fear in the hearts of the visiting defence.

In the event I thought that we could not fault the effort of any of the team. To a man they worked and ran the whole afternoon but we simply lacked any real cutting edge up front.

However, if we fast forward a couple of weeks to the day when Simon Grayson has McManaman, Watmore and McCready all fit and available then we should present a very different prospect.

Finally, could I encourage my neighbours in the East Stand to be patient and either support the lads or to just sit quietly. I know that these performances are frustrating but in a lifetime of watching sport I have never seen a Sunderland team or any other sportsmen improve their performance as a result of boos, jeers and insults.

Kenmintcake

An open letter to Mr Short and the board

Dear Sirs

You should by now realise that you, the board, and the manager are not welcome at this once great club, if you have any dignity you should pack your bags.

The ineptitude shown not just on the pitch, but at the highest level in the club is staggering. The decisions made over the decade you've been in charge have left Sunderland on the brink of total oblivion. You had a chance to walk away with your pockets stuffed with 100+ million before the season started, but no, you want more, after relegation this season, you'd be lucky to get the 25 million quid you paid for it.

You have underestimated what you thought you could do with the club, now by tightening your wallet further to protect your interest has backfired. Everyone bemoans what happens on the pitch but those results ultimately fall at your door. The cancer people talk about that runs through every corridor at the stadium needs to be removed, that starts with you, Bain and Grayson. As long as you’re in charge, the club is doomed.

Andy Forrester

Dear ALS

The dead hand of Ellis Short is the common denominator for everything that is wrong at The Stadium of Light. A bright new experienced manager is appointed and suddenly becomes useless, new players are signed, according to Martin Bain of the right caliber, and then become injured or fail to perform. Players are wheeled out on a regular basis and feed us the crap that training is going brilliantly, tell us they are working their socks off and the next game will be different.

The heart and spine of the club has been ripped out by Ellis Short and nothing will change until Sunderland AFC is run by someone who cares. Anyone watching a game either at the ground or on TV is confronted by a myriad of wishy washy pinkish seats which sums up the pathetic state of the club. If basic housekeeping is ignored and everything is done on the cheap we can expect the same on the pitch.

At the moment Sunderland AFC is the Ryanair of The Championship. Ellis Short must go as soon as possible.

Terry Reilly
Burgess Hill Mackem

Dear ALS

Wished I knew where to begin. I really don't know.

When I was a young 20-year-old lad I can recall walking away from Roker devastated that we had been relegated to Div 3 by Gillingham. I got the train home to Nottingham where I lived with a fellow Sunderland fan and we just sat there, never really spoke. Just got drunk. No mobiles or internet in them days just your own thoughts.

Role on 3 months and I was back again at Brentford and we won our first game back thanks to Keith Bertschin.

This feeling though is different. I was off today. Had tickets to go but still did not bother. I felt guilty for not going. Felt it my duty to be there. But something has clicked inside me.

I didn't rush driving up to Sunderland after watching my lad train. Didn't drive back feeling deflated knowing that there is nothing I can do to change things. I can't force some Sunderland players to try. I can't talk to Grayson and ask him why his substitutions have been poor, why he keeps playing Rodwell, why his tactics are at best poor. I can't ask Martin Bain why he is running the club in to the ground. I can't speak to our elusive Chairman as to why he feels that 1.5 million is enough to get us promoted or stable enough for him to get his money back and fuck off.

I have no influence over anything at our club. Nothing at all. As fans we mean nothing to an American businessman and his Scottish henchmen Bain to the clubs latest hap hazard manager to most of my clubs team.

So why should I bother. I am not 20 anymore running on the pitch at York, singing in the streets of Blackpool drunk after an away win or celebrating the title with the biggest crowd the north east had seen in a 3 1 victory over Northampton Town I am now 50, with a wiser head on my shoulders.

At some point I may change my mind. But presently I am not going to the SOL until the shit has gone out of my club.
No matter how hard that will be.

Dave McKeever
Doncaster

Dear ALS

I just want to say 'thank you' to those players on the pitch this afternoon or should I say the people at BT sport will want to say thank you. I have been a season ticket holder since SOL opened.

I have watched the good and the disappointing. Before last season I had renewed before England had kicked a ball. At the start of the year I was made redundant and took early retirement but still found the hope and money to renew. Over the past five years every time I renewed my wife commented that she thought that I had said that I wasn't going to but the promise of the end of the previous season gave me hope only to be dashed by the team’s performance. After the game this afternoon, on the way home, I went to the pub and watched the first half of LCFC vs LFC and saw two teams put in effort, enterprise and commitment the likes of which I have not seen from us for some years. I know they are prem but I am not talking skill here just effort. I don't know how they do it but the back room mafia at Sunderland seem to be able to remove it all from our players, our young players, our new players, even any loan players and indeed our managers even our owner. So again I say thank you because unless I see an improvement on the pitch before renewal time next years money will go to BT sport or SKY.

I could go on and on about managers or the owner (if anybody knows somebody with £250 million to burn please put them in contact with Ellis) but at the end of the day it's down to the players on the pitch.

Peter Sanderson

Dear ALS

Many fans are rightly getting agitated about events at SAFC. They are writing down questions they would like to see Ellis Short answer. He can, of course, do so if he was brave enough to attend a properly organised open public meeting. Failing that I, for one, am happy to go along with a tape recorder, put the questions to him and then release the recording.

No democratic oversight after fans forced to sell shares
 
I’d like to make the following observations. The first is that no one really knows exactly how much money Mr Short has put in — or lost as the narrative goes — to SAFC. This is because, of course, supporters who held shares in the club were forced to sell them to the American at the time when he bought the club meaning that he has avoided any democratic oversight of his shambolic leadership of the club I have supported for half a century.
 
It should be pointed out that Mr Short himself has never issued any statement on his financial affairs at SAFC. As such I don’t know what actual price he paid for the club although I have been told that it was under £25 million. If such a figure is correct then if he does manage to sell the club at say a hundred million then that would represent a significant return on his investment. I may, of course, be wrong and Mr Short can end any rumours by opening the club accounts to public examination. I think he should do so.
 
Further, I think that no realistic assessment of Mr Short’s financial affairs at SAFC can be made unless we know if ownership of the club has opened business doors for him that might otherwise have remained closed. We know that Tom Cowie’s bus empire grew considerably during his period in charge at SAFC. Has Mr Short picked up contracts for his other businesses because of his ownership at SAFC? I, for one, don't think Ellis Short bought Sunderland because he fell in love with the place as he has rarely visited the City in his last ten years or so.
 
I also think that Mr Short needs to be asked whether he believes he is — in anyway — responsible for the current dire situation at SAFC or is it all the fault of the people from who he relied for advice?

Answers needed
 
Then there are some other questions that Mr Short should answer, such as why did the club appoint a fascist as its manager in 2013? Why did Margaret Byrne get a payoff? Is it the case that Sean Dyche was just ten minutes away from becoming Sunderland manager in the summer of 2015?

I’d also like ask Mr Short, especially now when the club is saying plenty about our history, why it is that when supporters contribute to that history by writing books about great Sunderland sides of the past the club shop refuses to stock them? In addition, why has the club failed to investigate the information released by Paul Days which, in my opinion, proves that the club was formed not in 1879 but on Saturday 25 September 1880?
 
I don’t expect Mr Short to respond to these or any other points made by the fans. He has never said anything of substance on SAFC during his time at the club, he has never appeared to answer questions in an open forum and he has been happy to see the programme reveal nothing that might consist of self analysis or any explanation for past mistakes.
 
So, taking all these things together I want Short out. Anyone who doesn't cannot seriously moan about what has happened and the extremely bleak future that now awaits SAFC and its declining fan base.

A Supporters’ Trust needed
 
At the same time, I do not want Short to be simply replaced by another single owner of the club I follow. Single ownership is always about self interest and it is only when the owners interests coincide with those of the supporters that it is tolerable. Increasingly we have seen at Sunderland and many other clubs that this is not always the case. To this end the sooner SAFC fans get together to set up a Supporters’ Trust the better.

Mark Metcalf

Dear ALS

Why protest? Well, I've been going since the 70s, seen us go down to the 3rd division, in the 3rd division, 15 points, 19 points, going up and down like a fiddler's elbow and I've stuck it out. There was always an excuse I could make, a reason I could find. We were in Roker park and so couldn't compete; we had a chairmen who was a fan but didn't have the funds to compete; etc, etc, etc.

But now what is the excuse for SAFC being utter shite? There isn't one, pure and simple. This owner/chairman has overseen a period in the richest league in the world, a period wherein the club has been given hundreds of millions of pounds of tv and sponsorship money, a period that has seen clubs like Stoke, WBA, Leicester, Burnley move forward in leaps and bounds. Movement we should have made and have failed to do so because of a series of appalling decisions made by Short: appointments of managers not up to the job; appointing chief execs not up to the job; sanctioning the signing of average players for ludicrous amounts of money; singing up to debt with banks on massive rates of interest because of those appalling decisions. I do not thank him for the money he has pumped in, the fact that he has had to do so is testament to the standard of his 'leadership'.

And what is Short's response to these issues created by him? Asset stripping the club to the point of extinction, making people redundant, allowing us to fall further and further into ignominy while expecting 40000 people to just continue to pay good money and turn up to watch a declining standard of football.

That is what people are protesting against. Yes, he wants to sell. Yes, we want him to sell. But until such time as he does I will protest against his continued destruction of the club I have supported for 40 years and his complete failure to treat it with the respect it, and we, deserve. It is not his club, it is ours and he is surely destroying it; whether it is deliberate or incompetent is irrelevant. How can people not want to protest?

Iain Foster

Dear ALS,

Living removed from the current problems in SR5 maybe seen as a blessing to some, but I must admit it just seems to be leaving me more frustrated as an isolated fan trying to fathom just how far the club have fallen.

It’s disappointing to see that lines similar to the "rotten core" have started to appear within manager dialogue, and that the self proclaimed "transparency" of Messrs Short and Bain has no longer come to fruition - if it ever existed in the first place.

I feel that the club is at a major junction in it’s modern history - the one thing that makes me proud of our football club is the sheer passion and belief of our fans. I love the fact that we often prefer a crunching tackle to a goal - it shows that we care about enthusiasm and hard work, rather than just results. We look to give players a chance if they are willing to replicate our levels of love for the club. Its what makes our fans incredibly unique.

Modern football doesn’t seem to tie in with what our fans love, and it’s disappointing to see more and more, that what we loved about football is less and less part of the footballing world as a whole. The culture of football players even within the last 20 years has vastly changed - there aren’t many players in the mould of a Kevin Ball or an Alex Rae left. The managers who hired and believed in players such as these - like Peter Reid - are now seen as dinosaurs of the game with little to contribute to the "modern game". We see players who don’t give the same passion, and sadly don’t have the technique to replace it. 

We are being left with substandard players, because Ellis Short feels he can’t afford to invest in the more reliable names (not necessarily the biggest names) and we are being beaten to players by clubs who have less history, a less passionate fanbase but have the money to lure players who have agents that behave more like vultures.

The most disheartening thing about the last 5/6 years is the sheer number of losses and rank amateur performances both in the Premier League and now towards the bottom end of the Championship. Its mismanagement from the top that has caused this - the owner being surrounded by people he shouldn’t. I don’t believe Mr Short is a bad person, but I do feel he would agree that bad choices have been made during his tenure which has led to our demise - and he doesn’t realise that he is continuing to make mistakes with who he trusts in the current regime.

If he is truly aware of the plight we are in, I would actively ask him to consider bids from as many potential buyers as possible, and realise that for the good of a community, a region, and a passionate fanbase, we need change to get the club back on the rails.

Gary Jerry

Dear ALS

Begone negativity! I have the formula for success.

1. Sell all existing SAFC players - financial problems largely solved.
2. Invite South Shields F.C. to play at the SOL, provided they wear our strips and call themselves Sunderland.
3. Get the workers at Nissan to work for a month without pay as long as Nissan are prepared to buy the club. Supporters could have a whip round to compensate them.
4. Offer Big Sam anything he wants to return. Spreading palms at his feet when entering the SOL? Archbishopship of Durham? Free stotty cake for life?

What do you think?

L.S. of London (the new medication is working!)

Dear ALS Readers,

I previously wrote about the systemic issues at the top of Sunderland Football Club being the cause of all of our woes and I suggested that Simon Grayson was not the calibre of manager that we should be appointing. I still believe that our issues are rooted with the senior management and advisors of the club but blame also needs to be attributed to Mr Grayson. Not bringing in a target man striker or someone who knows where the back of the net is, was a big mistake and Mr Grayson appeared to say that he “was not worried that the club had not seen the arrival of a proven Championship striker during the transfer window”. If the press were to be believed we chased Ross McCormick most of the summer to be frustrated by an apparent unwillingness to pay a greater percentage of his wages.

We have seen this too many times with the constant, almost pathetic courting of Fabio Borini and prior to that we lost Gyan after the UK window had been closed. How could the club allow the latter to happen? Bent and Defoe aside we have lacked decent strikers since the days of Phillips and Quinn and the issue persists from one manager to another, aside from the aforementioned players. The fat Spanish waiter got it right by buying Dwight Gayle whose pace got the Mags goals and he even brought in one of our boys Daryl Murphy to supplement the forwards when injury occurred.

Who would SAFC turn to in the absence of Grabban or Vaughan? Watmore is still injured and Maja is untried. A dire state of affairs when it is simply a case that goals win games.

I read a quote Neil Warnock (Marmite Man – someone I dislike for a quote he made when we were relegated to the old 3rd division “Sunderland are a club with a lack of ambition”. That season we proved this man wrong by romping the league with Gates and Gabbiadini scoring at will. Not signing a decent striker again, demonstrates this lack of ambition. Other than that, he has largely been proven right and he is the type of man who should be in charge of our club. He like Allardyce gets the best out of his players as he drills them hard, so they all know their task, they know that they have to give 100% and get stuck in. Look at Palace last season when Big Sam took over, terrible for the first 5 or 6 games (incidentally that it when we played and hammered them), only for Mr Allardyce to turn it around in the same way he did with Sunderland.

The first few games of the season had me almost eating my words and the fast counter attacking football at Norwich game was sublime. No possession, hit them fast on the break and some of the goals had real quality about them. I honestly thought that I was probably wrong in my harsh assessment of the situation.

Unfortunately, from what I have read, heard and seen since, this is not the case, as Simon Grayson does not appear to have a set structure of play and the players again seen devoid of confidence when the opposition score.

Four successive defeats is a worrying sign and Palace did not hang around but I would suggest that Mr Grayson should be given 12 league games in total to get things sorted with his signings and failing that get shot of the bloke, which we should have done with Gollum last season, as we appear to be heading in one direction and that is not something that I would want to revisit.

Perhaps Ellis Short & Bain should go cap in hand to Big Sam, offer the man a decent amount as he appears to be money driven and give him another chance to finish what he started, resurrect a fantastic football club with marvellous support that is now in a such a perilous situation.

I live in hope.

The Geordie Angler (Red and White through and through) – Exiled in Somerset

 

Dear ALS

Let me tell you a story, a story full of initial promise and hope but rather quickly it turns to complete and utter darkness - all thanks to the mystery man.

Player one signs for Sunderland. An exciting player from what people have seen at his previous clubs and he looks great on Youtube. "I can't wait to get started!" Player One exclaims as he talks to the local media. Sunderland fans rejoice and are excited about their new signing but there is a problem and a problem that always occurs at this time. Nobody knows exactly how it happens but it does...

The mystery man appears to Player One shortly after signing... "At this club lad, you don't need to put in effort, you don't need to play well, you will still get paid at the end of the day. When you've had enough you can pack your bags and leave on loan, sound good?" Deliberating this for a while, Player One accepts mystery man's offer. Player One disappoints massively for Sunderland and this big money signing is loaned to Greece within 8 months...

Player Two also signs for Sunderland. He's a solid enough player, nothing too exciting on paper but a player expected to help develop the team. Mystery Man approaches Player Two, just like he did with Player One. Player Two laughs off Mystery Man's offer. "No thanks, I want to play football and earn my wages!" He shouts. "Very well then", says Mystery Man, "but you've walked straight into this I'm afraid". Mystery Man is capable of applying curses and so applies 'The Shite Curse". A curse, which makes Player Two so bad, it's actually a mystery this man made it as a professional footballer.

That my friends is exactly the story of Sunderland in the transfer market and what happens when players sign - just who is this horror man I call the Mystery Man or does he exist at all? Is the club so rotten to the core that the rotten culture makes an immediate impact on any signing we bring in.

Who knows but I'm bloody sick of it.

Roy, the only Sunderland fan in Cheltenham

Dear ALS,

Simon Grayson says our players have a confidence issue playing in front of their own fans. That's a cop out statement - what about the Barnsley result!? Also, I've never met a shy and retiring footballer! 

It's Grayson's job to define a game plan and the player's job to execute it - period. If the players are too busy listening to what the crowd are shouting and getting 'upset' over what they're saying then they're not focused on their job. It's all about the execution of a game plan - so either Grayson's tactics are the problem or the players aren't good enough to deliver it or both.

I get tired and insulted hearing the same lame excuses from managers and players alike such as 'confidence', 'on his wrong foot', 'not match fit', 'needs a rest after international duty'. It's simply a sign that they don't have the answers. I was underwhelmed with Grayson's appointment and his rhetoric gives me no reason to change my mind. 

Our manager is just one part of an organization that needs a major overhaul, but change needs to start somewhere and unfortunately, I see nothing in Grayson's appointment that will stimulate that change.

Phil in Leeds

Dear ALS

Davy H (Bishop Auckland) is spot on. Yesterday’s ‘performance’ (a misnomer if ever there was one) must be laid entirely at Grayson’s door because:-

  1. His tactics were all wrong. Playing 3 at the back has never really worked for us and it clearly didn’t yesterday. Proof was their second goal when their sub Brooks (who looked like he had just reached puberty but who gave us the complete run around in the brief time he was on) played in a simple ball behind 3 static defenders.
  2. He persists in playing Galloway and who, with yesterday’s formation appeared to be playing wide left midfield. Whilst Rodwell didn’t have a great game (who did?) it was unfair to single him out for booing as it was his first full game for a little while. Whilst this doesn’t exonerate Rodwell, Galloway has even less grounds for any excuse yet Grayson persists with him for a full 90 minutes. There must be better players at the club who can play in Galloway’s position (if there isn’t we really are Donald Ducked).
  3. Grayson’s ‘habit’ of subbing Vaughan. Whilst he’s hardly setting the world alight, Vaughan is a better target man than Grabban yet the latter stays on the pitch and we try to hoof hopeless balls forward to him. The result? He’s nowhere to be seen.

At any point yesterday we could have switched to a flat back four – i.e. changed tactics. We had the players to do it. However just like against Leeds, Grayson proved he hasn’t got what it takes to change things on the pitch either in terms of tactics or motivation.

We ARE looking like relegation fodder but in the bloody Championship. Dark days lie ahead unless there is an immediate improvement. It’s only September but this season is already looking worse than the last one. We needed momentum. I have serious concerns that we’re getting some – it’s called ‘terminal decline’.

Sooty the Harrogate Black Cat                 

Dear ALS

Well after that performance against a very average team, we are relegation candidates for certain.

I hate to be negative but we have no quality up front and as much nice football we play, there is no end product in the final third.

Sorry, I know a number of you have written in saying give the manager a chance, but he is clearly out of his depth, used to managing teams with a gate of about eight thousand! If he carries on as he is, we will be down to them crowds.

If we are to be thought of as a big club, we should have gone for a big name and taken a chance on Ryan Giggs, it could not be any worse than what I have seen today, Simon Grayson does not inspire me and I think most of the players think the same.

Yes, we have some rotten apples, but as a manager he should deal with them, but we have seen no evidence of this, rather than just praise them saying they can be good for us until the window reopens in January, let them rot in the reserves.

Thank god, I have to work away on Tuesday night.
Davy H (Bishop Auckland)

Dear ALS

Due to holiday / family commitments today was the first Saturday of the season that I could sit down to follow the match.

Only now do I realise how far we have fallen – worry is that we may be falling even further.

I’ve long given up on watching Match of The Day, fed up of seeing that smug crisp peddler and Mary Poppins picking over the bones of our latest embarrassment. I thought no worries I’ll be able to watch Channel 5’s offering this season and whilst not expecting a title charge I was hoping for some competitive action… still waiting.

Anyway, onto the club website to listen to the commentary – amazed to find no longer free, but due to EFL rules a charge of £40 per season. Not sure how this works as I’ve got a BBC licence fee and have therefore already paid for it. Typical of football nowadays, charging for anything.

Good luck to them – There is no way I’ll be paying £40 to listen to Benno pull his hair out at the latest defensive incompetence. God, I wish he was 30 years younger, what I’d give for us to have a centre back who cared for the club, led from the back, scored goals and had some fight in him, literally Mr Speedie.

Despite this setback tuned into the always wonderful Jeff Stelling, it might have been the lack of action at the SOL, but we hardly got a mention. Afraid to say it but following Sunderland in exile for the foreseeable future may be a bit of a struggle, fortunately I’ve already got my ticket for the Cardiff game – Yay, I hope Fitzgerald’s have got plenty of Maxim in as I think I’ll need it.

Keep the faith.
Michael Anderson

Dear ALS

Seems the new slogan of the club's marketing department is almost correct…

But should be Our future is rooted...

Bob Todd
Eleebana
NSW
Australia

Dear ALS

I know it's early days. I know the transfer window just shut. I know we don't have any money. But if Grayson thinks this is the Sunderland way then he better leave right now.

Since Keane left we've had fancy manager after fancy manager. Football philosophy after football philosophy. All have hidden behind 'the Sunderland voodoo', 'the Sunderland curse', to hide their abject failure? The truth is that only Big Sam got it right because, like Reidy, he understood that first and foremost we fans demand 100% commitment from every player. We demand that they fight for the shirt before they do anything else. That's why we applaud heavy tackles more than a bit of trickery. That's why we turn up and pay our money. Every manager that has failed at our club failed because they didn't understand that single principle. It was their fault and their fault alone.

Reidy used to say 'win your individual battles', 'fight for every ball', 'stop crosses coming in at all costs'? I don't see any of that. None of it. Either Grayson needs to learn this fast or he can leave now to the SAFC graveyard along with Poyet, Di Canio, O'Neill, Bruce, Moyes and the rest. If he thinks we are a small club that just got promoted from the league below then he better think again. If he doesn't have a style of football that suits our first priority, effort, then he better think again. If we are too big a club for him then he better go now we as are Sunderland AFC, the biggest club by far in this division. And every player pulling on our shirt and running onto our pitch better feel that in his blood and in his bones or else he doesn't deserve to be here. Grayson's job, first and foremost, is to make them feel that. Right now he's either not doing that or they don't believe in him. He better damn well change that fast or he'll be ran out of our city.

I don't expect promotion. I don't expect play offs. I don't even expect quality football. But I DEMAND effort. Every game I don't care! You play in my team’s shirt, you take my clubs money, you better damn well put your body on the line every tackle or you'll feel my wrath and that of thousands of others. And if you can't handle that pressure then go play somewhere else.

Shame on you, shame on all of you. From the manager to the coach to the subs, to the physio. The lot of you better show more fight than that…

David Pout

PS I always felt bad when we booed individual players in the past but I feel no mercy for Rodwell. The guy is a fraud. If he had any decency left in him he should volunteer the 40% cut in wages that his agent cleverly avoided. Until then he deserves every boo he gets and unlike with previous players I don't care how it looks to outsiders. He should be ashamed... ashamed!

Dear ALS

Recently I have spoken at great length to supporters of teams without the multi- million pound, dollar and a myriad of other currencies including the currency used by Qatar.

Apart from the top six or seven clubs which buy players from all over the world, pay them in hundreds of thousands of pounds per week what chance do the rest have.

The likes of Bournemouth, Burnley, Crystal Palace, Brighton and a host of others will be scrambling for the safety of mid table come the end of the season.

The supporters of these clubs look on as Chelsea, Man. City, Man. United, Liverpool, Arsenal and now Everton hoover up players at phenomenal cost from all over the world to thrash the minnows.

The supporters of the non megabucks teams have a wretched season hoping to pick up a point here and there. Meanwhile the supporters of Man. City (plus the rest of the world) and the other megabucks teams contemplate suicide and/or sacking the manager if losing two games in a row.

Unless a salary cap is introduced the minnows will always be grateful to finish sixteenth or seventeenth.

The time has come for common sense to prevail and create a level playing field. Let the megabucks teams ply their trade in a super league offshore, let us see normal teams, Aston Villa, Preston, Burnley, Boro. and a host of other proper teams including Newcastle and Sunderland play honest football and give proper football supporters the opportunity to watch the match on a Saturday afternoon without the result being bought in advance via petro-dollars or currencies previously mentioned.

I do not want Sunderland to gain promotion for obvious reasons, nor do I want Sunderland to be bought by a multi-billionaire and emulate the “we must win every game brigade”.

In short (no pun intended) the game of football has lost its way and I would like to see one or more of the megabucks teams implode. Failing that I would like to see “Sky” go bust. Only then will football regain its integrity.

Terry Reilly
Sussex Mackem

Dear ALS

Back in the realms of ancient history, following Sunderland’s first ever relegation in the 60s, it took Alan Brown six years to build a team good enough to get back into the top flight. And he had Jimmy Montgomery, Charlie Hurley, Johnny Crossan, and George Mulhall in his team – and Brian Clough before that terrible Boxing Day accident.

It took the Messiah – Bob Stokoe - three years to get the cup-winning side promoted; they lasted one season upstairs - and what a miserable season it was.

It took Peter Reid -the best SAFC manager of the last sixty years – four years to get them up and keep them there.

Roy Keane got us promotion in one season, and how we struggled after that.

That’s the key – staying there once you’ve got there. A season in the top division when the ‘r’ word is not mentioned once. How long has it been since that happened at SOL?

I reckon SG is the right man for the job. But it will take time. The crowd will need to be patient. There will be some very bad results, but, hopefully, we’ll survive this season without too much trouble.

If we finish in the top half of the table, he will have done well. With any luck, by the start of next season there will be some cash to spend and the young players will have gained vital experience. We should be sniffing around the playoff area by the end of 2018-2019.

Promotion might be a reasonable target in 2019-2020.

Go up before then, and we’ll come straight back down. It’s happened so many times before.

Michael Kennedy

Dear ALS

That was an appalling display by our players at Barnsley. Whenever we take what seems like one small step forward we forget the basics of the game, struggle to be creative going forward and roll over and die when we go behind. You just sense that the club is going backwards and that we are in long term decline.

We need much more cohesion and far more resilience as a collective unit just to survive this division. A few wins could help change the mood but they won't come without us grinding them out like Barnsley did and right now I'm not sure we have that hunger or backbone.

Could be a very bleak season for us if we are not careful.
All the best
Pete

Dear ALS

I said a few weeks back that Sunderland might have yet another relegation struggle on their hands.

After a 3 - 0 win at Norwich I began to hope I was being unnecessarily gloomy. We’ve done nothing much since and losing 3 - 0 to a nothing team like Barnsley makes me think that my worries about another relegation dogfight is on the cards. I also said that buying in bargain basement players seldom delivered bargains. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but already, hope is seeping away.

All the best and still hoping against the odds,

David Bacon

Dear ALS

The defeat by Leeds United was a much needed reality check, the last thing SAFC need at this time is a quick return to the shark infested, money grabbing Premier League.

The time to welcome promotion would be when we have a well drilled defensive outfit with a strike force which can score goals against Man. City, Man. United, Chelsea and the other megabucks teams.

Let the Sunderland fans enjoy some wins, draws and losses. Until such times as we have the financial muscle to buy a team which would survive in the money led so called “best league in the world” forget promotion and enjoy football as it used to be, play a game not knowing who is going to win and enjoying the ninety minutes.

The Premier League in its present form is in no way fit for purpose and the supporters of the “minnows” are punished week in week out by an unfair system which allows money to buy points, Sunderland are fortunate to be out of the obscenity which calls itself The Premier League.

Terry Reilly
Sussex Mackem

Dear ALS

Since the season began Lamine Kone has been linked with a move away from the SOL.

But seeing his performances in our opening two games is the sale of the Ivorian really what the club needs at this moment in time?

Lamine Kone cost £3.5m, which looked a bargain at the time. He did well under Big Sam, but poorly under Moyes.

But in the Championship, he has done really well, so far.

What we need to avoid is letting him leave without giving ourselves time to find a replacement. On the other hand, Paddy McNair is still to come back from injury and we also have Pappy Djlibodji, although the latter was poorer than Kone last year.

Whatever ever happens Lamine's finest moment in Sunderland shirt was against Manchester City when taking out Yaya Toure right on the half way line that had the crowd cheering like a goal had gone in.

Jacob Kirkbride

Dear ALS

I have attempted to understand the rules on Financial Fair Play and failed miserably. My version of FPP would be very simple and easily understood.

Each league would have a limit on their first team squad, with the Premier League having in the region of twenty four. Each player would be entitled to a maximum annual salary in the region of £3m which by any standards is a life of luxury. All Premier League clubs would have a wage bill of £72m and that would create a level playing field.

The same rules could be adopted by The Championship, leagues one and two with adjustments where necessary. The figures I have used are ball park figures and used for illustration only.

I am certain that the great majority of fans would approve and if adopted would stop the billionaire backed clubs from buying success and ensure other clubs would be in the running to become league champions and cup winners.

Terry Reilly
Southern Mackem

Dear ALS

It's fair to say that we have started this season better than most of the pundits and fans expected. Well, most Sunderland fans would say it's been a dream start after finally putting our terrible August record to bed after beating Norwich City.

But the icing on the cake was to see them up the road get beat as well whilst our celebrations were taking place, so thank you very much Mr Shelvey or Lord Voldemort.

It’s great to see two up front and Lewis Grabban has been excellent so far scoring three times and James Vaughan has worked so hard and I’m sure goals will follow for him. An experienced technical player like Aiden McGeady is what we lacked in his position last season. McGeady's arrival also marks the return of decent set pieces in key games which Seb Larsson just used to hit into no man's land in his final few months at the club.

Aiden's wonder strike at Norwich showed that the quality he possesses. It’s also great to see George Honeyman getting his first proper run in the side. His composure and calmness on the ball are a joy to watch and it was rewarded with a super goal down at Bury in the cup.

However, we have learned that there is uncertainty about our defensive structure, with Lamine Kone still been tagged as a transfer listed player as he's only one of a few players in the side that we could get decent amount of money for. On the positive side of our defence is the arrivals of Brendan Galloway and Tyias Browning has certainly helped us out with what we lacked. With them being young lads, their fitness levels brings a lot to the side which will help stop more counter attacks as the season goes on however we have to remember it is the championship and the opposition is weaker but they are still at a learning stage of their careers. In between the sticks, the belief that Simon Grayson gives to Jason Steele may be the answer to turn around his bad form he had like in the Celtic game. Ruiter may have looked more quality in what we saw in pre-season but since the real battles have begun Steele hasn’t put a foot wrong so far which is always a good sign but then again, we are only two league games in and there are still knocks backs on the horizon. But most importantly we have learned that Darren Gibson's drunken rant seems to have had an effect on the side to ignore the rubbish of Celtic and just go out and play with a smile. The perfect example of this was in the Derby game where despite going one down the lads still put in a good battle to dig out a result which if something like that happened last season the team would just crumble to pieces especially been at home. Grayson or should I say the proud Yorkshire man has got all the out of form players from last season showing off their footballing talents. The main pick out from this is Didier N'Dong who's midfield qualities have been superb so far as he aims to rectify the high price tag on his shoulders.

Jacob Kirkbride

Dear ALS

It’s time the fans realised a big transfer budget does not buy a successful side. Rather than spend big money on mercenaries I would rather Simon Grayson unearth keen young rough diamonds from the academy and anywhere they can be found and polish them.

We have had enough expensive players who were on Wearside only for the money. Kyle Walker has proclaimed that he moved to Man. City only for Pep Guardiola to improve him as a player and not for the money. In other words, his previous manager Mauriccio Pochettino is crap and had no input into Walker becoming an England player.

Let’s have more of the like of Kevin Ball, Mark Noble, Steve Sidwell and others of that ilk who give one hundred per cent regardless of money. Paying over the top has proved a disaster for Sunderland and I for one am happy with the route taken by Mr Grayson.

Terry Reilly

Dear ALS

After talks with the chief executive Simon Grayson stated that we had a transfer budget that was not the biggest and not the smallest in the Championship.

If anyone has a budget less than £2 million I'd be very surprised, as he now states that we have to sell before we can buy. We have taken close to £40 million from sales, we have got rid of some dead wood to free wages. Does Ellis Short not want us to have a go at getting back to the Prem. The club would be a more attractive prospective purchase back in the Premier League.

George Davis

Dear ALS

Hello, I am so sorry to bother you guys but this is my last hope. In 1973, whilst serving in in Her Majesty's Forces in West Germany, I was blessed in receiving a ticket for the Final at Wembley. I drove through the night, through Germany, Holland, Belgium and France! Finally arriving in Dover then onto Wembley. If the match was to be in Timbuktu, I would driven there too! Such was my passion in supporting the Lads.

I can't remember driving back as I'd just witnessed one of the best F.A. Cup Finals in the history of the game, to witness the mighty Leeds Utd team being outplayed and outclassed in every position, was to say the least, my 'Roy of the Rovers' moment.

I later heard later, through the 'Football Pink' that a photographer was hired to take picture of supporters holding the F.A. Cup at Roker Park, the chance of a lifetime, of which I took my two sons, (now middle aged Mackems) to have their photographs duly taken with the Cup. Unfortunately, whilst moving overseas, worldwide with Her Majesty's Forces this photo got damaged beyond repair.

One of my sons is celebrating his 50th Birthday on the 26 August this year and his 25th wedding Anniversary and I would like to somehow capture that moment of him and his brother holding the cup and present to him at a Family Re-union.

Now some 44 years later I am desperately in need of information of who or which photography firm was tasked to take photos of supporters holding the F.A. Cup at Roker Park. I have contacted Sunderland A.F.C. and the supporter's historical Group for information, but unfortunately to no avail. Therefore, I come to you, 'A Love Supreme' to ask if you can help in any way possible to make and Old Man (with red and white stripes), running through his veins for over 60 years, can you help in any way possible.

Yours (Keep the Faith)
Ha'Way The Lads!
Mr. Harry Lund

harrykath@sky.com

Dear ALS

Gibson’s outburst is not good news since it more than suggests a lack of unity among the players. Even if he’s right in what he says, he should have held his tongue. It’s up to the management to deal with the scivers: not for some self-appointed judge to go public with his verdict. But his tantrum does suggest that there are still players on the books whose priority is to draw their pay for as little effort that they can get away with. It’s a pity to start the season with them still on board.

The fact that Gibson was drunk when he made his scene suggests a lack of commitment, too. Alcohol might have loosened his tongue, but it’s not likely to help him to achieve his best fitness. Perhaps Grayson is right not to follow it up, Gibson has made a fool of himself and perhaps that’s punishment enough. But he needs to be put on notice about his attitude.

I’m not optimistic about promotion this season. I’ve never heard of most of the players recently signed. Most of them are coming in for small transfer fees. Players worth as little as we are paying for them are seldom very influential.

I’m afraid you get what you pay for, if you’re lucky and luck hasn’t put in an appearance at the SoL for quite a while.

Bargain basements seldom contain bargains.

All the best and hoping against the odds,
David Bacon

Dear ALS,

My first Sunderland game was during the season when we were relegated to the old division three. I guess they were dark days for the club, but that season I found a place that became a second home to me. I loved Roker Park and defended it fiercely against all the Mags and Boro fans I grew up around. In the years that followed, no matter the ups and downs in my life, it was a place where I forgot everything else for a few hours that I spent with my first love, SAFC.

During the late eighties, as I passed through my teens, I only wanted one thing for our club, to be in top flight with the big boys. I wanted us to be the big club from the past that I had heard all about, not that I had experienced it myself. It genuinely felt a really long way off until Denis Smith brought the G Force together and a bit of luck at Swindon took us up. Wow that was an exciting first season in the top flight for me, despite relegation at the end.

That taste of the big time had me hungry for more. We had to wait a while until a Scouser came along, saved us and then took us up again. Again, we only had a single season to savour and I remember standing in the Roker End watching Niall Quinn play one of his first games in an SAFC shirt and thinking 'what a bloody waste of money he is'. Turned out to be the best player I've ever seen in our shirt (my opinion). Our Eric Cantona who Reidy built a team around. What a player. What a player.

The best years came then as SuperKev took us onto another level and it felt like we'd finally cracked it. I had to pinch myself on more than one occasion and was so bloody proud of us. We had a magnificent new stadium to be proud of too. We had such a great side in those years that the SOL truly was a fortress and so many amazing performances meant that I did feel a connection with the new ground despite missing Roker Park. At that time, when people asked who I supported and I told them Sunderland, they always complemented us when I told them (unless they were a Mag). That hadn't happened before and it felt good.

After four continuous seasons of success I had started to take it a little bit for granted. Unfortunately, so did Bob Murray and it all fell away too quickly. What might have been eh? Relegation hurt more that time than the times before because I didn't expect the success to go away so fast or in such an embarrassing fashion.

When poor Mick McCarthy didn't get the financial support he deserved we had become considered a yo yo club, but when Keane took us up it felt different. Here was a man who demanded pride, and high standards, and success. And even though he had a dark side you knew he was trying to make us into a better club not just a better team. Do you remember why he left? I bet Ellis Short does.

Finally, after all those years of hope we stayed in the top league for ten continuous years. The ten years we spent in the Premier League were exciting at times (especially 6 in a row) but the gloss of the top division finally wore off on me. The stress of years of mistakes and close shaves with relegation frustrated me to the point of becoming blasé about us going down last season. And there were too many reasons to be ashamed of our club not proud. Most of all last season a manager who didn't care. The only silver lining about our relegation was that man having to wear it. Not that he ever seemed to understand it was mostly his fault. No shame.

Maybe it's just me getting older and the novelty wearing off but my dream for our club is different to what it was in the eighties. I don't want to be promoted again only to struggle. I don't care about being a 'big' club in the big division. I want to be proud of my club again, but not for being an also ran in the Premier League. And not even for being a big spender like a Chelsea or a Man City (fat chance anyway).

To be proud of our club again I don't need it to spend a lot of money on new players. I just want it to be honest, transparent, well managed, have high standards, principles beyond football, and to invest and care about developing its young players. I want a manager who builds a team like Reidy did no matter how long it takes. I want to see the next Micky Gray, Jordan Henderson or Jordan Pickford stay at our club and develop into something special. And I want to see the next SuperKev signed from a lower division for peanuts, not an injury prone reserve from a top five Premier League club for £10m. And if we do go up again, I want it to be with a team that can make a difference not just try to hang on in there.

More than anything I want our club to start doing the right thing again and not just the easy thing. To set an example to us all that we can be proud to follow. I don't know if the people in charge right now are capable of this. I really want them to be but they need to improve fast. Our club is not just a business, it's a passion. It's hard to be passionate about all the mistakes our club has made over recent years us but I really hope this season is the start of a new era and not just a continuation of the old one.

Simon Grayson seems like a good man, honest, transparent, principled. So exactly what we need. He has a big chance here and you can see he really wants it. So, he deserves our support even if some of the players still don't and Friday is definitely the start of his era. See you there?

David Pout

Dear ALS

I am utterly bemused at the reaction to Darren Gibson's guest appearance on social media. What he said is simply stating the obvious, so no brownie points there. His personal performances have been atrocious on every occasion he has played, his simple desire to be at the club cannot be enough to gain any positive acknowledgment, or are we really happy to praise someone for something that simple?

Have we fallen that far? His drunken state has also received very little criticism, yet he's supposed to be an athlete training to be the best he can possibly be, no wonder his performances are so awful. In that state he cannot be able constrain at 100% in the following days, which has to have an adverse impact on any potential matchdays performance. If the opposition aren't behaving this way they have an immediate match advantage.

Ultimately supporters get the team and club they deserve, if we are willing to accept this level of behaviour from senior 'professionals' there can never be any improvement and we end where we deserve to be.

Iain Foster

Dear ALS

I was watching videos on YouTube of clubs with amazing atmosphere earlier and it made me so jealous that they have it and we don't. I grew up during the Reidy era, the Magic Johnston and Phillips and Quinn. The "successful years" so to speak were we spent our summers knowing we were going forward not backwards.

The SoL was rocking back then, it was amazing to watch and be part of, but now? Nothing but groans and cries of "oh for f#*#s sake" or "come on you useless t***s". I want to be able to take my kids (if they want to) to the games when they're older and for them to feel how I felt 20 years ago.

How I miss that atmosphere, the banging of the back plates on the stand, the chants, the fun. The hype, the fanfare, the overall high you get on a match day. But now we dread the games coming around, every team in this league will want us as a scalp so let's get behind the team, make sure we get the atmosphere up and get the SoL rocking again! What's the worst that can happen? We get beat? I'm sure we are all use to that by now!

Stuart Cook

Dear ALS

On what was supposed to be a day all about Sunderland AFC and the celebration of the Stadium of Light being the home of the club for twenty years the whole day turned out to be a disaster on and off the pitch for the club. An absolute shambles.

There was never any plan to commemorate the stadium. It was cheap publicity for Dafabet and a day out in the July sunshine for thousands of Glaswegians to sing, party and rub it in our faces. There was trouble in the streets, outside the ground, in the ground. It was an absolute disaster, thankfully I’d left on 75 minutes so I didn’t have to witness further mayhem.

This is not calling Celtic fans, the majority of them were sensational. An example of what football fans should be they created the atmosphere and to be honest I was in awe watching them. They never stopped from the first minute to the last, on their feet, waving flags, swinging scarves and having a right good time. Something we ourselves and English fans in whole should take note of, that is supporting your club. Minus the minority who came to cause trouble.

Back to the ‘anniversary’ there was nothing. No ex players, club legends before the game, no nod to the club’s history at all or the finest moments in the SoL. All we got was a bunch of kids waving flags on the pitch, scenes. I’ve seen footage from the opening of the ground and it looked brilliant, yesterday should’ve been the same confetti, a band, a celebration! I mean after the last year it should’ve been an attempt to raise spirits ahead of the new season. However, all it has done is make me dread Friday and the likely event of an opening day defeat.

For the Sunderland fans who turned up, all seven thousand if that (I’m sure there was more Celtic than Sunderland there) on the pitch it wasn’t great. Players who looked half hearted and made it obvious that they don’t want to be here and then the others who might have tried but let’s face it, they don’t look very good. I’m not one to judge after one game but it has left me greatly concerned for the season ahead and what lies. Also, the fact it was Celtic reserves barring a few players just rubs salt into the wound.

I hope Grayson can turn this club around and find that bit of magic that used to be there but he has got one massive job on his hands. The magic has gone at the moment, I envied the Celtic fans yesterday, I wish our atmosphere could be like that. We all know it can, so let’s find it again and unite as a fan base. Through the good and the bad we support our club but let’s get that special atmosphere back that intimidates travelling clubs. If the board don’t care enough it’s down to us fans to get the club back to where it should be.  Make all the noise we can on Friday, get the place bouncing to show what it means to us and especially for little Bradley. Let’s make him proud.

Lee Willingale

Dear ALS

August 7th 1965. I still had the programme until quite recently! It was Jim Baxter’s first game in a Sunderland shirt and numpty Ian McColl’s first game as Sunderland manager. The opposition? Celtic.

Their supporters came south in their thousands. The crowd was 37,000 and some estimated that more than 25,000 of them were supporting Celtic. They took over Roker Park. Irish tricolors everywhere you looked.

It was a nice, sunny day. Sunderland, playing their first game of the season, were looking for a stroll in the park; Celtic, in an all-green strip, went at it with the intensity of a cup final. Their wingers, Jimmy Johnstone and John Hughes, ran our full-backs, Len Ashurst and Cec Irwin, ragged. And ‘Slim’ Jim Baxter, formerly of Rangers? The booing when the ball went anywhere near him was unnerving.
The score? 0-5. Could have been 0-10.

Jock Stein was asked later why his team played so intensely. After all, it was only a friendly. ‘My teams don’t play friendlies,’ was the gruff reply. Less than two years later that same Celtic team became the first British side to win the European Cup. It’s all about having the right attitude.

Mike K

Dear ALS

Here we go again with the mass degradation of our club and how is has been run. Don't get me wrong, I am not happy with things. I am not happy about the ordinary working people have lost their jobs, I am not happy that we have had to drop our Women’s professional football team, and all because the first team could not remember what they had done at the end of the previous season.

Back to my point. Again, we are seeing people rundown our club, how the team is managed and how the club is run. If it was that easy we would all be doing it. Managers have come and been praised on arrival “This is the manager we need" has been the cry followed by "OUT, OUT, OUT' months later. A cycle widely agreed that the club must stop doing. Calls for the owner to go, if anybody has the £200 million to reimburse him what he has put into the club I would think He would let you have it. Why aren't we spending tens of millions of pounds on players is asked. Where do people think the money would come from, please don't reply we get forty thousand for home games.

That income would not cover one week’s wage bill for a Premier League team, from the owner? how deep can one man’s pockets be? Before people run the club down let's look at some of our fellow supporters, those who watch games from their seat in the pub, those who spend less time in their seat in the ground than watching the game supporting the team and those who walk out as soon as the game isn't going the way they want it to. All I can say is if you are that upset about how the company that is SAFC is being run get the cash together buy the club and you have a go at running it. But I ask you, how long would put up with what is being said if it was being said about you.  Or you can be like me and thousands of others, buy your season/match tickets, attend when you can and make it clear that we love the club and expect that those on the pitch give it the respect we expect from them.

Keeping the faith.
Peter Sanderson

Dear ALS

I have thought, for a long time, that there has been something radically wrong with the way Sunderland has been run and managed as a club. I don’t mean the hands on managers who coach the team, many who have been poor enough, but the remote figures who are little seen and known by supporters and have little practical knowledge of the game. Len Shackleton’s autobiography had a few blank pages summing up what the average football club chairman knew about the game. Tom Lynn’s article fills in a number of gaps in my knowledge with chapter and verse references and names being named.

Margaret Byrne’s tenure was indifferent before it became shameful over the Adam Johnson affair, when any sensible club would have kept him suspended until his trial cleared matters up. She failed here and in some cases, nothing succeeds like failure. For some, as one door closes another opens and now she is said to be a successful, i.e. very wealthy football agent. Football agents tend to be a blight on the game, what sort of person becomes a football agent? Surely not one with any real passion for the game. We don’t know what her pay-off was, but when a working man gets the sack, he’s seldom compensated. Ms Byrne’s severance pay off from Sunderland was reported in the Daily Telegraph to be £750,000. Her present pay packet is around £600,000. As a lawyer, Ms Byrne could have been expected to handle the Johnson case with a bit more finesse.

Then, there was no consultation over the new home strip. When I first saw it, I could hardly believe the such a ridiculous version of the time honoured red and white stripes could be made into something almost clownish.

There was also the business of Moyes staying to the end of the season. I didn’t know what to think for quite a while, but by January this year, it seemed odds on that we would be relegated under the unimaginative and dreary Moyes regime. Anybody, even di Canio, could have done better than Moyes.

If celebrations were to be held, why ask Celtic to provide them? What are Celtic to do with Sunderland? Martin Bain has Scottish connections? So what? Mr Lynn’s suggestion that the likes of Peter Reid, Niall Quinn, Kevin Phillips and other several other distinguished Sunderland stars who illuminated the club over the years would have been an obvious way to do it.

The fact that there is a glaring disconnect between the club and its support has been with us for far too long and is largely to blame for our failure. A football club is, among other things, a commercial venture and successful and well-regarded ventures connect with their customers and, whether it’s a popular concept or not, football supporters are also customers who pay at the gate. The better the connection, the better everybody feels and, whether we like it or not, the better the product and in this case the matches played on Saturday afternoons are products. Products are usually good, indifferent or bad. Games involving Sunderland last season were bad products and nobody at the club seemed to have any idea how to improve matters.

Mr Lynn’s last sentence: "It’s about time our incredible support was shown the respect it deserves on many fronts as it really has been let down a step too far just now” is such common sense that it’s difficult to imagine how the club’s upper management could possibly ignore it. Will the club show its supporters any kind of respect? Let’s not hold our breath, just watch this space.

All the best and fingers crossed for a better season,

Dave from Sheffield

Dear ALS

Promotion isn’t just a matter of luck, nor is relegation. Sunderland actually earned relegation last season by playing the way they did. Perhaps Moyes was partly to blame for his lack of any kind of tactical plan and uninspiring personality and partly due to the players he had to pick from. But even if we’d had luck on our side or, better still, played a bit of non-relegation football, we’d have still had another crisis season ahead of us, given the players available.

Grayson’s signings are not players who are going to turn us into a Premiership team again. In fact, he needs to prioritise avoiding another relegation. Our last season’s Premiership team would have found it difficult to get promotion from Division 1. My most optimistic prediction is that we’ll end up somewhere in the top half of the Championship, but not in the promotion/play off tier. Even so, it would be good if we could win, say, 70% of our games. But, pre-season is a time to hope and perhaps our sow’s ear of a club can be turned into a silk purse. Let’s hope there are enough things to cheer on.

Perhaps it would be a good thing to have more clarity in what happens behind the scenes in the running of the club, too.

No badly run club has a hope of success.
All the best,
Dave from Sheffield

Dear ALS

Resorting to this medium as cannot access via 'Letters'.

After-sixty years of supporting Sunderland, I felt the disconnection this week with the signings of Vaughan and McGeady (to follow a myriad of other mediocrity). As one who works in national football press I am privileged to see many games over the course of a season and have done for a number of years, i) Simon Grayson is a hard-working, decent, committed manager but anyone who thinks he is the manager to guide Sunderland back to the top flight is deluding themselves. ii) The mark of how out of touch Sunderland are regarding quality signings that will make a positive impact can be gauged by the signing of McGeady - played-out last season in an average Championship side and proved to be 'average' - at best.

As for Vaughan, I watched him three times last season when he was at Bury in League One - on no occasion did he make an impact, on two occasions he was substituted. Grayson, like all other mediocre managers, returns to sign players who have played for him (e.g. McGeady) or whom he knows on a personal level (Vaughan); on how many occasions have we witnessed this at Sunderland? It is a policy redolent of management insecurity that never, ever, works. Yet another season of abject mediocrity beckons from a club which, in terms of philosophy and policy can safely be termed as lacking in substance and intuitive knowledge; and other correspondents wonder why 'smaller' clubs such as Bournemouth, Watford and Burnley prosper whilst Sunderland continually wallow in mediocrity?

Les Scott

Dear ALS

I read with interest the well-argued case outlined by our colleague 'the Angler', much of which I agree with.

However, I fundamentally disagree with him over Simon Grayson, who I believe is absolutely the right man to stabilise our ailing club. He has experience of this tough league and a number of game plans. The transformation will take time and I suspect the best will come after Christmas when I hope to see 'the Lads' playing with confidence and on the front foot. Mid table mediocrity beckons this season and that my friends, given the mess we are in financially is a result! Patience is required but let's make sure that we help 'the Lads' by not putting them under too much pressure at home. Our magnificent away fans provide the right example to the rest of us.

Best wishes to one and all and here's to a season where we can enjoy a young team playing without fear.

Bill

Dear ALS

I am just short of my 50th birthday and SAFC during that time have had fleeting success, bar from the Reid years.

That team was built with spirit, work rate and flair, some local lads and two wingers who took people on and go crosses into the Big Man Quinny and SKP.

How proud were with those two successive 7th finishes and the way in which the team played. Premier Passions!

What has been served up since has been absolutely terrible bar from the run under Allardyce to save us from relegation, when every player knew their role, the task required of them and that they had to work to be in the team (Chelsea and Everton wins stand out). Stitched up by the FA for taking so long to make Allardyce manager cost us dearly, and even more dearly when Ellis Short and his cohort decided to appoint a washed up manager in Moyes.

Moyes stated after the second game against Boro that “We are team that will be fighting relegation”. It hardly instilled confidence in a team that only weeks before had been on a run for the last 12 games that was the envy of most of the top half teams. The only decent thing he did was resign without taking payment and he signed players who were injured, over-priced (Bodgy, Ndong) or not fit for our (Pienaar and Lescott) team cost us.

My main gripe is that the club has gone severely backwards under the leadership of Ellis Short and the failings of his appointments, Di Fanti – Director of Football, successive managers, Margaret Byrne (the fall guy in the Johnson case – someone has to carry the can) and the decline stems back to the time that Mr Short side-lined Niall Quinn. A man with a huge heart and a knowledge of football, a football man, who knew the club inside out, had the fans at heart and knew what was needed.

Is Martin Bain a real football man, Wikipedia if to be trusted states “Bain modelled part-time and worked in a Glasgow city-centre bar before focusing on a career in marketing and public relations”. Another Alistair Campbell type?

Only time will tell.

Mr Short has backed the club financially and this cannot be faulted and it should be applauded, however the successive poor appointments, mainly in management staff (not the football managers – as all of them cannot be at fault for what has happened) and advisors needs be questioned. As does the appointment of the current manager. I do not wish to be disrespectful to Mr Grayson but is he really the type of manager that a club of the stature of SAFC should be appointing or is it a case of damage limitation, steady the ship for a couple of years until we find a suitable buyer for the club.

Look at clubs like Bournemouth, small in stature, small crowds, big ideas, good ideas and sticking with a young manager who has taken them through the divisions. Southampton are another club who are theoretically are a smaller club than SAFC, yet they get successive managerial appointments right, despite regularly losing their best players to the highest bidders. Even Burnley managed to stay in the Premier League probably as a result of the same infrastructure.

Have SAFC engaged either of these clubs to see what they are doing right?

Probably not but you can bet that their board, advisors and managerial infrastructure are better than ours, not necessarily their stadiums or training facilities.

The quality and names of the players we have been linked with this summer and the constant signing of loan players who don’t give a monkeys about our club should also be addressed. I know the club is in a perilous financial situation which explains why we are linked with the players we have been, but it does not bode well for the season ahead.

I am normally a glass half full lad, but the beer in my glass is decidedly flat and I think we will do well to finish outside of the bottom 8 teams in the Championship.

My only hope is that Mr Short and his non-footballing people advisors leave the club at the first opportunity (even though the club is no longer for sale, it will be for the right price) and that Mr Grayson gives our under 23 youth players a decent chance in the first team and these young kids how some fight, passion and that he instils’ some organisation and a defined style of play.

I will be walking eagerly as I have done for the last 45 years but I see us marooned in the Championship for a number of seasons until a suitable buyer is found.

Keeping the faith but only just.

The Geordie Angler (yes, I was born in view of the Tyne but my allegiance is and always has been red and white).
Exiled in Somerset.

Dear ALS

The impact little Bradley has had for his club has been immeasurable.

In a season where performance on the field is best forgotten, his relationship with Sunderland AFC and the players has shown the club in a positive light in contrast to some of the negative issues which we have recently been embroiled in.

Of course, the special relationship with Jermaine has been very heart-warming but we shouldn't forget the others in the squad such as JOS and Vito who have also supported Bradley and his family throughout this difficult period.

There is talk of naming stands and enclosures after Bradley and this is very appropriate but perhaps the best way would be for the team to be reminded of him at every game. Perhaps a notice in the players tunnel simply saying "Bradley Lowery-our little hero -RIP."

Regards
Dave Harrison

Hello all at ALS

I feel the best tribute for the very special Bradley Lowery would be to name a part of the ground after him, somewhere which was a special place for him. The Bradley Lowery Stand sounds good to me and there should be a photograph of him all around the ground. Maybe there could be a special place for him on the Wall of Fame.

Goodnight, God Bless you, you brave little man. Forever in our hearts and minds. May your special light in heaven look down on your Stadium of Light.

Eddie and family from Birkenhead

Dear ALS

The sad news of Bradley Lowery’s passing will have touched a lot of Sunderland fans who were inspired by the little man’s cheerfulness and the effect he had on others, particularly Jermain Defoe. Defoe himself did plenty for us to be thankful for. I think we would like to remember Bradley indefinitely in some way but it isn’t easy to think of anything appropriate.

What about suggesting that Sunderland should retire Jermain’s no. 18 shirt as a joint tribute to them both? His favourite player would then always be linked with him. I think they would both have liked that. What do others think?

Graham Brack

Dear ALS

Dave Harrison wonders whether Simon Grayson’s connection with Lewis Carrol will render him either the Mad Hatter or the Jabberwock. Fingers crossed that he’s neither. I think we need to be looking at one of literature’s lower tiers:

Roy of the Rovers will do for me! Or, even in the real world, let’s hope he’s as good as Peter Reid, or, dare one say it, Sam Allardyce? As for being the Mad Hatter, can we afford his tea party? At least the dormouse, David Moyes, won’t be there.

Cheers,
Fingers crossed for a successful season whatever the Jabberwock says!
Dave, from Sheffield

Dear ALS

I understand that our new manager is from Ripon and it crossed my mind that Lewis Carroll has a connection with both Ripon and Wearside.

I was wondering if it is going to be Grayson's Adventures in Sunderland (Wonderland) and whether he will be the Mad Hatter or the Jabberwockey.

Regards
Dave Harrison

Dear ALS

It’s bad news that Paddy McNair has had a setback, but overall, what Simon Grayson has said so far is promising and it seems that Grayson has come in with both a plan and a philosophy. All digits are crossed!

It’s better news that John O’Shea is staying on. He, has not, so far as I know without checking, played in the Championship before, but perhaps it might be an idea to build a team round him. He has first class experience at both Manchester United and Ireland and, along with Catt’s, is senior pro. When he retires, he should be persuaded to join the staff at the club and I’m sure young players will respond to him.

Even if we only end up mid-table this coming season, but Grayson has developed a good team spirit with limited resources, let’s hope the management will not do what they done far too often over the last 6 or 7 seasons and sacked the manager. If the team go onto the field with a good attitude and the determination to play their hearts out and have proper respect for the fans, then that will be progress. In fact, we could look on the next couple of seasons as the club being a work in progress.

I feel almost hopeful, but, of course, all we’ve had so far has been words. But, if you don’t know how to hope, then it’s no use following Sunderland!

All the best, and here’s to a successful and entertaining season.

Dave from Sheffield

Dear ALS,

The time has come for us to begin the healing and move on. We’ve appointed a new manager, who over the next few weeks has to start pretty much from scratch to rectify the legacy of the 10 years of relegation battles, which finally saw us dumped back in the Championship. I am sure I am not alone in saying “Thank God it’s finally happened” because we’re all fed up.

But, what are we actually fed up of? People seem to want to blame everybody and his dog. From the chairman, the chief exec to the players and even a curse, we’re all seeking to explain why we have landed here again.

But the bottom line, of why we’re all fed up this time, is that year upon year we’ve watched a team at SoL that simply doesn’t win football matches.

Look at our home record over the last 10 years of Premier League football and then compare it with the previous 10 years. There’s no need to talk about away form. Firstly, because that truly is depressing, and secondly, it’s winning our home games, as every manager appointed in the last 10 years has told us, that is the key to success.

The Premier League Years have seen us celebrate an average league position of 15.1 ending with relegation last season. From 2007/8 to 2016/17 we have had a 31.5% home win success rate (av. 1.17 goals per match), which has dropped to less than 25% (av. 1.01 goals per game) in the last 5 years. Yes, that's less than a quarter of our home games in the last 5 years!

From 1997/98 to 2006/07 our average league position was lower, it was 18th, but d uring that time we experienced 3 promotions and 2 relegations and despite the 15 and 19 point seasons, still had a home win success rate of more than 50%. We also scored more than 70 more goals, averaging 1.49 goals per game.

I know it’s statistically very crude, but which 10-year period will be remembered with more affection? 10 years of bland flat lining above or in the relegation zone, or the highs and lows of two ignominious relegations contrasted with two 7thplace Premier League finishes, five great play-off games, three promotion parties and, most important of all, winning the majority of our home games.

You decide for yourselves!


Me, I want to watch winning football and if that means periods in the Championship, so be it. I’d rather see the Lads win more than they lose in the Championship, as have the only fun of the weekend singing “You’re nothing special, we lose every week” whenever we lose in the Premier League.

I rather think that, if you’re honest, most of you probably think the same.

So, let’s all stop playing the blame game and get behind Ellis Short, Martin Bain, Simon Grayson and the team and let’s get winning again!

Bob Graham
Kidderminster

Dear ALS

I can't be the only one who has been left annoyed by the amount of free/discounted tickets given out over the past few seasons? I'm all for getting bums on seats inside the stadium however, offering discounted tickets every week isn't the way to do it.

As a season ticket holder, we're told that one of the perks is that we can bring friends or family to games at a discounted rate! How on earth is that a perk for me? Surely the club should be doing more to reward loyalty and those who have renewed season tickets? Rather than others benefiting from this. I appreciate we will be in a position next season where our attendances will drop. I just hope the club don't continue in their ways of handing tickets out.

Season card prices are very fairly priced. Especially with the direct debit scheme I think the club are doing all they can to make football more affordable for everyone.

I'm just worried that fans have become sick of the amount of free tickets (as well as the rubbish served up on the pitch) and will not renew their tickets as a result of this.

Rewarding loyalty is a great way for the club to connect with fans, even offer a discount in the club shop or a free cup ticket. Both would be great ways of link with the supporters as well as a good bit of PR.

Next season keeping fans on side will be key, I just hope the club don't become even more distant.

North West Corner

Dear ALS

Now that the we finally have a manager in place, one of the first issues Simon Grayson must address is the losing mentality that has poisoned the club for far too long.

For season after season, we've often looked mentally weak and incapable of fighting back whenever we concede a goal, or a referee's decision goes against us. Grit and determination alone won't win us game after game in the Championship, but it would be a much-needed start. Grayson strikes me as a no-nonsense, no-excuses kind of manager, and I sincerely hope that his attitude rubs off on the players. Let's not blame external factors if we don't perform or concede soft goals. Ultimately, it all starts with the individual players.

As Sunderland fans, we've never asked for, nor desired miracles from our players. All we've ever wanted are men who will empty the tank, wear the badge with pride, and give every ounce of energy for the red and white cause. Hopefully, under Grayson, that kind of mindset will be how we operate as the club looks to stabilise itself over the next couple of seasons.

Philip West,
Durham

Dear ALS

At the end of the day, this could be one of the best decisions SAFC have made in a long time. This guy is from the north; he knows the Championship inside out; he has contacts and a reputation that will persuade good players to want to come and play for him. He has a pretty good record with most of the teams he’s managed. He can manage on a shoestring, apparently

A word of advice to all SAFC fans. Don’t expect miracles. We’re not going to do what ‘that lot up the road’ did and get back in one season. I think it will take at least three years to resurrect this team. It took Peter Reid four years – up in his first year in charge, straight back down (they weren’t good enough), then another two years to build the ‘105 points’ team that was good enough.

My ambitions for the team? A prolonged spell without the ‘r’ word being mentioned.

Personally, I’d be happy with a top ten finish in the coming season. Perhaps the play-offs the year after that. Automatic promotion the following year. If we can have a couple of good cup runs as well, that will be a bonus. By the end of three years, if this guy hasn’t built a team that can get up and stay there it will be time to look elsewhere. But we have to give him a chance

There are positives – a good Academy set-up and some great talent in the under-21s. (Forget Porto – that was stage-fright). Some good experienced players – John O’Shea and the like and above all terrific support.

mkenuk@gmail.com

Dear ALS

Well, it's certainly been an eventful few weeks in the crazy world that is Sunderland AFC. Where on earth do I begin?

Actually, has it been eventful? At first it seems that way... On reflection, maybe not.

Simon Grayson has replaced David Moyes. Other than that, what's actually been going on since our relegation from the Premier League was confirmed?

Let's look at the search for a new Manager. Barring a very brief chat with Derek McInnes, everything else was speculation fuelled by bookies, fans or the media.

As for a new owner, the takeover talks with Fulwell73 seemed to be over before they begun and how much does anyone know about this mystery German consortium? How far did talks actually get? It all now appears to be much ado about nothing.

Losing our best players in Pickford and Defoe was always expected, as was releasing those that were out of contract at the end of last season. The likes of Bracewell and other backroom staff departing was never going to grab any headlines, so how eventful has it actually been?

And therein lies the problem. It's been a complete and utter waste of valuable time. Again.

Ellis Short just cannot seem to do anything right. He never appears to learn any lesson from previous mistakes.

The appointment of Martin Bain looks as ill-judged as the others that have come and gone from the Boardroom during Short's spell on Wearside. And now yet again, we are playing catch-up with the rest of the clubs in our division. Unforgivably we are again already into Pre-Season training with another new Manager having to assess what he has at his disposal, and put together a recruitment strategy in the blink of an eye. Year after year after year.

Is this finally the time the cycle is broken? Is Grayson eventually the right man at the right time who is going to build a squad, playing-style and identity we all crave? I don't know a great deal about the bloke's management capabilities but I certainly hope that is the case. But with Ellis Short at the helm you'd have to say it would be down to luck rather than good judgement.

I think Short has managed to swerve a lot of flack so far due to the vast sums he has pumped into our club. But if in a few months’ time results are terrible, the players are hopeless, the attendances are pitiful and we're all wanting yet more change - then it simply has to be at the very top. If that means him bailing out with huge personal losses then so be it. I'm afraid it will be time for badly spelt slogans on bedsheets. At a knock-down price, there has to be someone out there who can take us over. What's Charlie Chawke and the Hays Travel bloke up to these days?

I'll attempt to end on a positive note. Although it feels like crushing blows are delivered on a daily basis at the moment, when all is said and done I am still looking forward to life in The Championship. Expectations seem to be as low as I could imagine but as long as our new gaffer avoids going back down the full Terry Nutkins hairdo route, then deserves our backing. As do the squad of players that are hastily assembled in time for our opening game against Derby County. Yes, the majority of us are all used to SAFC being in the second tier, but it still feels like we're about to venture into something new.

Let's get behind the lads in their Red and White pinstripes, Keep the Faith and muster up some strength in adversity....

Ha'way the Lads
Gary Burrell

Dear ALS

So, its situation normal, as you were, SNAFU., whatever you want to term it. I think what a lot of supporters would like to know is why, why the Germans were considered to be unsuitable to buy out the present regime.

Was it the people involved, the cash available to run the club, the direction they wished to go or what?

It’s almost inconceivable to think that what was on offer could be worse than we have to endure at present.  Given the secretive nature of the our owner and officials I guess we will just have to accept things as they are.

Come along Echo and local Journos, how about some pressure on the board to enlighten the long suffering fans.

Not holding my breath
Derek Lambert

Dear ALS

While I understand fans frustration and feeling let down by the club. I agree with your statement that boycotting the club is not the way forward.

I have been vocal in the past about Short and a number of poor decisions that have been taken not only by him but various Managers and directors of football.

But we are where we are. What is left is a group of young players along with a scattering of more experienced players who will probably feel as unsure of the future as ourselves. The club needs stability and if that comes in the form of Simon Grayson then so be it.

Hopefully Short will give to Grayson (if he is the man to take us forward) the right backing and the Manager will be here successfully for the next few years.

God we need it. Now is the time even it is through gritted teeth to give whatever Manager we have, along with the team our full support.

Dave Mckeever
Doncaster

Dear ALS

The situation at the SoL is now farcical without being funny.  Football to one side, Sunderland’s performance, considered as a business, exemplifies why the club has been on its knees for years. Many possible new managers  have been touted for several weeks now. My reactions to them has been between, “I’ve never heard of him” or “I didn’t know he was still alive” to “Oh no, not him.” 

The decision makers at the club seem paralysed and any other business operating like this would soon be staring bankruptcy in the face. After months of speculation, we still don’t know whether Ellis Short will sell the club, or, more to the point if anybody would buy it as a going concern. Sometimes, a name crops up which seems to have possibilities and I was quite excited by the idea of having Jurgen Klinsmann as manager, but he has thrown cold water over the prospect and who can blame him?  So, what’s happening in the club?  Is there a corporal Jones sort of figure running around shouting, “Don’t panic chaps! It’s five weeks before the season starts. We’ve still plenty of time.” But we have nowhere enough time to install new owners, a new manager and set up a (hopefully) new team to win the Championship. I’m afraid I wouldn’t employ some of the people at the top of the club to read my gas meter.

But the club’s inability to make decent decisions has been laid bare.  We’ve appointed poor, perhaps even uncommitted managers, and others have been sacked before they can really prove their worth. What is even more certain is that we’ve paid good money for far too many poor players who have lacked any kind of ability or commitment. The last really good player we signed was Jermaine Defoe who, and who can blame him, has sought pastures new.  He will be fondly remembered for his commitment to the club as well as this ability to score goals.

If the academy is to be any use, the club needs more reputable senior players like O’Shea and youngsters need to be given more time on the pitch with the first team. It’s no good, as Moyes did, bringing young lads on for the last five minutes.  Time is running out, if it has not already run out.  Action is needed urgently now -  but does the word “urgent” cause problems with the present club system?

All the best,
Dave from Sheffield

Dear ALS

I will be looking forward to 2 local matches down this way next season but I have been so pissed off with the way things have been over the last few seasons I can’t get excited anymore. No Manger, No Team, No Chairman, No Commitment, No Passion.

I moved South in the 70's and followed through thick and thin as we all have

QUESTION: What is the solution because of 40 years of following I have no idea what so ever at the moment, It's a commercial F*** UP of the highest standard.

I will always be red n white it doesn't matter what the local inbreds think and say.

Trying to keep the faith.
Chris Suffolk Mackem

Dear ALS

Being distinctly underwhelmed by the front runners for our managers job (Grayson, Pearson, Pardew etc) there are two outsiders however who would get me excited for the new season.

Sam Allardyce - despite walking out on us for the England job (and which manager in that situation wouldn't?) I am sure the fans would forgive him if he was offered a 1 year contract on big money with a massive sweetener if promotion was secured. I am not convinced he genuinely wants to retire and he has marketed himself as a short term saviour with the associated hefty bonuses for securing survival with his previous clubs. Whilst the club finances are not great, spending 3 -4 million of the Pickford money would be a wise move given the 100 million revenue the premier league offers. He knows the club and most of the remaining players and the only blocker would be Ellis Short whose ego may be too big to welcome him back. With Short potentially selling up however this would be less of a problem and any new owners would want to see a quick return on their investment via promotion under a manager seen as a safe pair of hands.

Kevin Phillips - yes, he has no management experience. Yes, it’s the romantics choice. He is however a highly rated coach and could train up the likes of Watmore and Asoro up front. Even a mediocre start to the season would see the disenfranchised fans return and the extra bums on seats he would bring in compared to Grayson, Pearson etc would pay for his own salary. No matter what level of success or otherwise Kevin Phillips brought us his legendary status as the greatest player we had since Gary Rowell means he could walk away with his reputation intact. I could find Kevin Phillips tucked up in bed with my missus and the last beer from my fridge and I would still hug him and ask him about his Chelsea hat trick.

Regards
Stuart, Singapore

P.S. And if he talked me through his winner in the rain against the Mags I would pop around to the shop to get him another 6 pack.

Dear ALS

A mate of mine is an ardent Sheffield Wednesday supporter and has followed his beloved team all over the country most recently watching Championship football. He likens the Championship to the old First Division and confessed to me that he was actually relieved when Wednesday failed to clinch promotion back to the PL via the play-offs.

That is quite a shocking and revealing statement from someone following a club with a similar history, tradition and fan base as ours. He, for one, says he is enjoying being in a grittier and evenly matched league whereas in the PL the likelihood was that Wednesday would be merely making the numbers up with little or no chance of really competing. Worryingly he was completely genuine in his denouncement of the PL, not just a case of sour grapes.
 
To my way of thinking, something must be wrong somewhere if a fan of a club like Wednesday shuns promotion to the 'elite' of English football for fear of what is likely to follow. That's a worrying indictment of the shape of things and I suspect supporters of other once big clubs may have similar concerns. What chance Villa, Forest, Leeds, Wednesday and United, Wolves etc being a force again?

I won't miss the stifling predictability of our shameful performances in the PL last season and something, anything different will be a breath of fresh air, but do I want championship football for us for very long? Hell no.
 
Pete in Essex

Dear ALS

Reply to John Seed.

Rather than just throw out the popular phrase in troubled times "where's the money gone" take the trouble to either download a set of accounts- all publicly available- or google the numerous articles on Sunderland’s websites and you won't ask that question.

In simple terms the club turned over about £100m had a wage bill for the last 5 years of nearly £80m and the other club costs made it break even before transfers. Every year Ellis Short chucked in £25m of his own money to buy players and apart from a couple of years with Jordan Henderson and Bent the club lost £25m as the players had no resale value Next year we will turn over about £60m so the wage bill has to half and we still have to service an £80m bank loan so don't get excited about the alleged £30m from Pickford - its spoken for.

Administration is a very real prospect- it can get a lot worse.

Also can't get excited about a fan takeover unless they have deep pockets as the football world has totally changed since Quinny saved us with his Irish mates. Ellis made huge mistakes but he will probably be the biggest loser when he sells and when the Irish boys left we needed someone- so don't be too harsh on him Hope the Germans are rich or the Chinese come back personally. And if the rumours are true that Martin Bain spent the first three weeks post season end on holiday with David Moyes- he would have lost his deposit- then we really are in deep stuff.At least Bain will understand Administration as he was there when Rangers went into it. Not that it was his fault I would add, that's another story.

Next to leave Kone, Mannone Oviedo Khazri Ndong Borini following Larsson O'Shea Anichebe Defoe Pickford Denayer Januzai and Manquillo - not much left even for the championship. Newcastle made a £30m transfer surplus and Ashley still had to pump £33m in to mount a challenge. It's not happening to us at present.

Thoroughly and utterly depressed Paul Ellison, from Reading

Dear ALS

The figures given for the Sunderland debt never seems to change much, despite new income. I realise it is very complex but should there not be at least some evidence and detail about income and outgoings at the club in the last year or two?

Figures of the debt are thrown around in the press -- but I can't be the only one who wonders where Sunderland's massive income in recent years has all gone?

John Seed

Dear ALS

I agree entirely with the sentiments of William C’s letter, but have to ask why he talks about only the last decade. Similar examples of directorial incompetence go back many decades. I’ve mentioned some of them in earlier posts, but, just to recap, they include 1964-1965 (our first season back in the first division after six years in the second). We started the season without a manager, although the board had had more than two months to appoint one.

We kicked off that same season without an experienced goalkeeper. Derek Forster, the 15-year old who was thrown in at the deep end, had conceded 10 goals in his first three games before someone saw fit to do something about it.

When eventually they did appoint a manager (George Hardwick) at the end of October, we were rock bottom of the table. Hardwick got us out of the mess and eventually got us to 15th place (from 22) and safety. His reward? He was sacked.

Enter Ian McColl, whose attempts to turn SAFC into ‘Glasgow Rangers (South)’ were a disaster. But he lasted nearly four years! And when they finally did get rid of him, they brought back Alan Brown, the very one who had dropped us in the clarts back in June 1964.
The list goes on and on

Example. The day after we won the lottery. Swindon Town had beaten us 1-0 in what was probably the worst game of football ever seen at the old Wembley. Then they were kicked out of the First Division and we were given their place. Statement from the board next day: ‘We are delighted, but have to say that there will be no money available to strengthen the team.”

Example. Allowing Darren Bent to be sold on the last day of the transfer window, when it was too late to even start looking for a replacement.

I could quote umpteen such examples from the 55+ years I’ve been following this once great club.

One of the greatest players ever to put on a red and white shirt, Len Shackleton, famously included in his biography (‘Clown Prince of Soccer’) a chapter titled ‘The Average Director’s Knowledge of Football.’ It consisted of a single blank page. And that was in the 1950s, when Sunderland were a big team.

Never give up.
Mike K

Dear ALS

Just seen on BBC sports day live. Today is the 61st birthday of Peter Reid.

Happy Birthday to the best manager we’ve had in the last 50 years, and (why not?) any chance of him coming back up to the SOL to sort the mess out as he did before?

mkenuk@gmail.com

Dear ALS

I think Mark McNally and Phil in Leeds have summed up our club’s dilemma perfectly. A commonly quoted definition of stupidity is to repeat the same action over and over, and expect a different outcome.

That is exactly what our owner and his management team have done with Sunderland AFC over the last decade. They have continually recruited hopeless people into key positions of responsibility, transforming a proud and famous football team into a laughing stock.

They should, collectedly hang their heads in shame.

Yours despairingly
William C

Dear ALS

Like every other supporter I find the current situation tragic, yet inevitable. For a business (for that is what SAFC is) to be run so badly for so long defies logic. I am no financial wizard, but even I could sense the lack of expertise over successive seasons. You only need mention Margaret Byrne who had no understanding whatsoever of how a big football club needed to be run. And as for her obscene 'pay off '- that added insult to injury.

As if we hadn't learnt from that experience we go and appoint Martin Bain as Chief Executive. This is the same Martin Bain who, as Chief Executive at Glasgow Rangers saw the club declared bankrupt, in Court and relegated to the Scottish Third Division. This is the person tasked with finding our next manager. I will leave supporters to ask themselves if they are confident in Mr Bain's ability to bring that search to a successful conclusion.

Mark McNally

Dear ALS

On the face of it we put all our eggs into one basket searching for a manager, leveraging the ‘strength’ of our Scottish connections aka Bain/Smith and were embarrassingly snubbed by McInness. To be honest, I didn’t want McInness, I’d be looking for a manager who’s either previously delivered success or shown strong potential in the Championship.

But in a new turn of events we’re now delaying the appointment of a manager with the club saying; ‘Since the end of the season, our focus has been to appoint a new manager. Recently, however, discussions have been entered into with parties who have expressed an interest in acquiring ownership of the club. With this backdrop, we have been unable to give the assurances any potential candidate would need regarding the plans a new owner could have for the manager’s position’.

The above just reaffirms what an incompetent bunch we have running our club to find ourselves in this position. Given that though, if I was a prospective buyer, my advice to Short/Bain would be ‘You’ve made a big enough mess of running Sunderland AFC - if I’m going to buy your club don’t do a thing more to f**k the sale up like appoint a manager!’

Phil in Leeds

Dear ALS

Like the majority of our loyal supporters, it was heartbreaking to see us relegated again. Yes, we have been toying with it for some seasons now, never really making much progress the next year. But yes it is what was the inevitable.

I believe the rot set in at the club, in the seventies when we had Cowie and partner viewing for control, neither wanting to invest more than the other. The lack of investment at that period, has subsequently shown how the whole structure of the club has gone to the dogs.

We seemed to be attracting those players, in the twilight of their careers; and apart from someone like Kev Phillips, and couldn't keep hold of the promising talent who would have kept the club, on a more secure footing.

Once N Quinn introduced the consortium, it then started the downward trial of none football directorship and management which we have today.

Once Ellis short does sell out hopefully it will be to a footballing minded consortium, then maybe we can start the long hard journey back to the premier league.

Croydon Mackem

Dear ALS

We had a manger who we all had the highest expectations of who delivered for us just a bit over a year ago who was unfortunately lured away by the one thing that could have lured him away. Because of his own stupidity he lost that job, then took over at a basket case saved them then quit while over the same period we went from looking like we might just do it to a basket case.

I don't think he'd be bothered by takeover talk and has a track record with clubs in our position.
Go get big Sam.

Bob Todd
Eleebana
NSW
Australia

Dear ALS

Whilst I like all Cats fans am concerned with the current situation at "our" club, recent history gives me hope.

In the summer of 2006 SAFC was in the same position as we are now. Relegated with just 15 points, no manager following the sacking of Mick McCarthy and an owner looking to sell the club.

In 2006 the consortium led by Niall Quinn took over the club but was managerless as the season began. Quinn took on the manager role and lost the first four matches. Keane was appointed manager, signings followed and the team went on to become champions.

Let us hope history will be repeated.

Martin Forster

Dear ALS

Do you ever have those dreams where you can't quite complete a simple task because things change to confound your efforts. I've been having a dream for the past nine years which if it had a title would be called 'How Not To Run A Football Club'. I've pinched myself a number of times but don't seem able to wake up.

The things that keep happening and seem to be mad or just bad are;

Discouraging the man who cared about the club and who knew a bit about football so that he became totally discouraged and then left.

Changing the team manager every few months so that a team never developed. You remember teams, groups of people who care what they do, support each other and fight hard when the chips are down.

Have an executive team where football seems like a minor adjunct to the major business of making money, but somehow not managing that either, despite the Premier League's riches.

Buying new players, sometimes a whole handful at once, only some of whom can play football.

Changing the colours and design of the shirt and 2nd and 3rd strips until the team looks like an ice cream salesmen's XI.

Developing an academy for young players and allowing them occasional opportunities to sit on the bench but not to play much. When one does get a chance to play 1st team, selling for a huge profit as soon as possible with the vague thought that good business has been done. 

In my dream the strike force is Milton Nunez and Jozy Altidore and the manager Lawrie McMenemy. Don't worry though, the rest of the team's the same as last season. Should be a breeze once I manage to wake up. I used like Groundhog Day as a film, but it doesn't seem so much fun in real life.

Dave
Oxford

Dear ALS

I have been saying for a long, long time that there’s something rotten right at the heart of Sunderland. It’s hard to define what it actually is, but no well-run club would have had the same apparently unsolvable problems that we have had over the years in terms of poor managers and often expensive players who have been disappointing both in terms of skills and effort.

Relegation has been a regular visitor knocking at our door for years and it’s only by good luck and flashes of last minute good or lucky management that we’ve been able to keep him out until now.

Looking for a new manager is one thing, but giving him a healthy club to look after is another. Sam Allardyce was a big enough name and a big enough man to just about keep us afloat, nothing more.

Now Derek McInnes has turned us down. Presumably he’s had a long, hard look at us and sees that nothing has changed in the club since the departure of David Moyes. The structure remains the same and the club remains the same, that is to say, toxic to any ambitious manager who wants to further his own career and reputation as well as that of the club.

McInnes has been hailed as the best man to rescue the club and get us up to mid-table mediocrity, which, as things stand, represents something of an ambition. We are a club with a big stadium, a big weekly attendance, amazing support, which goes around the world, but we are not a big club any more in terms of who plays for us or who manages us, nor, unless there’s a huge change in the way football is played and paid for in this country, is the Chelsea, Man C. Man U, Arsenal, Spurs dominance likely to be challenged by many clubs and least of all by Sunderland.

Instead of blowing money on bonding trips for the players, or paying a few million pounds out on players past their best, or who never were much good, the club should employ an independent team or firm of experts who are expert in the way organisations can be changed, can improve the way they are managed and achieve success.

The way the club is structured and the people within that structure needs to be analysed and conclusions drawn. Who knows what they might find. In a nutshell, the club needs a complete, far reaching, major overhaul. Oh, and let the findings be made public.

David Bacon

Dear ALS

As has been said elsewhere, who will take the job now, knowing that they are, at best, second-choice? Nobody who’s currently settled with a club in the top divisions, that’s for sure. We’re running out of ideas and the new season is getting closer all the time.

Who’s left? Superkev? Apparently, he was quoted a few weeks ago saying that he fancied it. Certainly, the fans would welcome him. Inexperienced, yes, but so was Roy Keane when St Niall gave him the chance.

Presumably there’s no way of getting Big Sam to change his mind and come back and finish what he started?

Otherwise, if it’s not to be Nigel Clough and it’s not Kevin Phillips, I can see us ending up with Alan Pardew or suchlike.

Sven Goran Eriksson? He’s looking for a job, I hear. Roy Hodgson? Harry Redknapp? Graham Souness?

Help!
Mike K

Dear ALS

Now that Derek McInnes has walked away from being manager I have an idea that Ellis Short may take on board.

Rather than having a manager and his supporting cast at great expense, a management committee could be appointed. The members of this committee could be comprised of one long standing experienced tea lady, a Boldon supporters club member, a long serving steward and Sobs, these stalwarts could be assisted by Martin Bain and members of the board.

The above would achieve better results than David Moyes and save Mr Short a bucket full of money.

Terry Reilly
Burgess Hill Sussex

Dear ALS

It’s now looking more and more likely that Derek McInnes will be the new gaffer. Although he wouldn’t have been my first choice (that was Nigel Clough), I obviously hope he does well. I’m sure all SAFC fans will welcome him and support him from the start. He deserves that much, at least.

He’ll be Sunderland’s third full-time Scottish manager in the time I’ve been following them; the previous two - David Moyes and Ian McColl in the late 1960s – were disasters. For those who weren’t around at that time, Sunderland’s performances under Ian McColl were not too different from the recent past: constant struggles against relegation.

McColl, like David Moyes, had been a failure before taking over at SAFC. He had been manager of the Scotland team which failed to qualify for the 1966 World Cup in England. On the strength of that, someone in the Sunderland boardroom thought he would do a good job at Roker Park.
Some things never change.

Let’s hope it’s third time lucky.

At least McInnes has had a reasonably successful time at Aberdeen, establishing them as Scotland’s second team. Similar success on Wearside would be most welcome.

I’m sure that before setting pen to paper and signing on the dotted line, he will have a clear idea of how much cash he will have to spend on building up the side. I’ve a feeling most new arrivals this summer will be Scots – that’s obviously the area he knows best. Never mind. We’ve had some pretty good ‘Jocks’ in the past – Ian Porterfield, Bobby Kerr and George Mulhall to name but three.

I wonder if there’s any chance of getting Leigh Griffiths into a red and white shirt? Those two last minute free kicks against Joe Hart at the weekend were something else. I wonder if Jordan Pickford could have got nearer to them than Hart did? We’ll never know.

We shall overcome.

Mike K

Dear ALS

Why are all our players having to travel to Austria for a so-called 'Training Camp'? As far as I'm aware there are no friendlies arranged over there?

Sounds like another complete waste of time, money and effort - in truth just an excuse for another expenses paid trip to more salubrious surroundings. Team bonding can only take place in places like New York or Austria, right? It's this sort of bollocks that is 'so today'. A large dose of severe hardship is what is needed for most players these days, especially over-paid mercenaries, slackers and fakers plus all the mollycoddled tossers that litter the game. Canvey Island is nice this time of year.
 
Pete
Essex

Dear ALS

I take it that Martin Bain is an avid reader of fan letters. I hope so, because he has the most irresistible application for the vacant managers out from Alex Louise. I am getting on in years (80+), but apart from a lack of an Achilles tendon in one leg am still quite fit and base my application to be Assistant Manager on this and my personal flexibility in all matters. I would have, though, to leave coaching the art of scoring goals from field play and taking penalties to Alex Louise. But I can shout, wring my hands, put my head in my hands and point at the referee or one of the other side as well as anybody - even Big Sam although I can’t match the variety of his facial expressions. But I can do anger and ecstasy fairly well and some expressions in between.

My qualifications for the post of Assistant Manager might be looked upon as slender, but as a lad I had a trial for Doncaster boys: a claim not many can match because it was nearly seventy years ago. However, for some ridiculous reason I heard nothing from them afterwards. I’m sure my invitation for further trials was lost in the post. It was certainly a bit of a knock back, so I decided to play Rugby Union from there on in. I’d be good on discipline and where, very occasionally, Alex Louise might find feminine charm not quite sufficient with some of “the lads” my bullying manner would soon solve any problems. I also boxed whilst in the army.

I’d be cheap to employ, too, and would expect £10,000 a year less than Alex who, of course, in the event of any controversy, would be the person with whom the buck stopped. I would also volunteer to take on the “lemons” at half time - in a time-honoured way, since in Rugby Union, the oranges brought on are called lemons and there’s always something one type of game can learn from another. I think the spectators would like the players to remain visible and half time whilst the lemons were guzzled and the manager’s team talk could come over the tannoy.

Her idea of appointing the most deserving and distinguished players as monitors for various duties is untried and untested, but it might be worth a season’s trial and could even be a winner. Some of the lads might actually want to be a monitor in charge of something and to wear an armband indicating the nature of the duty. As for music at full time, players who have played badly enough never to be selected again could leave the field to the doleful strains of “Goodbye, it’s been nice to know you.” Her idea of awarding gold stars for performance is a good one, too. Each player could have a little notebook to stick them in. Three stars for a really good performance, two for putting a good shift in, one for just about keeping head above water during the game. No star would simply mean that the players’ places are in jeopardy and they could be sold to Notts County.

Alex has experience of working with under-fives, so should know, for the most part, how to handle the tantrums of under-fives who are often over twenty-five. If any offered her what is known in Moysian lingo as “a slap” I would be on hand to give the offender short shrift.

I might take issue with Alex’s field formation at times. The club must remain modern in its outlook and style of play, but she’s right about defenders preventing the other side from scoring. Catts could take on the Terry Butcher role and possibly might be an even better exponent of “total defence” than the renowned Terry. So, there’s a positive idea for a start. I would resist any desperate attempt to sign Joey Barton, though. Not only is he an ex-Mag, but he’s a loose cannon’s loose cannon.

 

I’m sure that Alex is a firm believer in fair play and disapproves of “divers” just as much as any other fair minded person. So, a diver would be compelled to come onto the pitch at the start of a game under a deep-sea diver’s helmet - the players would, of course, be allowed to remove it for the duration of the game, and, of course, the referee would take note. As you can see, I have ideas which already seem to complement Alex Louise's. When she gets her interview and is as successful, as clearly she deserves to be, I hope she’ll pop a word into Martin’s ear and say she’s found the absolutely ideal assistant.

My application is a little dull, but I don’t want to outshine Alex Louise. A good assistant does the heavy lifting without drawing attention to himself. Bally is a bit like that, but he could stay where he’s already doing a very good job. Top teams start with top management.

Dave from Sheffield

Dear ALS

I have taken a hard look at what is supposed to be the best league in the world, I refer of course to the Premier League. What I saw when I opened my eyes was a cesspool full of unpalatable football playing millionaires who are holding their clubs to ransom (Ozil and Sanchez being the latest).

Russian oligarchs and oil-rich sheiks are pumping megabucks into a league which is already massively funded by Sky television.

The top six will vie with one another to spend countless millions to win the title while the rest battle to avoid relegation.

Financial fair play is a farce, Man. United are allowed to service a debt in excess of £400 million and plan to spend £200 million on transfers before the start of next season.

The only way to bring back a semblance of sanity would be the imposition of a salary cap for all twenty clubs. This would stop the likes of Chelsea loaning out more than thirty players to other clubs.

Living in Sussex I have friends who are Brighton supporters and I have told them not to get too excited about next season, they have had three or four good seasons and I have told them the enjoyment of football is coming to an end as next season they will be swimming with sharks.

What any real football fan wants is genuine competition, this will not happen under the present system which is grossly unfair, denies British players a chance to play at the top level and favours overspending on imported mercenaries.

I am not holding my breath that the cesspool will be disinfected by the proprietors of the Premier League.

Terry Reilly
Burgess Hill Sussex

Dear ALS

Why are we dragging our heels regarding a new manager?

With the likes of Palace, Hull, Boro and Leeds all looking for new managers too, and probably have more money to spend than us so will be more attractive lure for a better manager!

Or is this gonna be the excuse for when we get relegated AGAIN? "Our pre-season was hampered due to not being able to sort out a new manager"!

Michael Reay

Dear Mr Bain

It has come to my attention that you are currently looking to fulfil the managerial post at Sunderland AFC. I hope that you will take my application into consideration as we prepare for a season in the Championship. I understand that yourself and Mr Short may have irons in the fire with more experienced managers but I would like to remind you that previous appointments of seemingly skilled professional manager have failed to achieve the success our football club deserves.

Whilst I do not have professional managerial experience, I feel this is not enough to hold me back from taking on tenure at our club. You can rest assured that I have my level one FA coaching badge and a Level Three First Aid Qualification – while I appreciate this is quite literally not in the same league as others you may be considering for the post, I hope this won’t rule me out completely.

I would imagine you are wondering about my footballing philosophies. What does she know, I hear you cry! It would be my dream to take our footballing style back to the old skool and I believe that playing in the Championship is the ideal time to make this happen. No more players rolling around like they’ve been shot when they take a boot to the back of the shin. No more Geordie Shore inspired hairstyles, and absolutely no fluorescent football boots. Can you imagine Ian Porterfield agonising over which laces to match with his pink plastic shoes? Of course not.

In a controversial move, I would do away with the modern day wingbacks and revert back to the glory days where defensive line-ups were made up of fullbacks and centre halves. No more the days of players like Patrick van Aanholt (boo, hiss) chasing crisp packets in the wind and forgetting to actually mark the opposition. Defenders should be able to do the one thing their employed to do (clue’s in the title lads) and defend. Defend by whatever means necessary – Terry Butcher style. In fact, I was thinking of running a Terry Butcher-inspired motivation session for our defenders, hopefully run by the man himself where he could offer a masterclass on how to stand up and be counted in the defensive line. If Terry isn’t available, then look no further than Sunderland’s favourite adoptive son – Kevin Ball. The snappily titled “Bally’s Boot Camp” would be a sure-fire winner and would inject some much needed grit back into the spine of the team. Players should understand the importance of positional play and well-timed tackles, shunning the modern practice of shirt pulling and panicking.  

Most importantly, I cannot stress the importance of goals. Scoring them in particular. I’m sure you’ll agree that 29 goals in one season is less than satisfactory and needs to change. I don’t want to labour the point, but this is an area that we have been severely lacking in for years. If only someone had thought to clone Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips in their heyday! My suggestion would be for you to offer Jermain Defoe a sweetener to stay in Sunderland. If the man wants a diamond encrusted unicorn that can dance the Macarena, buy him two.  This area has to be our top priority going forward next season – now I have already started putting some feelers out in anticipation of being called to interview for the position and I can tell you I have some very exciting prospects lined up!

I would now like to discuss the more personal attributes that I can bring to the role. For the past 12 years I have worked in education, looking after children under the age of five. I feel this has given me a unique insight into the psyche of toddlers. What good is this in the football world I hear you ask? Well, after witnessing the behaviour of the majority of Premier League footballers over the past few years, I believe there to be many parallels that can be drawn between taming toddlers and managing footballers. Over the past few years I have witnessed huffs, temper tantrums and the sticking out of more bottom lips than I care to count. The sight of grown men stamping their feet, over-excessively pointing, kicking water bottles and displaying downright insubordination has got to stop. If I were to become manager, a punishment system would swiftly be put into place which would hopefully put an end to all this nonsense. Players not giving 100% on the pitch would be expected to prove their worth in other ways: offering a helping hand in the club shop for example, or disinfecting the showers after use. Those half time oranges (or is it all high energy protein bars nowadays?) won’t hand themselves out!

In addition to this any player getting booked for my personal pet-hate, dissent, will be expected to be completely silent during the next training session, with any complaints or grumbles being swiftly dealt with by being squirted three times in the face with a water pistol. After careful consideration, I would suggest Jan Kirchoff to be responsible for the brandishing of said water pistol – he looks like the sort of man who would rise to the challenge of such responsibility. Players who go down too easily after a tackle or over-egg an alleged injury will redeem themselves by providing an after-training treat for their teammates. Hopefully the prospect of cavorting around the Academy whilst dressed as Coco Bongo the clown will nip these amateur dramatics in the bud. Lastly, I would operate a zero tolerance policy on lateness to training and matches, with anyone breaching these rules being expected to complete the following train session dressed as Tim Curry from Rocky Horror Show, treating his teammates to a rendition of the “Time Warp” every twenty minutes.

But I’m not a monster. I understand how “delicate” these highly paid professionals can be and the need for their egos to be massaged. Players performing well will of course be rewarded. I would like to suggest a “star of the month” system – every month, the player who has shown the most effort, improvement and work-rate will be in receipt of this prestigious award. Receiving not just a certificate (which will of course be laminated), I am proposing that they would also receive a 4 minute Supermarket-sweep style raid of Jacky White’s market, where they will have anything they can grab in this time paid for by the club. They will also be able to choose a fellow player to go for a slap-up dinner at the Panda in Sunderland, with a feast up to the value of £20 coming out of the club’s coffers. Extravagant, maybe, but I believe offering incentives is the key to success. I would also like to propose “Fun Time Fridays” where, after training of course, the players will be expected to attend a two-hour bonding exercise at a location of my choosing. Imagine the Instagram posts the club could share of their japes! I for one would love to see photographic evidence of Joleon Lescott at one with nature in Mowbray Park, or Steven Pienaar treating himself to a Mr Whippy at Roker Beach.

I understand that the club is having financial difficulties at the moment. I have a few solutions to this problem that I would like to pilot should I be successful in my application for the post. I would like to suggest offering the players dual-roles, where they would be expected to give a little bit back to the club in the long hours where they are not at training. They would of course be given official titles, to ensure they felt valued and respected in these new roles. Do we really need to employ a groundsman to cut the grass on the pitch, when Whabi Khazri and Duncan Watmore are more than capable of wielding a lawnmower and a pair of hedge strimmers? Is a tea lady necessary, when Vito Mannone could be appointed “Tea Executive,” ably assisted of course by Seb Larsson in the prestigious role of “Biscuit Monitor?” What need is there for a separate bus driver when Lamine Kone could don a chauffeur’s hat and leather gloves and drive his teammates to victory? Pickford of course would have to be the official club DJ, keeping everyone’s spirits up as he gets his rave on each week. I have no doubt that Fabio Borini and Jack Rodwell, with their subtitle of “Entertainment Coordinators” would have no qualms about donning the Samson and Delilah suit in lieu of the pre-match warm up to warm up the crowd and re-connect with our younger fans. I feel utilising the players that we have to fulfil positions that we are paying other people for would ensure not only that we could make some half-decent signings. It could also mean splashing out in other areas: for example we could think about finally restoring the rest of the pink seats in the stadium to the once-glorious red.

I would also suggest that on match days, the PR system is put to better use than it previously has been. Under my rein as manager, Justin Bieber’s days of wailing over the tannoy at half time would be numbered, with themed songs to be played in relation to the team’s performance. In the event that we are losing, I would like Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping to be ringing in the players ears as they trot back to the field of play, reminding them that no matter how many times they get knocked down they have to get right back up again. When riding high on a win, you can’t go wrong with the classics. That’s’ right, Tina Turner, Simply the Best,” loud and proud. If that doesn’t motivate the lads then I don’t know what will.

On a more personal note, as a female applying for the managerial role, think of the positive PR you could spin for the club. Becoming the first big-name club to appoint a female manager (or head coach if you prefer, I’m no narcissist) would do wonders for your reputation as an equal rights employer. I’m not talking pot pourri and decorative cushions around the place, but a change in dynamic might be just what these players need. I can assure you that I have a full understanding of the offside rule which I can demonstrate in interview if necessary. My managerial style is firm but fair – try to picture a manager who has the tactical awareness of Pochettino, the acumen of Sir Alex Ferguson, the easy camaraderie of Ian Hollloway with Peter Reid’s nose for a good party.  I may not be Cheryl Cole in the press room but I can guarantee I have not just better craic than David Moyes, but better hair. Crucially, at 5’4 I would also save you money on uniform, as I can fit into the children’s training gear and don’t pay VAT on football boots. Have you noticed how I’m always thinking of ways to save the club money? This is just another example of my shrewd financial expertise. Perhaps a bit of female perspective is just what our football club needs.

On a final note, I understand that stability is a word that is often bandied about when discussing the managerial role at our club. I can assure you that this is something I can most certainly offer – I have had a season ticket in the same seat for almost twenty years and have nurtured effective relationships with the other supporters around me in that time. I have a strong footballing “family” if you will, who would be eager to come and work with me as backroom staff if the roles became available.

Come on Mr Bain, make the right choice. Let’s make this football club great again! I would love to be part of your vision and have every confidence that you will make the right decision. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,
Alex Louise @safc_lex

Dear Martin Bain

Did I dream it or did I read that you were currently on holiday with David Moyes while every other club without a manager is busily working to get one in to give him every chance of hitting the ground running next season? Remember one if Moyes excuses last year?

We have had less points in a relegation year but after 40 years as a supporter I can't remember supporters having lost such hope and actually trying to not care anymore. Wouldn't it have been a wiser move to actually cancel the holiday with Moyes, sort out the redundancies for the poor staff who will really suffer from last year’s debacle, and then if you think that you deserve it have a holiday pre season with the Mrs when your work is done? Or is it not down to you, and if it's not wtf do you do?

We know that there will be no money to spend after losing £50m of turnover, so that makes the job even harder. At present the bookies are the only indicator of what's going on at Sunderland and have I missed the retained list?

Tell me that you cancelled the holiday and are working hard to get the right manager in or include yourself in the required restructuring

Paul from Reading

Dear ALS

Returning to the debate about Nigel Clough, I agree his record at Burton is exceptional however when he's been at bigger clubs (Sheffield United and Derby) he's done nothing. Four years of mid table mediocrity at Derby led him to be sacked. He had three attempts to get The Blades promoted from the third tier and left when he couldn't do it.

Back at Burton he's on the right track however perhaps he's only any good at a small club overachieving on a small budget. New bookies favourite, Ryan Giggs, in my opinion he just doesn't have the force of personality to drive a club forward. I'm still championing Paul Heckingbottom perhaps with an old head as a number 2 (Kevin Ball).

One thing's for sure, it needs sorting in the next week or so. KTF

J Mark Pearson

Dear ALS

If today's headlines are right and Ryan Giggs may become our new manager the club can stick my support (over sixty-five years).

The man has no experience and in no way is he like Roy Keene. However, my main objection to Giggs is that he has no morals. How can we even consider a man who bonked his brother’s wife and spent thousands trying to keep it out of the press.

Giggs spent all his playing days in the Premiership and has no idea of what it takes to get out of the Championship.

George Davis

Dear ALS

All successful football clubs have high standards, from the owners, chairmen, board members which filters down to all of the employees.

A structure is put in place in which every aspect of the club is compartmentalised. This leads to scouting talent, medical talent, nutrition and diet talent and so on.

The manager ought to be part of this structure with designated duties and should not run the whole show. A successful football club should be comprised of modules and if one of the modules fails a replacement is slotted into place with the minimum of disruption.

The manager is a module and if shown to be failing should be replaced by a new one. For a long time Sunderland AFC have not had the organisation to successfully replace a manager because a system is not in place.

If a computer fails the relevant part is identified and replaced, now is the time to put a system in place and have Sunderland AFC running like a well-oiled machine.

Terry Reilly
West Sussex

Dear ALS

As speculation over our next manager grows momentum, I just want to point out that it’s not just about the manager. As fans we need to be challenging Short/Bain to present us with a longer term plan and clearer accountability for delivering that plan along the way.

We get all hung up about managers yet whoever is chosen to manage our club will either be sacked in 0-24 months or if successful will be lured by a bigger club.

Then it’s back to the Short/Bain master plan and the next manager, until some semblance of continuity/culture evolves and we have a club that’s less reliant on the manager and more geared up/unified for delivering success. That is where we as fans need to be directing our feedback to the club.

To the managerial appointment and as our Chief Exec a lot responsibility falls onto Bain’s shoulders and I’m all for using every tool at our disposal to get things right, but appointing Walter Smith as chief head hunter is a sign of Bain delegating a rather important part of his job to someone who isn’t even an employee of the club!? That's not what I call taking personal ownership/accountability.

If it is to be McInnes, the whole Bain/Smith/McInnes/Scotland connection makes us appear quite blinkered in our approach to appointing a new manager and given Smith had previously recommended Mcinnes to Rangers for their vacant position It all sounds a bit cosy doesn’t it? How much is our cash strapped club paying Smith to recommend who we thought he’d recommend?

Phil In Leeds

Dear ALS

Following on from previous letter on the subject, Nigel Clough’s overall record, far from being patchy, doesn’t look too bad when compared to some of the names that have been mentioned. He didn’t do too badly at Sheffield United –  he was (if I remember rightly) appointed mid-season when they were looking at relegation to League Two. He got them to safety that year and in subsequent years kept them safe and got them to an FA Cup semi-final and a League Cup semi-final. Not bad for a third division team. Overall, he had a 47% win rate with the Blades. Quite impressive.

His record with Burton speaks for itself. To get a non-league side into the second tier and keep them there for at least one more season is a minor miracle.

If it’s not to be Nigel Clough, then I quite like the idea of Kevin Phillips. You never know, with Kevin Ball (been there, done that, seen it all before) as right-hand man (the special Ks?) it might just work. Roy Keane, after all, was a completely inexperienced manager yet he was an instant success. it was only after we were back in the Premiership that the wheels started to loosen prior to falling off.

mkenuk@gmail.com

Dear ALS

Firstly, we don't need a manager with a patchy record. Clough didn't cut it at Sheffield United despite a reasonable budget. Yes, he's done well at Burton (very well). McInnes has done well at Aberdeen but only has to be second best behind Celtic, didn't cut it at Bristol City.

Here's my suggestion:
Paul Heckingbottom. Barnsley manager. Took over from Lee Johnson when he left for Bristol City and steered Barnsley to the Johnson's Paint trophy at Wembley. Repeated this by winning promotion to the Championship via the play-offs. This season flirted with the play-offs before falling away to mid table following selling their striker to Sheffield Wednesday. A former Sunderland trainee and quite clearly a coach on the way up. Surely time to take someone on the way up than someone who needs to prove a point or needs to rebuild a reputation.

J Mark Pearson

Dear ALS

Please, please, please let it be Cloughie.

We deserve a bit of romance, even if it's just to hear him say:

"What's my name?
My name's Clough!
Brian Bloody Clough!"

Cullen

Dear ALS

Interesting to read elsewhere on ALS that Celtic are to be pre-season visitors to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the SOL. Is it really 20 years? Ajax and the opening ceremony seem only a couple of years ago.

I can remember Celtic coming to Roker Park for another pre-season friendly many years ago. 1965? About then. Before the Fulwell End was covered. Jock Stein had not long been in charge there and they had just won the Scottish Cup.

Whatever, they arrived at Roker Park with about 25,000 (no exaggeration) travelling fans. They completely took over every part of the stadium, the team hammered Sunderland 5-0 and the fans proceeded to wreak havoc in the town for most of the Saturday night.

Let’s hope this year’s meeting is a little more peaceful.

That game, incidentally, was Jim Baxter’s first for Sunderland. He had just arrived from Rangers for about 80,000 pounds – a massive fee at the time. He was, needless to say, roundly booed every time the ball went anywhere near him.

Standout player for Celtic that day was one John Hughes (aka Yogi Bear), whose younger brother Billy was a long-time servant of SAFC. We tried several times to sign big brother John, but with no success. He did eventually join us, right at the end of his career, and was carried off injured in his first game. He never played again.

That 5-0 mauling by Celtic was also Ian McColl’s first game as SAFC manager. Now, if you want to talk about Scottish numpties who have managed Sunderland, that would be a good one to start with.

Keep the red and white flag flying high
Mike K

Dear ALS

Bollocks! Having written in at the start of the season to say it would only get better and all that optimistic shite, bollocks. Bollocks to Moyes, bollocks to Short, and bollocks to injuries, bollocks to Kone’s temperament, bollocks to not having a plan A never-mind plan B.

It's fair to say I've become more obsessed than with the word bollocks than a Blue Oyster swinger on a dogging expedition.

However, optimism is all I've got. Big Sam does not want a full-time job, maybe we could entice him in as a director of football (whatever that is) or a mentor to Phillips bring in Reid as coach and let the feel good factor return, fill the stadium and actually not mind the extra 20 mins to get home by staying until the end.

Or, he will just bring in Pardew continue to let the club rot and I can keep saying bollocks.

Nathan Pear

Dear ALS

The resignation of David Moyes comes as no surprise to me. For some time he seemed uninterested on the sidelines, much less when he talked after the matches. The players lacked the motivation to compete week in and week out leading to the performances displayed on the pitch. Moyes' transfers in January were a reunion of former Everton men who only served to help load the boat with flotsam that he sank the ship with. While the hull sprang leaks he brought on debris instead of bringing in buckets.

Of course, there's some to be said for injuries to the team, many of the important players who have served the club through relegation battles in the past were stuck watching like the rest of us. I also believe that the culture of the club had changed with the appointment of Moyes. It was my impression from the time that he left Man U that he had lost his confidence. Hell, what he did at Man U wasn't that bad, but he wasn't given time and to be fair he's not the personality to manage under such pressure, which I believe is where he cracked down the stretch for Sunderland as well (the smack comment he made prior to the end of the season).

As much as I blame Moyes, the players have to take some blame too but I truly believe this was a business move by Ellis Short's part to bring in a somewhat successful manager, try to save funds and sell the club. Looking back on it I think he waived the white flag on the season and pushed the club into relegation while hoping for whatever cash he could get from tickets, merch, transfers and now the 100 million he'll get from the Prem.

It hurts to look at the club in this light, a club that I care so deeply about but if things were only tweaked just a little bit I know they could be successful. In hindsight, we should have known. We don't know what next year will bring but let's hope that it's not another recycled manager with confidence issues.

Jonathan Sager

Dear ALS

I’ve said it before on this forum and I’ll say it again. Nigel Clough. Why?

  1. He was born locally. The fans will take to him.
  2. His father was a Sunderland legend (and I’m old enough to have seen him play)
  3. He’s worked wonders on a shoestring budget at Burton Albion. Very important; he’s not going to have too much cash for recruiting.
  4. He knows the Championship
  5. If he’s anything like his father, he’ll be looking for a new challenge. Realistically, he’s not going to go any further up the ladder with Burton.
  6. Who else is there? Pardew? Redknapp? No, thanks. Ryan Giggs? Kevin Phillips? With all due respect to these two great players (and they were, both of them) they have no experience of management. Maybe in the future.

As far as the fans are concerned, they must be realistic. We’re not going to do what ‘that lot up the road’ have done and get back to the Premiership in a single season. Whoever is in charge, finishing in the top half of the Championship next season will be seen as a success. I reckon it will take at least three years to get promotion again

Jordan Pickford and Jermaine Defoe are not going to be at SOL next year. Let’s just hope that Pickford doesn’t go for less than 30 million and that the cash will be given to the new manager.

mkenuk@gmail.com

Dear ALS

Firstly, my sympathies to anyone with friends/family caught up in the Manchester atrocity last night.

To footballing matters and I think how we start next season is critical and therefore the timing of the Moyes resignation raises a few questions. Moyes’ talk last week was about being ‘well down the road’ and ‘having a lot in place’ regarding players and discussions with agents, but I believe a lot of these plans were hanging on an agreement yesterday that funding for a Championship promotion campaign would be available and clearly it isn’t.

What baffles me is that we’re only 38 days from players reporting for training and they’ve only now had a ‘tell him how it is’ discussion with the manager. What do they talk about all season long?? We’re the club that should have the most comprehensive relegation contingency plan in the country as we’ve flirted with it for long enough.

Now without a manager we’re faced with another re-build, which is likely to be on a greater scale than previous seasons and the bookies favourite is Ryan Giggs?? If I was Giggs I wouldn’t go anywhere near Sunderland, not that I want him either as we’ve already been down the young manager route with Di Canio/Poyet and our current position requires more experience.

In summary, I think a number of fans will welcome Moyes departure, but the timing suggests poor communication/planning within the club. If Short/Bain are setting the agenda, they need to stand up and be counted next season and not hide behind the next misguided manager who thinks he can turn our club around.

Phil In Leeds

Dear ALS

Waiting till now? What a joke.

So Moyes finally goes to much rejoice around Wearside. But waiting until the damage is done? What's all that about?

Why not do the honourable thing weeks/months ago when we still had a glimmer of hope? Before we pissed away points to Burnley at home, were humiliated by Southampton at home, constantly playing Darron Gibson and making the place seem like a morgue with his dour, negative attitude.

We can now build for next season, with a positive new manager in charge. But even his departure leaves a sour taste for me. It was almost as if he's done it as a last knife into the fans. What a mess.

Matthew Keeling

Hello all at ALS

Not sure where to start with this as I was going to email my thoughts last October!

I honestly thought it would never happen but this season my beloved SAFC has finally broken me. My heart is in tatters.

Having seen so much shite in my 55 years of support I thought I had seen it all but this season has been worse than any other. Having just got the news that Moyes has gone has pleased me but somehow I feel nothing inside. He gave up on us after two games so should have gone then instead of us having to put up with the dross for most of the season, listening to his post match comments of how well we played for the odd 10 minutes here and there. Utter and repetitive rubbish. I don't want to go on about his signings as I find it all so depressing, just to say that when I heard about the signing of Joleon Lescott I cried!

I'm sick and tired of feeling taken for granted with no-one to turn to for support apart from my long suffering wife who tries her best to console me, bless her.

I'm sick of feeling I've been shit on from a great height.

The game is not for the people any more. It's for greedy players who will screw clubs and most of all the hard working fans for as much as possible. The working man’s/women’s game? You’re having a laugh.

Let us not forget that big fat Sam shit on us good style too. I was desperate for him to stay with us, take us forward, bring us all some hope, have a brighter future. However, I and probably every other fan understood the England job was what he always wanted and I reluctantly accepted his departure with our blessing and eternal thanks, knowing that my beloved club was yet again looking for another saviour.

As we all know Sam (I'm trying not to swear) cocked it up good style, insulted others and thought it funny (well Sam it wasn't funny at all you tit). In next to no time he's at Crystal Palace and saves them. There is no justice in this world. Just so happy that one bright day saw the lads hammer them 0-4. Piss off Sam. I feel nothing but contempt for you now. May you never come to the gates of my club again.

I must mention that some of the recent letters submitted to ALS have been excellent and I have found them both moving and poignant. Some have been hilarious which has brightened up my mood a bit, and I have found it interesting to read other fans favourite Sunderland teams and players.

This sorry season has made me think of the 1973 FA cup winning team who would have put this seasons lot to shame (apart from Jermain Defoe - please don't go, stay with us Jermain and help us get back up - and Jordan Pickford, again don't go Jordan please). Arguably none of the cup winning team were household names but my God they worked their socks off week after week. They were all my favourites but Ritchie Pitt was something special God bless him. How I wish we could have someone like him (and the other 10 now).

There are many others who deserve a mention but it would take up too much space. I wanted to and (still do) kiss Gary Rowell all over and my wife said she wanted to sleep with Kenwyne Jones (dirty bugger).

Anyway, where do we go from here? No doubt many opinions will come to the fore but my own thought is either Nigel Clough (first choice) or if the happy hammers want to get shut of Slaven Bilic then he may be a good option.

Keep up the good work ALS
Eddie
Birkenhead. Wirral

Dear ALS

It seems that one thing all Sunderland supporters have in common is that they care passionately about the club, in being that way myself during the course of this season I have frequently tried to figure out how we got to where we are. I still have locked in a draw somewhere a beautifully penned letter from St Niall, which was sent to us last time we were in this situation. It was sent to all supporters who had scraped pennies together in order to buy shares in the club we cared about. It told us that in selling our shares to the Drumaville group we would ensure that Sunderland would henceforth be run by a group of people who cared as much as we do about the club, and it was his passion for the club that had brought it all together. So, we sold our shares, and as promised things got better, Roy Keane came we won matches we were promoted, all looking great, then behind the scenes a buyer came in and Drummaville disappeared.

Suddenly Ellis Short owned Sunderland, but we were reassured by St Niall that he cared, then Roy Keane left and we started to trade managers faster than centre halves. Then Low and behold St Niall abandoned the club as well, presumably with a pocket full of cash from the sale to Mr Short. What happened to all the hope that was offered when persuading us to sell shares.

We are in the same if not worse situation now as we were then. An owner who has thrown a lot of money at a management team who didn't care, to the point where he has now lost interest, a manager who has failed to work with the dismal set of cards he was given, and looks ready to jump ship, and not a knight in shining armour to be seen, so, maybe Mr Short could put an allocation of shares up for grabs so the people who do care could invest and help the clubs financial situation, with a vote on the board included and maybe, just maybe, we can convince the mighty Quinn to come back and be the representative of that vote, because despite everything he is the only one who I believe really cared and gave us all a chance to walk with our heads held high......for a while anyway

Hopeful
Harrogate

Dear ALS

I don't know why Moyes doesn't believe the U23 players at our club are not good enough for the first team. A 0-5 defeat at SoL to Porto suggests they are all ready and ideal for first team duties.

Just keep up the training and drills and they should fit in well into an underperforming side.

Keep up the pressure on our beloved club.
Martin Forster

Dear ALS

I just wanted to say something positive about a player I thought was pretty hopeless when I first saw him play for us this season - Didier N'Dong.

Early on his contribution was limited to simple safe passes (often backwards) when we needed someone more creative and incisive going forward. He was also prone to making costly mistakes. However, he has stuck at it and has improved. Moreover, I applaud his tenacity and willingness to get stuck in, harass and chase back, generally making a nuisance of himself. He looks like he cares too, so I say well done lad and thank you.

Pete 'Down South'

Dear ALS

The fact I've probably wrote this to the total wrong department tells you everything you need to know regarding my writing skills 'and that' However, don’t you all think it's time we stopped accepting dross from the club we love. A love that ultimately gets used against us year after year after year after.

Let me try and explain. At any other club having returns as we do from a season the fans would have at the very least have a 'boycout'. We have a laugh, still turn out every week and still get beat and the board moves on. (None of this so far has come out as I saw it in my head). What if we all meant it this time when we say 'that's it like, I'm not garn back'. The powers that be know we go back even after the usual, 1080 hours without a goal stat, haven't won in 16 stat, haven't keep a clean sheet since Tony Norman stat, the club knows we will be back.

So, what if we done as others (up the road) and said that's it, and we done it on masse. What if we as a whole said we've suffered long enough the stick from other fans, the media, the bloke three rows behind. Relegation this year was just accepted because that's what we do but what do we ever ask in return. We never scream for world class players, millions to spend, we never demand a top season finish we just accept what we get because we love them. The firm fans favourites are all the hard tacklers, Ball, Kay et al. Or a bloke who scores, Phillips and well that's it. That's what we've had from 40k+ we got a goal scorer once. The club needs to know we've had enough and they have to do something about it now, but we won't, they won't and we'll have 40k+ at the first home game of the season whether D.M is here and whether he spends £90m or 13p. See you all there and as everyone keeps asking yes, I'm gonna enjoy Burton away, cos well have a chance to win, score and keep a clean sheet and that's more than we ever ask.

Thanks for listening. Soz about me grammar (sic) and stuff
John A

Dear ALS

David Moyes keeps on telling us what a brilliant Premier League win ratio he has. With a team of his choice, using his tactics and his strange method of encouragement (telling his team they lacked quality) this is his shameful record which I have updated.

Played 37 won 6 = 16.2%, drawn 6 = 16.2%, lost 25 =67.6%. This is a record that would get any manager in any division the sack.

He keeps trotting out any excuse for this abysmal record other than his inability to make them look like a Premier League team.

There are players in the team who are honest and I do not have to name them. Ship out the counterfeits, get in some genuine players who wish to play for pride before money.

If necessary bring in hungry players who will honour the club, the supporters, and most important will play to the best of their ability unlike a number of this sorry bunch.

Terry Reilly
Burgess Hill Sussex

Dear ALS

Once a week I drag my old bones around a five a side football pitch. I may not be very good but I run around as best I can, I try to make a nuisance of myself, I try to contribute. It may just be 10 old blokes having a run around but I don't like losing.

Why do I do this when I know my back is going to be shot the next day and it is going to take the best part of an hour to get moving. I do it because I love playing, making a decent pass or scoring a good goal (probably more by luck than judgement) still gives me a buzz. I push myself as hard as I can because I don't want to let my team mates (or myself) down.

I am certainly nothing special, just some old bloke playing football but comparing myself with that shower that took to the field on Saturday I can only conclude they have no passion, no love for the game, they could not give a t**s about their teammates or (worse still) those who paid to watch. They have no personal pride, just interested in the big fat pay cheque.

Perhaps I should not be surprised as it’s just the way the game has gone recently. I have listened to a couple of old pros recently who played relatively recently. They may have been much better paid than the average man in the street but still felt insecure over how they were going to pay the mortgage if they did not find another club when they fell out of favour or reached the end of a contract. Being fined 2 weeks’ wages for stepping out of line actually made a difference. Perhaps they therefore understood a little more about the average supporter, connected a little more.

I increasingly find myself more interested in lower league, even semi-pro football and less interested in premier league. Maybe that's a result of Sunderland struggle in recent years or maybe it’s something more. Maybe I will enjoy next season in the Championship (although with Moyes in charge I have my doubts).

I went to my first Sunderland match at 8 years old, nearly 50 years ago. During those years I have to admit there have been times when it all got too painful and I tried to step back, tried not to care but it never worked. Guess it is in the blood, just like it was in my Dad's and his Dad before him and I am stuck with it.

If I was the Chairman I would sit those who took the p**s on Saturday down and tell them I want you out of the club but only if I get top dollar. If no suitable offer comes in you can spend the rest of your contract training with the under 18's. I don't care, I have got deep pockets. You took the p**s out of this club so now I am going to p**s on you. No way it will happen but I can dream.

Phil

Dear ALS

I’ve often thought that the ALS letters page should be part of a medically prescribed psychotherapy. I find typing a missive like this quite cathartic. Today’s dosage constitutes a high level of ‘medication’ because I’ve just read some of Moyes post-match comments and utterances and I’m trying to resist the temptation of either head butting the wall or nailing my testicles to a bit of 4 by 2.

Unless the whole meaning of the English language has been turned on its head he seems to be again saying ‘I said all along the squad wasn’t good enough’ and wittering on about his previous win ratio per game. Firstly, Mr Moyes you have been the manager for something like 10 months. In that time performances have got WORSE despite you adding to the squad. The players YOU have signed have largely all been average at best (the minority) or sh*te (the majority). Did someone hold a gun to your head when signing those players? Why spend £8M on a centre half from Chelsea and then not use him (unless he’s sh*te too)? Have ANY of the players you signed been markedly BETTER than the lads who came through to the first team squad (out of necessity) from the U23s?

As for your much-vaunted previous win ratio, how about living in the here and now instead? Yes, we know other managers have also struggled, as Big Sam observed, but he rolled up his sleeves and made a difference. You have simply made things worse. On Saturday against Swansea your team was gutless, clueless and effortless. Whose responsibility is that? Your career has been in a downward spiral since you left Everton but you don’t seem to want to accept that obvious fact and SAFC’s current demise is apparently anyone else’s fault but yours. You sound like one of the many politicians in the current election campaign who, when asked a pertinent question, choose to ignore it completely and instead spout their own pre-determined bollocks in the hope that the audience will either lose the will to live listening to it and therefore overlook it or simply ignore it instead and mentally switch off.

There. I feel a little bit better after that. I’d be even more chipper if Mr Moyes did us and himself a favour (because he’s obviously too good for us) by foregoing the rest of his contract and walking away now. We could then install a wet sponge as a caretaker manager to restore a little bit of respectability and ‘charisma’ to the position again.

Sooty the (somewhat irate) Harrogate Black Cat

Dear ALS

Saturday was awful. Really was. But we have been here before and once the clowns in charge have done one then hopefully things will settle down and we can have a half decent season. Just though I would share this with you. Probably nothing in it like. It was Daughter’s birthday yesterday so we trundled off to Leeds for the day. Went in to an overpriced cocktail bar called the Alchemist and former Boro boss Aitor Karanka was in there.

I asked him if there was anything in the rumour linking him with Sunderland he just laughed and smiled and said he never comments on rumours. I told him that I thought Downing was a twat he agreed with that whole heartedly.

A Smoggy mate of mine said Downing stuck his middle finger up at the South Stand on Saturday so we aren't the only club with egotistical wankers around the place. Anyway, Sobs’ assessment of Saturday spot on again. Off to Chelsea on Sunday. Maybe a while before I visit there again.

Have you heard anything of this Schwarz take over rumour chaps? Mates of mine in the North East say that is what is going around at the moment

Dave McKeever

Dear ALS

In the 68th minute of the final home match of this season my 7 year old son looked at me, his face contorted into a look of resignation, and said "can we go home?"

When I first started taking him to matches I worried that he would want to go home. I worried that in the middle of a match he would tell me he was bored and I would have to put up with a fidgeting child while cheering the lads on, but he wasn't usually. In a dull 1-1 with West Brom he was in awe. He fell in love with Khazri, he waxed lyrical over PVA's "brilliant" goal. When the lights went out against Hull he was fascinated. But something changed. The only reason he wanted to go to the Man Utd game was to see Zlatan, in his defence I could probably say the same. And when we found ourselves 2-0 down at home to Swansea he turned to me and asked me to take him home. Did I feel resentment? No. I was relieved. Don't get me wrong, I have stood until the end watching Ricky Otto tear us apart on a freezing midweek night against Southend at Roker Park with a crowd of around 15,000. When he asked me that though, I felt pride. They had broken him. Like they have broken every single one of us over the years. This year has been dreadful. The last time it was this dreadful we were relegated and our last game was against Aston Villa. We trooped down to Villa Park happy though, because there was new hope. We wore leprechaun hats as Drummaville gave us promise and hope. This season there is nothing. We have a manager hated by the fans, we have a star striker leaving, we have half a team leaving as their contracts expire. In terms of dark days the clouds are gathering. The conspiracy theorists will tell you this was always the plan; players left to let their contracts expire; players signed on short deals; Moyes' insistence on getting us accustomed to relegation from day one, maybe so. Perhaps this is the chance to rebuild, and today's programme notes offer more than a hint of that with both Moyes and O'Shea talking about the young players. We needed to press the reset button, start again. I am not a Moyes fan, I do not follow him blindly and his actions have been questionable at best, unfathomable at worst. Even against Swansea, playing Borini and Larsson ahead of Khazri was baffling. When Denayer was injured, Gibson came on. Many call for his head, and he frustrates me beyond belief. Refusing to acknowledge the fans was a mistake, but a mistake which is understandable. Karanka left Boro saying he could do no more. That earned him respect.

An alternative view is that he knew where things were going and he backed out. If there is a shred inside us that offers any respect to Moyes it is that he toughed it out, took the abuse and did not run away. Who knows what next season brings, at the risk of sounding a bit Moyes I fear a double drop given the exits. We live in hope though, perhaps this was a plan, perhaps we are going to build from the youth. Perhaps we can become the new Southampton and come back stronger. My son will be sat by my side next season, not because I am forcing him, but because he wants to. They broke him but they got under his skin. The wet,cold, British winter makes the British summer feel warmer; more of a gift. When we have our moments of sunshine this club is second to none. The players do not deserve their supporters, we all deserve better. However, who else would you follow?

Michael Conroy

Dear ALS,

We have been reduced to rubble this season. Poor ownership, poor management and too many players who have little or no interest in the club are to blame. Apparently, the club wants to get rid of at least 12 players with first team experience, but which clubs if in their right mind, would want any of them? I’d except Defoe, Pickford Khazri and perhaps Larsson from too much criticism, but never have Sunderland, at any time this season, resembled a football team. Yesterday’s performance against Swansea was cynical - the players were going to turn up for their wages. OK, but, what the heck, there’s nothing at stake, so let’s get it over with, endure 90 minutes of looking after ourselves then off down the tunnel for the last time on this ground. During the game, few bothered to even run, or help out a team mate in defence. There were too many spectators in Sunderland kit in the team and it was shameful.

It's going to be a long hard slog back into the Premiership, if they ever manage to achieve that.

I’m sorry to say that Sunderland look like going the way of other once great clubs such as Blackburn Rovers, Leeds United, Sheffield Wednesday and United, Birmingham, Portsmouth and Aston Villa to name just a few of many more whose glory days a long since gone. Championship, even Division One might be the best we can ever expect for the foreseeable future.

There’s been an air of negativity over the SoL for a long time now. Under Allardyce, recovery looked possible, but David Moyes, with more or less the same players, just seems to exude hopelessness and negativity. I think his problem is that the players just won’t play for him. Brian Clough used to get the best out of an average to good sort of squad at Notts Forest because he was very good at management and the players wanted to play for him and for Forest. Just the opposite has happened at the SoL

Let’s hope we can buck the odds, get a decent team together in the Championship and get a manager who can get his players to give their all for him and the club. Given our recent past, I’m not holding my breath, though.

Dave from Sheffield

Dear ALS
 
36 games played, won 6 which is 16.6%, drawn 6 which is 16.6%, lost 24 which is a whopping 66.8% of games played.
 
Are we now hoping that the manager who achieved those figures is going to turn into a charismatic leader of men, recruit, energise and stimulate players to do what has not been done all season.
 
I would love to think that he can but my head tells me we need a new broom as the one being used at present is devoid of bristles.

Terry Reilly
Burgess Hill
Sussex

Dear ALS

It’s almost 50 years to the week since Celtic became the first British team to lift the European Cup. I remember watching the game on black and white TV in a pub in Aberdeen where I was living and working at the time. It was unforgettable – there were Celtic fans, Aberdeen fans and Rangers fans – yes, Rangers fans - cheering on Jock Stein’s Lisbon Lions as they came from a goal down to beat the mighty Inter Milan 2-1.

Now there’s no reason why that should be particularly significant for Sunderland’s fans as they try to get over one of the worst seasons in their recent history. But I think there is a lesson to learn. Look at the make-up of the Celtic team that day. There were no really big names in it. For a start, they had a 40-year old goalkeeper who had won an FA Cup medal with the Mags years earlier. Every one of the 11 players on that team had been born within a 40-mile radius of Celtic Park in the east end of Glasgow. But on that memorable day in Lisbon they played with the passion and loyalty of world-beaters - a passion and a loyalty that I’m afraid is totally absent from the current Sunderland team

They were, of course, playing for one of the game’s greatest motivators -Jock Stein. He proved on that memorable Thursday afternoon that he could take 11 good, but not outstanding, players and form them into a team that was capable of beating anyone.

There have been other great motivators of course, over the years. The names of Shankly, Busby, Ramsey, Ferguson and Clough come to mind. They were all capable of building great teams from fairly ordinary players. Ferguson, for example, before coming to Man U., had won the European Cup-Winners’ Cup with Aberdeen, a team of virtual unknowns. All great managers are capable of instilling pride and passion in any player, no matter how ordinary. The nearest any Sunderland manager has come to it in my many years of watching them was Bob Stokoe’s 1973 side.

Watching Sunderland’s latest performance against Swansea, it became obvious after only a few minutes that there was no pride, no passion, no motivation. Teamwork? Half of the players gave the impression that they had never seen their teammates before. Passion? Pride? Totally lacking. Motivation? – whatever other qualities Mr Moyes may possess, the ability to motivate his players would not seem to be among them.

Over the years, Sunderland’s fans have been incredibly forgiving. However, lack of effort cannot and will not ever be pardoned.
Time to go, Mr Moyes. You’re not what we’re looking for, I’m afraid.

Keep the red and white flag flying high.

Mike K

Dear ALS

It was interesting today that MOTD when discussing Sunderland, posed the question, “How can you have success on the field, when it is a shambles behind the scenes?” That shambles is the way the club is operated and has been operated since Ellis Short took ownership. They should fit a revolving door at the main entrance for managers and players as the coming and going is endless. However, it probably needs a bit of 3-in-1 oil on the hinges of Ellis Short’s office door as he seldom uses it.

Going back to Roy Keane, most managers have said that there is something fundamentally wrong at the club. They have also reported that what was promised was not forthcoming. Over Short’s reign as owner, fans have seen a year-on-year scraping of the transfer barrel. There are claims that the club has spent a lot of money buying players, if that’s the case, why are there so many free transfers on the books?

Moyes said at the beginning of the season, that expected funds were not available. He too, scrapes the bottom of the barrel looking for players. I among many have criticised the players he has brought in – some real shockers. Then I reflect and think, did he have any choice, are they the only players prepared to come to Sunderland?

I criticise Moyes about his substitutions and he’s not exactly the life and soul of the party. But again, be fair to him – Sunderland have had an amazingly bad season for injuries. For most of the season we have had 10 or more out on the physios table.

On balance, I think Moyes should say, but it does not matter who is the manager, if there is no support from the top, we are heading towards another bad season. That would be the sixth in a row under Short.

My hope is that Short gets a buyer for the club asap. If he remains the owner, we will continue to struggle. If the fans are going to get on anyone’s back, make it Ellis Short. Booing the manager or the players is extremely negative and detrimental to the team’s performance. Support everyone on the pitch, players, subs, and the manager, be positive and support our club.

By the way, this is the 60th year that I have stood in the crowd supporting Sunderland and even in the dark days at Roker Park with crowds under seven thousand I never booed the club, I was there to cheer them on and will continue to do so. Come on Sunderland!

All the best,
Albert & Mary

Dear ALS

The chances of David Moyes being at SOL would seem to be roughly the same as Jeremy Corbyn winning the next election.

Who’s going to replace him? It’s not inconceivable that among the current players at SAFC there are some who would make good managers. John O’Shea perhaps? Jermaine Defoe? Possibly, but Sunderland cannot afford to take the chance.

There was a rumour at the time that when St. Niall appointed Roy Keane, he gave him three years to get Sunderland back in the Premier League and another two years to establish themselves there. Make no mistake, at the time of Keane’s appointment, Sunderland were heading for the third tier. They’d been beaten at home by Plymouth and put out of the League Cup by Bury who were bottom of League Two at the time. The transformation following the arrival of ‘Keano’ was as miraculous as that which Bob Stokoe brought with him in 1973.

Keane fulfilled the first part of the deal, of course. He got Sunderland back up in style in one season. Unfortunately, he couldn’t keep them there. He bought players by the busload – unfortunately few of them were any good.

Roy Keane might fancy having another go, but to be honest, his record since leaving SAFC has not been too impressive.

Whoever gets the job, it’s not going to be done overnight. Instant success is not going to happen.

I still think Nigel Clough would be a good choice. His ability at lower levels cannot be doubted. Locally born to a legendary father, the fans would surely take to him. Give him at least the same chance that Roy Keane was supposedly given – three years to get back into the Premiership and two more to get them settled. He was recently quoted as saying that his dad (Brian) would be very proud of what he had achieved at Burton Albion. Very true. I think he would be even more proud of his son if he could get SAFC back to its former status as one of England’s top teams.

Furthermore, I think they should bring him in now. The Championship finishes tomorrow. Burton are safe. Get Nigel Clough in now, put him in charge for Sunderland’s final three Premiership games and it would give him a chance to assess the players, decide who he wanted to keep and, most important, let him see the under-21s and the younger players. They are the future.

We shall overcome
Mike K

Dear ALS,

The trend of this debate almost exclusively on whether David Moyes should stay or go. I’ve tried to find reasons for him to perhaps stay in the interests of continuity, but having read much on this thread, I have arrived at the conclusion that he should go. It would be both undignified and pointless to ask him to go now, but as soon as the final whistle has gone on the last game this season he should pack his bags.

No manager opts to do a bad job at the club which employs him, but some just do and I’m afraid Moyes is one of them. Excuses have been made for his previous failures: that there was a gang of senior players at Manchester United who didn’t want him in the first place and perhaps they weren’t had judges. He has now failed in his last three jobs. The only thing one can say in his defence was that Sunderland were something of a poisoned chalice, although there’s no doubt that Allardyce left the club in a much better state than he found it.

But Moyes’ failure has been very public and very palpable. Under his stewardship the club looked doomed from the very beginning of the season. Moyes, himself, has been unappealing to both fans and players. There are quite a few managers who snap and bark at players and the press: Mourinho, Wenger come to mind, but even they sometimes have a laugh with the press and players. Moyes has looked like a ghost all season. He has flitted about and never seems to engage with anything. There’s a lifelessness in him which has affected the club. Sunderland have been dour and uninspiring under him and what with the price to get into a match, manager and players have no right to be like this - but I think they take their cue from Moyes at Sunderland. No wonder players like PVA got out whilst they could. They might get huge wage packets at the SoL, but they might be prepared to play for a bit less in a more cheerful and positive atmosphere.

I’ve been saying for years that there is a malaise at Sunderland. You have to go back to the days of people like Kevin Phillips, Niall Quinn and Peter Reid to remember a team which played exciting, stylish football. Martin O’Neill wasn’t exactly a failure compared David Moyes, either. Since their day it’s been downhill, with dark clouds over the club.
Allardyce brought a bit of a spark to us and what a fool he was to leave. Allardyce, who could have been the making of the club left and damaged his own career, though admittedly he’s not making too bad a hand of things at Palace.

So, let’s have a manager who can put a smile on the players and the fans instead of the doom and gloom engulfing the stadium now.

Dave from Sheffield

Dear ALS

The Moyes Debate.

David Moyes seems to exude doom and gloom. To say we are in a relegation fight after two games sends a very clear signal to me. Perhaps it was his idea of reverse psychology!

What we need is someone who is passionate about the club and I can't think of anyone more so than Bally. I know his caretaker spells weren't hugely very successful but if he was teamed up with someone like Super Kev, who is fast developing a following as a coach, the club would be in safe hands in my opinion. We've got to get the pride back and both those guys know what it takes to make the greatest club in the north-east buzz.

Phil Herdson
Bridgnorth
Shropshire

Dear ALS

Having tried very hard this season to understand the difficulties encountered by David Moyes I am amazed that in some quarters he is still being defended.

It was he who brought in aged, injury prone players like Pienaar and Lescott. He also brought in young lads from Manchester United who are little or no better than our academy youngsters.

He also brought in Januzaj who did not want to come and is averse to running, tackling or doing anything which requires effort. To have a wage bill in the top ten and perform so abysmally is an absolute disgrace.

Now is the time for Mr Bain to prove he is up to the job of root and branch re-organisation, if he is not then employ someone who is ruthless enough to do a job which is years overdue.

I have no faith in a manager who signs players and then tells the world they are no good, lack quality and from the onset of the season told anyone who would listen that we would be involved in a relegation battle which was self-fulfilling.

Bring in a young energetic manager and give him a mandate to sign players who care, will run and sweat for the club and whose first priority is not money. Let the sun kissed South Americans, the exotic African players who go missing for six weeks every two years be employed elsewhere.  Players with the application of Dean Whitehead and Phil Bardsley spring to mind, or the likes of Steve Sidwell who always put in an honest shift for the club who paid his wages.

Please do not carry on as if nothing has happened, reform is required immediately if not sooner.

Terry Reilly
Burgess Hill Sussex

Dear ALS

David Moyes must leave this club, now. There is no case to answer to the contrary. Ellis Short's loyalty to him is utterly baffling. Incomprehensible. Dumbfounding.  

Every criteria he can be judged on he has failed in. Recruitment, tactics, team selection, results, getting the most out of players, all the while delivering constant, draining negativity. 

Previous managers have comfortably out performed him. He has only made the leaks in this club worse. 

Complaints about funds are completely unfounded; £21m for N'dong and Djilobodji compared to £16 for Kone, Khazri and Kirchhoff is embarrassing. 

More importantly: the new manager needs time to assess the squad in the final few games of the season, identify targets and start to make his mark on the club.

We hear about managers of teams promoted via the playoffs being disadvantaged by the lack of preparation time for the new season, and failure to act now would put this club in the same position. 

A manager should either be delivering results or be able to evidence the fact that he can turn things around. At no point has Moyes done this.

Please, David, resign. Go now. 

Ian Bendelow

Dear ALS

Searching for diamonds in a sulphur mine. That would aptly describe our team selection options in 2016/17. Looking back at the basis of our team at the end of last season we had a back four of PVA, Kone, Kaboul and Yedlin, midfield of Kirchoff, M’villa and Catts with Defoe, Borini and Khazri in front of them. Then with the start of this current campaign Kaboul departs, Kone’s head goes awol, Yedlin signs for the scum, we ignore M’villa then Catts and Big Jan get long term injuries. Add to that PVA falling out with Gollum and then look at who the bog eyed one brought in as replacements – no wonder we struggled.

As an interested peruser of the ALS website I see a few people are still suggesting Moyes should be given a chance to ‘clean us up’. I suspect they may be voices crying in the wilderness. What Moyes has done in reality is ‘clean us out’ instead. Shockingly poor transfer dealings overall and the inspirational equivalent of Neville Chamberlain waving a piece of paper. You could at least argue Chamberlain bought time before the inevitable. The piece of paper Moyes was effectively waving at the start of the season was also white but I suspect it may have been either quilted or had the words ‘now wash your hands’ embossed into it. If ALS hasn’t already done it, a poll would be interesting to see what percentage still have faith in our David. Personally speaking, I believe that based on his ‘form’ with us this season, if he stays we’ll be struggling near the bottom of the Championship next time out until he is eventually given the order of the boot. We HAVE to hit the ground running in 2017/18 to get some momentum going, getting the fans behind the team from the start. If we don’t our future is bleak.

In Ellis Short’s case however, I would offer a few words in his defence. His recent statement acknowledges mistakes in our recruitment policy in recent years (an understatement to say the least and I hope he is including the current manager in that criticism). I honestly believe however that he is a fan and ‘bought in’ to the club emotionally in his time here. As a successful businessman his pride in his own acumen and abilities must be sorely dented now. The question we should ask ourselves is, if he does want to sell up is it because he feels he’s failed the club (and let us down) or is it because he’s just so cheesed off with us and wants to cut and run? I don’t know the answer but I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt and suggest it’s the former. I doubt if any new potential buyers (aka mugs) would have any emotional ties to the club at outset. Ellis Short said that Moyes had been his preferred ‘want’ for 5 years. I assume he also now realises he was mistaken. Both should get together, admit the relationship isn’t working and nor is it likely to (ever). Moyes should do the honourable thing and walk away (to tout his much vaunted ‘win record’ somewhere else where the people are more gullible than us, thereby keeping his ‘reputation’ intact). It would save the club money and give us a chance to start the rebuilding process NOW. The new campaign should start here. Remember when we lost the play off final to Charlton? Bally said afterwards that the resolve for the next season started on the bus back from Wembley. Look how that worked.

Onwards and upwards with a new manager and a vastly turned around squad. Hopefully. You never know – if you dig out all the sulphur, there may just be some diamonds to be found underneath after all.

Sooty the Harrogate Black Cat

Dear ALS

Stability seems to be the “in” word these days, but is probably none the worse for that. I think of the last seven or eight managers we’ve had, only Sam Allardyce has offered stability, and that was a struggle to the end of another nail biting relegation tussle with our next-door neighbours. Much though I dislike Mike Ashley, Wonga and the financial involvement with rogues at Sid James’ Park, they have been, of late, more stable as a club, perhaps not much, but enough, to get back up into the Premier League at the first time of asking. I can’t see that happening with us under the present regime. Crazy mistakes have been made: the sacking of Margaret Byrne who had allowed Adam Johnson to play on, which was very disruptive to the team and the club’s reputation, and it damaged us. Poor signings haven’t helped, either. We went mad to sign ex-loanee Borini who has not really been a success since he joined us and we still have plenty of other mid-price range mediocrities on our books.

As for David Moyes: sometimes I think we should persuade him to stay if only for continuities sake, but who wants to continue as we have been over the last nine or ten years? Louise Taylor, in yesterday’s Guardian, perceptively described him as “old school.” He seems very conservative in tactics and to have a fairly closed mind. He has excluded some of his better players on a regular basis, only calling on them when this season has, effectively, been lost.

Then again, as Keith M points out in his letter, we’ve only won five of our thirty four games - that’s 14%. Nowhere near good enough. So, perhaps David Moyes should go and take Ellis Short with him. I don’t know how often Ellis Short comes to see us play, but if the club is sold to a Chinese, how committed will they be to anything other than the bottom line? How often will they turn up to matches? Roman Abrahmovic attends almost all of Chelsea’s games. He might have a dodgy record in the world of finance, but he can’t be faulted as Chelsea’s owner, although it’s a pity we have to have so many foreign owners running our football. But we are in limbo at the moment with an owner who wants rid of us and a manager who, it seems, can no longer manage effectively.

The solution to our woes might be simple: a clean sweep of owner and manager to be replaced by better people. Simple though that might sound it could take a heck of a lot to luck to bring about. Black cats are supposed to be lucky, but the look seems to be escaping from them these days. Perhaps, like its wonderful fans, our mascots need to be give some food that’s a bit of a treat for them rather than being fed on unappetising scraps week on week.

Dave from Sheffield

Dear ALS

Now our relegation has finally been confirmed, I have noticed the word 'stability' being frequently used in reference to our club.

A glance at the top five in the Premier League shows teams with relatively new managers. No 'stability' there, then. If a club has a manager like Eddie Howe at Bournemouth, who continues to over achieve season after season, then he has surely earned the 'stability' he receives.

If, however, a club like Sunderland, who has a manager who has been a disaster, were to seek 'stability', then my guess is this is not the right time.

A glance at the bottom of the table (where we are used to looking) will show a team which has five victories in thirty four games. Anyone who is thinking David Moyes should be the man to bring stability to the club, repeat after me....5 victories in 34 games,5 victories in 34 games… repeat until cured.

Regards,
Keith M

Hello all at ALS.

Just a few words.

I read that Moyes says it is too early to commit to Sunderland. Moyes, it is too late!

Give the young Clough a go, he seems used to be good with very little funds, which I presume will be exactly what we will have next season - looking forward to it though.

Chris Moffatt

Dear ALS

As expected, we’re down. We lived up to our new nickname “Sunderland nil.” It’s almost a relief that it has happened so long before the season has finished. At least, we’ll not to need to bite our nails or chew the carpet for a few months.

What to do next? Having survived a series of nerve shredding escapes over the last 10 seasons after which the manager has usually been sacked, we need to think clearly about David Moyes. I think he’ll probably elect to go rather than wait to be pushed, but if he does, it’s just another repeat, ad nauseam, of what happens at the SoL. So, do we get another manager? Who would want to come to a club which has been badly managed by its owners for years? I suppose anybody coming in would, cynically, think that at least they had a pay check for a year. But what is needed is a change of culture at the club. It needs to pay off its debt for a start. It needs to make sure that new owner is absolutely with the club. It would be silly of them not to be, because the club have only mounted up debts for Ellis Short. Sunderland also has the tenth highest wage bill in the Premiership. Makes yer think, dunnit.

What’s the point of running an academy side if sufficient players don’t get a run out in the first team? Pickford and Watmore have been successes, particularly Pickford and Watmore, though he has a bit to learn, looks to be a very good prospect. The first team, when on the field, don’t look together - sometimes they look like a scratch side just put together for a particular game. They look like a team which just makes the game up as they go along. I think I’d describe Sunderland’s general match approach as aimless.

Perhaps Moyes should be given the chance to build a team. He has had some pretty discouraging material to work with so far. Players like Borini, who did so well when on loan from Liverpool and who was an unwilling recruit when we finally signed him, has disappointed. I wonder how many of the regular first team are really committed to Sunderland? It shouldn’t be too hard to identify them and move them on at the end of the season. If the club is cash strapped, and they aren’t the only one, a better run club might get better results without having to spend as much as Sunderland have of late, only to get players who have not delivered.

Next season will be crucial. There’s talk about bouncing straight back up next season, but my worry is that with a squad like the present one, they might find the Championship mid-table a comfortable place. Or, given the way the club has been run, they might have another relegation scrap on their hands. At least the team and spectators would be in familiar territory with the latter.

Yours in sadness,
Dave from Sheffield

Dear all supporters,

It’s raw at the moment and much of the opinion seems to be that Moyes is at fault and if we sack Moyes it will be better.

I have watched the mighty Sunderland since the early 70’s when Alan Brown was manager and I was a bairn. Jim an ould gadgee who sat in front of us at Roker spouted a constant commentary on the game and was the only reason to go as he was hilarious. The football was shit.

Fast forward and Jim is still there but we win the FA Cup. However, we still can’t win our games in the league and still can’t get out of Division 2 despite the likes of Monty, Kerr, Hughes, Watson et al.

I went to Southend when McMenemy had downed us and ALS had their best ever cover –” We’re Safe!! It is now mathematically impossible for Sunderland to be Relegated! “– when we won the Div 3 title.

Peter Reid was sacked for not being brilliant and Steve Bruce was sacked for being a Geordie (I am he is not as he is from Corbridge).

I was at Wembley when Poyet’s team lost to Man City despite Borini’s wonder goal.

Brave supporters do something against your instinct. We have a fantastic U23’s team, we have some young raw signings and we have a manager that specialises in giving youth a chance and building a team from scratch.

Shut the F*&k up and let Moyes get on with it.

Kind regards,
Stevie S

Dear ALS

Well it has happened and we are down. Not unexpected. I missed the relegation party as driving down the A1 to work at Peterborough. But will be there for Swansea game.

I am 50 this year and have seen many promotions and relegations. This one strangely feels less hurtful.

Not sure if it is the fact that we have struggled for four years now and that the constant end of season clamour for points has took its toll or that I am fed up of the constantly hyped Premier League and its overpaid egotistical players and managers with their stupid salaries or if it is that for me and supporters of a certain vintage most of my happy memories come from watching Sunderland in lower leagues I am not sure. Probably a mixture of all to be honest.

Moyes is part of the establishment now. Took over a decent team at Everton from Joe Royal and has lived on the glories since. Failed at Old Trafford and Real Sociedad. Would not be so bad if he accepted some responsibility but he won't.

Can't really see him still being in charge next season. Money talks and even in these days so do fans opinions. Very very few want him to stay and Short and Bain will be well aware of opinions and if it is him or somebody else in charge next season a major rebuild will be required to avoid a further decline into League one.

At the end of the day, I love Sunderland AFC. This was passed on to me from my Dad, who still travels up from York (he is 81) and has been passed down to my son (he is 12).

It is my home City even though I have not lived there since I was 4: The people, on entering in to Sunderland via Train or by road through Rhyope and Grangetown it is mine. SAFC are part of that. My club will never be Arsenal or Man Utd and probably never will be. But they are part of the city, part of me.

I walk across Wearmouth Bridge the same bridge as when my Great Grandfathers walked across from Pallion and Hendon did to watch Davie Halliday.

It is my club, my city and I will still be going just like my Old Man at the age of 81 as will no doubt my lad.

You never know the Mags may have worked out how to beat us but then but I doubt it.

Dave McKeever
Doncaster
FTM, in my heart and my soul you will always be Sunderland

Dear ALS

David Moyes has repeatedly bemoaned the lack of quality at Sunderland.

It was him who signed Djilobodji, Love, Mc Nair, Pienaar, N’dong, Boavista, Anichebe, Lescott, Gibson and Ovideo.

By signing ten new players and then questioning their quality is the height of stupidity. Get rid of him and bring in someone who can smile and bring some joy.

He is a busted flush and is another plonker who has dragged us down to unplumbed depths.

Terry Reilly
Burgess Hill Sussex

Dear ALS

David Moyes seriously is taking the piss now.

Our exorable season has lurched from crisis to calamity to despondency under his utterly inept tutelage all under the premise he was the man Ellis Short wanted to rebuild the club in the Championship and finally have a long term stable plan.

Now the zombie faced shithouse is saying he thinks he might jack it in at the end of the season?

I don't know what I'm more incredulous about the fact Ellis Short actually stood by this utterly broken manager living off of a reputation for mediocrity he established five years ago or the fact that Moyes has clearly just used us to try to rebuild his shattered reputation whilst all the time harking to his mates in the media about how hard it is at Sunderland and how no one could do a job up here just to cover his own cowardly arse. He never had any intention of staying when we went down as he's made abundantly clear from the start.

Ellis has dropped the ball big time here. We could have bombed Moyes off before January and brought in any of a raft of names who would have been suited (Pearson would have been ideal but Jesus I would have taken Harry Redknapp or even that bastard Alan Depardew) but instead in his starry eyed commitment he was all " ooh David's the man I've wanted for 5 years he couldn't possibly fail me now" whilst all the while Moyes was rattling on about how shit we are and how he never had a chance.

Moyes has basically taken Ellis out to the car park with promises of how they were going to leave early and go to his and spend a wonderful evening together then had his way with us in the back of the clapped out Vauxhall nova that is his reputation and pissed off back inside to tell his mates leaving us where we are now.

Shafted, clueless and humiliated 

This is the worst thing to happen to us since Lawrie Mackemenemy and as far as I’m concerned is unforgivable 

Ellis, sack Moyes now and give the job to bally and once you've done that on your way out give the keys to anybody you pass on the street as whoever it is can do a better job than you have and bid us goodbye

This is my club and my passion and I don't deserve to have it sullied and dragged out the league like a laughing stock by a man who's never here and a man who thinks it's alright to threaten lasses 

Stop now, neither of you are wanted any more 

Ross

Dear ALS

I’ve just finished reading M Kenuk’s extremely well informed and detailed letter. He makes the point, most strongly, about almost comical mis-management at Sunderland, going back to the 1950s. I didn’t realise that they have only finished in the top half of the top league three times in the last 55 years until I read his letter. For a team like ours, with fans like ours, this is pretty shameful.

I remember the team with Ray Daniel and Trevor Ford which was The Bank of England Team and that was, perhaps our best post-war effort. How good might Sunderland have been if Shackleton and Ford had not been at daggers drawn for much of their time together? But it seems that whenever we get a decent manager, we lose him, either through the board’s mismanagement, or some other form of incompetence. I even remember Raich Carter leaving the club to go to Derby County where, I suppose his prospects were better. He had a few games of cricket for Derbyshire whilst he was there. Could he have made a fist of managing Sunderland?

Looking things up on Wikipedia, only Peter Reid has had a substantial and successful stay as our manager in recent (recent?!) years. Many have only lasted a season, some even less than that. Since 1957 we have had 39 managers: that’s 39 managers in 60 years, so (my arithmetic’s always been a bit shaky) that an average stay of 18 months. Only Allardyce has shown much form as manager in the immediate past and we all know what happened to him. Martin O’Neil showed promise, but wasn’t given time it was the same with Bruce. Perhaps we should give Moyes time to get a better squad together? None of our recent managers have come into a happy, stable club, nor have they been supported for long enough. Some should never have been appointed like Di Canio, Advocaat and probably Roy Keane.

Looking abroad at a successful club such as Juventus, it has been owned by the Agnelli family since 1923. They have had a high turnover of managers since 1923 (90) which suggests that few stay for long: on average less than two years, although some have stayed for much longer. But the fact remains that the Agnellis have kept the club for all of those years, nurtured it and have provided calm and stability. Don’t know how many owners we have had in the last 60 years, but the present one, Short, it seems has tired of us. But if he sells who would buy? Leyton Orient and Leeds United are cautionary tales: Leeds have managed to survive, but Leyton are threatened with closure due to poor management and ownership. The one thing a club needs for success is stability. A quality in short supply at Sunderland for many a long year. Nearer home, Abramovich at Chelsea has offered stability even whilst changing managers frequently, as have Juventus, and Arsenal have had managerial stability through Wenger. Can we learn anything from this?

Best wishes,
Dave, from Sheffield

Dear Mr Moyes

It is with regret that I find it necessary to write to you after what seems like a football nightmare this season.

I have watched this season as the self-belief has evaporated and the players have basically given up. There is little passion, no creativity and a resignation of the impending relegation. 

When you signed up to become the Sunderland manager did you give any thought to what this club actually represents?

This club our club has been built in Wearside for Wearside folk. These folk worked in the shipyards or in the pits. They grafted all week and paid what little they had left to watch their team. 

We don't get worked up on famous number 9's, we ask for nothing more than those players to put a shift in and chase and harry. Close the opposition down in their own half, make every single away team player know that they have been to Sunderland and got the bumps and bruises to prove it. 

This is what Sunderland is about, a proud club which works hard and has grit in their stomachs.

Please Mr Moyes remember this and make sure that your team knows this. Connect with the fans, we will be here long after all of you have gone to pastures new. 

Regards
John Marshall 

Dear M Kenuk,

We are a big club, we have been in three FA Cup finals, not two! 

And we turned our noses up when invited to take part in the Charity Shield in 1973, only a massive club could pull off such a snub.

D.I. Regan 
Flying Squad

Dear Love Supreme

Fantastic last letter.

I was 10-year-old back in 1964 and remember the Man U cup game like yesterday. Bloody broke the walls down to get in. Heard the Roar from my house in Ford Estate when we scored. Remember young Derek Foster in goal for first game of season to Leicester 3 - 3. ONLY 15 youngest ever at the time, still may be. Never saw Cloughie, injured season before I think, got to see Sharkey instead. Good trio with Herd & Crossan. The 64 team pipped for promotion by Chelsea previous season. Just needed a draw & could not do it. I think Stoke & Chelsea went up. Now back to Nigel Clough, he was born in Sunderland, now there is a thought.

God bless all you Makems
Best supporters in the world
We will be back.
Mackem Stan

Dear ALS

I’ve been following Sunderland since the late 1950s. Sunderland played outside the top flight for the first time in 1959. Alan Brown had the job of getting them back up. It took him six years, although had there been 3-up, 3-down and play-offs back then they might have managed it in less. As it was then only the top two got promoted.

By 1964 Brown had built a superb team, based around players like Charlie Hurley and George (‘Bullet’) Mulhall. They were expected to do really well back in the top flight. There was no reason to think that they wouldn’t, they’d stuffed Champions Everton in the FA Cup and come within a few minutes of putting out Man U at Old Trafford.

In June 1964, Alan Brown walked out on them. Still, to this day, no-one is really sure why, but what is certain is that he left Sunderland and went to Sheff. Wed. There was talk of appointing a really big-name manager, but after a half-hearted attempt to get Tommy Docherty from Chelsea, when August and the new season arrived, SAFC still didn’t have a manager.

‘Not to worry,’ said the directors, “We’ll do without a manager. We don’t need one!” (You couldn’t make this up)

Sunderland’s first game back in Div 1 was to be at home to Leicester. A week before the big kick-off, Jim Montgomery was injured in training and, guess what, we didn’t have a reserve goalkeeper. So, for that game against Leicester we had England’s Gordon Banks in one goal and a 15-year old schoolboy, Derek Forster, in the other. A cracking 3-3 draw it was, by the way.

By the end of October, Sunderland were rock-bottom. Played 14, won 1, drawn 6, lost 7. They didn’t have a single away point. And they still didn’t have a manager. Finally, the directors realized that SAFC were going straight back down to the 2nd Div. They appointed a manager! Big name? Hardly, George Hardwick, ex Middlesbrough and England full-back, who was managing Gateshead in the Northern Premier League.

You know what? Hardwick saved them. From rock bottom at the end of October, he got them up to 15th by the end of the season. His reward? A five-year contract? No way! This is SAFC. He was sacked!

In his place came the failed Scotland Team manager, Ian Mccoll. He was completely useless as a manager, yet somehow, he lasted for three and a half years. Finally, following a thumping at home (by Southampton?) there were near riots outside the ground and McColl was given his cards.

Then came the moment that only the most incompetent board of directors could be capable of, they brought back Alan Brown! He’d walked out on them years ago, been a disaster at Sheff Wednesday and now was being invited back to Sunderland. Literally thousands of supporters vowed they would never go back to Roker Park while he was there. Crowds plummeted, barely 10,000 at some games. Brown in his second spell was a disaster. He took the team down to the 2nd Division again, and really they could have been heading for the 3rd before somebody saw sense, and sacked him. Enter Bob Stokoe.

SAFC, the Bank of England club, once the biggest club in the country. The fact is that in 55 years they have finished in the top half of the top division three times. They’ve been in two FA Cup Finals, winning one, and two League Cup Finals, losing both. They’ve qualified for Europe once. Big club? No way; big clubs win things.

Where to now? Who do they appoint if, as seems possible, David Moyes gets the bullet? They might do worse than Nigel Clough, his father was idolized by my generation. You never know, some of the old man’s magic might be there in the son.

M Kenuk

Dear ALS

Sunderland have, almost inevitably, lost to Middlesbrough, one of the weakest sides in the Premiership. In fact, we have lost to all of the other weak sides in the Premiership and beaten hardly any of the mid-table sides.

Middlesbrough had home advantage, they’ll tell us, but losing to all of the other weak teams can mean only one thing: relegation. Sunderland have been badly run and mismanaged for years. Middling amounts of money have been spent to bring in sub-middling, uncommitted players and now our faithful fans will be watching Championship soccer next season. All this talk about going straight back up is pie in the sky. We’ll need to watch we're not in Division 1 the season after next. Don't blame Moyes altogether. He came in to a failed system.

However, the financial shenanigans up the road at Sid James’ Park might yield a bit of amusement. Any club sporting Wonga on their shirts deserve all they get. Will they be told that their promotion is cancelled? Hope so: we need the points (all six) next season!

Yours in sadness and frustration
Dave from Sheffield

Dear ALS

I'd like to know everyone's highlight of the season?

Mine was after we got beat at home off Boro and one of the burger vans had made too many burgers and everything was a quid. I got a double cheeseburger with bacon.

Won't see days like that again.

John Oliver

Dear ALS

Wondered whether this (revised) quote from Lerroux, circa 1936 relating to the Spanish Civil War had some resonance regarding Our Friends in the North?

Enter and sack the decadent civilizatoon ...
destroy its temples...
tear the veil from its novices

They're going up
They're going down!

All the best
Vincent Price

Dear ALS

For the past few seasons Sunderland have found themselves in a relegation battle resulting in a late miracle that ensures Premier League safety for another year. However, Sunderland currently sit bottom of the Premier League almost certain of Championship football next season. So what has went wrong this season?

When David Moyes was appointed manager of Sunderland I thought it was positive step towards the progression of the football club. However, as each game passes relegation seems almost certain which make me think what could have been prevented and what better could have done.

At every club during pre season, the transfer window is hugely important to improve the current squad and prepare for the upcoming season. On the other hand, I saw this opportunity for Sunderland as a wasted one, due to lack of funds available to buy quality players to ensure the Premier League status. This problem has materialized throughout the season, where the lack of quality has proved costly for the outcome of Sunderland’s season. The lack of quality has been highlighted in all most areas of the team, especially in defence but also in attack where the responsibility has yet been placed on Jermaine Defoe. Looking back at the end of the 2015/16 season, another goal scorer was an obvious inclusion needed to take the pressure off Defoe and more importantly add crucial goals to the squad. Missing out on another goal scorer has again showed why a lack of funds has ultimately resulted in relegation.

On the topic of transfers and the lack of funds, this problem has been the result of poor investment from previous seasons. Many players have come and gone at the Stadium of Light, with many players been sold at a loss. This has proved to have a knock on effect up until the current season, where the effect may have proved too costly.

The inadequate amount of quality throughout the squad can be seen as a main reason for the current league position, however I see the manager having been part of the problem also. In many crucial games this season, the team has not seemed to perform where I see the manager’s negative tactics as a huge problem. From many games last season, many points came from beating our relegation rivals home and away because the team producing a lot of attacking football which dispatched the opposition resulting in many crucial points for survival. This season however many games seem to have slipped away due to the lack of attacking football that is produced by the team. Defending seems to be the key to success from David Moyes however it has not worked in many crucial games, leading to the opposition stealing a victory and sending Sunderland ever closer to relegation.

Many reasons on why Sunderland has performed so poorly this season are seen as things that could have been prevented, but injuries have been the cause of bad luck. Just as players like Duncan Watmore, Victor Anichebe, Paddy McNair and Lee Cattermole were starting to hit form, they suffer injuries ruling them out for months, which proved very crucial as the squad was very threadbare throughout the tough festive period. Of course injuries can’t be helped or prevented, however many points could have been gained in winnable games if a fully fit squad as available.

Adam Gill

Dear ALS

I wrote earlier in the season after around seven games pointing out why Moyes was doomed to fail.

After his comments in August about relegation battles I wondered how he would motivate players he obviously thinks are not good enough. Also, not good enough are his signings who are almost all Everton rejects and loanees. The famous Janusaz has one of the worst attitudes I have ever seen and shouldn't get near any team where you value cohesion and teamwork. Moyes constantly sets up defensively with a back four that can't defend and his midfield is all defensive. It's a recipe for disaster and is why we are here we are. Our only creative player Khazri warms the bench and Jermaine is isolated like never before in his career.

Players that could attack such as Lens are on loan and thriving in foreign. leagues. We wouldn't spend 6 million on M'Vila but waste 8million on Djilobodji and 13 million on N'Dong (good luck with getting that back). I could go on all day but he punch line is Moyes must go. It won't be easy but with a new manager and Middlesbrough, Swansea and Hull to play a half decent team would not give up.

Richard Beck

Dear ALS

Are there any Sunderland fans out there who still have faith in Moyes? Does anyone really believe he will ‘do a job’ for us in the Championship next season? I see he was saying last week that we’ll need to spend big in the summer irrespective of what division we are in. Really? That’s going to happen isn’t it with Short wanting out and Moyes record to date in the transfer market being lacklustre to say the least (I’m being polite there).

Whilst Moyes came to us late in the summer, his/our transfer dealings since have been laughable. According to stories we could have had M’villa for £5M but the club seemed to want to wait until he was out of contract and therefore try to get him on the cheap. Instead we were happy to blow £13M on Ndong. Similarly have any of Love, McNair (whilst he was fit), Gibson, Pienaar, Djilodobdji etc. set the world alight or significantly improved our squad? The best acquisitions in terms of ‘quality’ and value for money seem to be Oviedo and Anichebe (and he was a free!).

It is inevitable we will lose our so called ‘better’ players in the fire sale at the end of the season which will leave a pretty poor rump of players remaining. Even if Moyes (I can’t help think of Gollum every time I see those eyes) has a clear out, based on the type of players he’s bought in so far it doesn’t auger well for next year. Add into the mix a manager who is incapable of providing positive inspiration and I can see a similar season to this one in the Championship next year with us struggling from the off. As a team just down from the Premiership, all the other teams will be after our scalp. Perversely I also think our usual large away following will just motivate the home teams even more in order to rub our noses in it.

Get the impression I’m not confident? Too right. The more I think about it the more I soil myself. I’m trying to work out why I’ve just renewed my season card. Perhaps I live in hope that Gollum – sorry, Moyes - will either leave of his own volition at the end of this season or be shown the door in the summer (if anyone is mad enough to buy Short out) and someone new  comes in with enough time to start a root and branch shakedown of the club.

As Martin Luther King once said, ‘I have a dream’.

Sooty the Harrogate Black Cat              

Dear ALS

My brother was watching a Rugby Player being interviewed and he used a word to describe his team’s situation. He thought that word used summed up Sunderland to a "T".

The word used was "IRRELEVANT".  Sunderland have become an irrelevance in this high-powered league, and our PR is as much to blame. Duncan Watmore on holiday having a little jolly while half the staff are being dismissed. Does not bode well. Hey if we cannot compete with blood and guts then let’s go and join the knitting brigade or do some basket weaving, something a little less stressful.

Makem Stan

Dear ALS,

We are already relegated. Not because we ran out of luck, or the players underperformed, or are simply not good enough. We are relegated intentionally.

David Moyes wanted us to be relegated from day one. He did not like the players, because they were not his, but those of his despised predecessor(s). Admittedly, I do know nothing of the relationship between DM and Big Sam Allardyce. But the likelihood, that a tedious, uncharismatic, humourless and grim character like David Moyes appreciates a man, who has all the qualities he himself so blatantly lacks, is slim.

Kone was demotivated from the beginning, Khazri frozen out, Kirchhoff offered to all and sundry in Germany. Van Aanholt sold and not replaced.  And did Moyes really think, that those Man U or Everton cast-offs he brought in would be good enough to save us? He is certainly not that dumb. It was and still is his and the owner’s plan to bring us down a division, sell the whole team and start anew. Fine, if it works out that way. I don’t believe it will. The dark 90s are returning.

Best Regards
Udo Marin
Geschäftsführer

Dear ALS

It is now obvious that SAFC will be relegated. The future of the club depends on Mr Short taking the necessary steps to prevent a free fall into oblivion.

The course of action he takes will indicate whether he has any affection for the club or it’s a plaything for a wealthy man. We can all see that the structure of the club has failed and needs addressing.

The manager ought to look after the football side and could be anyone who is capable of doing so. On the other hand, the owner and board (whoever they are) should examine the club from top to bottom to ensure that best practise and high principles come before paying megabucks to non-trying mercenaries and agents.

The heart and soul has been ripped out of my beloved club and it now requires root and branch reform to once again be respected and not the laughing stock of the football world.

If Mr Short and Mr Bain are not up to the task then get someone in to do the necessary. Names which spring to mind are Niall Quinn possibly assisted by Kevin Phillips.

If urgent action along these lines is not taken I think SAFC will disappear down the plughole.

Terry Reilly
Burgess Hill Sussex

Dear ALS

In my mind the next eight games could be the most critical in our season of woe. We are down, see the definition of deluded if you think otherwise, so what is the most important thing for the club to do now?

Firstly, Short needs to demonstrate the leadership he has so far been unable to demonstrate to us being and owner is one thing, but he is the leader of this club. He has to outline our future plan under his governance! Or sell and disappear back over the pond.

Secondly, I would not sack Moyes. Let him see out the season and if he has a conscience he will resign on reflection of what a bad job he has done, while we do proper diligence in finding a manager for the next phase we will go through.

I think it is unlikely we will return at the first attempt from the Championship, there is too much rebuilding needed and looking at the squad, I would lose at least 60% of it, meaning the transition of new manager and squad will need more time to meld together if we are going to come back bigger and better (which is not too high a bar to jump!) I would insist he starts playing Asoro, and the other young un’s so we can see what they are made of at the expense of the current loanees, none of them have proven to be worth much, and I would  start the build for the next 2 seasons this weekend!

I would also appeal, on bended knee for Quinny to come back in some kind of advisory position, while it is absolutely critical we have some kind of fan representation on the board, or forum. which is heard and listened to.

This Club is not some rich man’s toy, or a tax right off, it’s a club which means the world to its supporters and should be the beacon of hope for our City. I am sick of the embarrassment that everyone bar the fans have brought upon it, and enough is enough, viva la revolution!

STID and FTM!
The Munich Mackem

Dear ALS

An extraordinary element pointed out by Sunderland fans at the King Power Stadium on Tuesday was the use of clappers by the Foxes’ fans throughout the 90 minutes. Haway man these should be the current Premier League champions we are talking about its an embarrassment.

To be honest you might as well say it gave us more laughter as fans considering what situations both clubs were in. Imagine what Leicester’s atmosphere would be like without the bloody things attached to all their seats, in my point of view completely non-existent. What made it more laughable was the depressed look on all the supporter’s faces as the camera pointed them out. It reminded me of old folks doing there knitting sat in their armchairs and also to think that these lot are in the last eight of the Champions League.

One element you can give Leicester credit on is there choice of tune as a goal hits the back of the net which is “fire” by the band Kasabian. Could that be a feature that could improve our atmosphere at the stadium of light. The question is what route do we go down with it. Personally, my choice would be “chase he sun” also known as the all import sky sports darts celebration theme. It can really make a song and dance in the stands especially if it’s used in the Championship next season which now looks a certainty even though we all wish that it can be first tested out with us in the Premier League. Back to the clappers you could at least create an actual clapping sound around your stadium instead relying an instrumental material. Take inspiration from Iceland at the European Championships last summer that created optimism whenever a set piece was about to be taken that it was going to lead to success. One thing is for sure we are a passionate club in our fan base that Leicester city and that’s a fact just one league title and they think they are on top of the world but we have six, sorry Leicester

Jacob Kirkbride

Dear ALS

More Pain to Come! We are down. Ten points away from safety, we would have to play like Brazil of the 1970's to save the situation. No chance.

But worse. Ellis has walked.
The club has huge debts and no new owner, or investors.
At the end of the season those Sunderland players that think their place is in the Premier League (snigger) will desert us.
With no new owner or investor, bargain buckets, or academy players will have to be used to plug the gaps. Desperationville at the Stadium of Light.
What I'm saying is, we will be lucky to stay in the Championship over these forthcoming next two seasons.
There is plenty of suffering for Sunderland supporters to come yet.
Clearly, we cheesed off big style, all the football Gods.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, Peter

Dear ALS

Roy Hodgson was our downfall.
Failure in the Euros would obviously put Sam in the frame.
Sam was less than happy with Mr Short’s lack of ambition and courted by England… only one outcome.
Moyes may have been a perfect fit. However, like Martin O’Neill, way past his sell by date.
We need Short to go, obviously.
He, unfortunately may stay until we are a fire sale.
After our relegation, I will not be renewing.
50 plus years of following the lads.
It breaks my heart.
Shorts’ unbelievable ineptitude, in relation to appointments, not just the football management.
The Director of football recruitments… and salaries!
Getting rid of Sir Niall for Byrne.
Short wants to sell, apparently, we are in a total mess with debt.
Short the multi billionaire has totally mismanaged the club.
Get out you are an embarrassment.

Les

Dear ALS

I wish this season was over. It started off with the FA screwing us over with the Allardyce debacle. Then we bring in Moyes who tells us from day one we are in a relegation battle, then proceeds to spend what little money we had on a unknown Gambon midfielder, a Chelsea reject, who should be done under the trade descriptions act for impersonating a central defender, every Everton player who can't find another club and a loanee who is made of balsa wood and who's only good game came with two goals against Sunderland.

We then produce a style of football which consists of trying to get the ball to Defoe as quickly as possible, even by the means of a long hoof up field even though the bloke is no bigger than the average ball boy. This is coupled with the fact that by a country mile we must easily have the worst ball retention record of any team that has ever graced the Premier League.

We then decide at January when things are looking bleak, we will bring in even more Everton cast offs, who if they hadn't found a club would be found coaching under 12's at some lower league club ran by a former colleague. Now we are in a spell where scoring looks like a pipe dream and the aforementioned manager continues to be inspirational in interviews and probably changing room as such greats as Roy Hodgson, Howard Wilkinson, Steve McLaren and Tony Mowbray. The future is bleak, but so have been the last 10 years.

Keith Hind

Dear ALS

Just watched the Leicester defeat and Moyes will say that we were the best team for an hour and then conceded from a cross where Kone was nudged off the ball and then Anichebe hits post and it just wasn't our day.

Other version is with the inclusion of Catts and Ndong the midfield actually had a bit of pace and power Leicester struggled for an hour and we were the better team, but with little threat to their goal. Ndong might have added a bit against Watford and Burnley, but Moyes had to read it in the paper and then explain himself before seeing sense

However, point of writing in is that it was bloody obvious when Leicester brought salami and drink water on that the game had turned and we needed to do something. Anichebe is on the bench with Khazri so Moyes waits and waits until we concede before bringing them on

That's it, we are down without doubt, it's like watching Steve McLaren last year up the road, personally would have got rid of him for his stupid slap comment, but really only to save the pay off. If the lawyers advise it wasn't enough then don't ruin a new manager in the run in and make him see it out, then as South Shields are winning at Wembley get him out of the door and get someone in for the Championship

Who? I really haven't got a clue as anyone saleable will have to be sold and this is going to be very painful. And it's not exactly an attractive job at the present - how's about Jap Stam? Reading were crap before he came so fits the bill.

Depressed and resigned to it

Paul from Reading

Dear ALS

I fear that we can’t pull off a Houdini like escape from relegation again this season. We’ve had our nine lives.

What is troubling, though, is that with the present squad, promotion from the Championship next season is far from certain. There are some decent teams in the Championship and once, when a newly promoted team could be expected to be sent down again, the likes of Burnley and Bournemouth have shown it not to be inevitable. I’d fancy both Newcastle and Brighton might be worth backing to stay up next season. But they’re well run, well managed clubs. Sunderland are neither. Poor ownership: I wonder how much Ellis short actually knows about the game, or Sunderland’s glamorous history. Poor management, too: perhaps Steve Bruce and Martin O’Neill weren’t given enough time, but of the rest, Allardyce excepted, have been unprepossessing.

David Moyes might have quite a few dud players, but he keeps picking them. He has never looked really at home at Sunderland and seems a wraith like presence at most matches. But he’s not alone in the succession of duff managers and the only recent one, Sam Allardyce, seems to have had much idea of what to do with a squad of sub-standard players. Good managers: Brian Clough for example, were very good at getting journeyman players to actually play well for him. What’s happened to half-way decent players such as Borini or Rodwell? Both came with decent pedigrees and performed adequately for Allardyce, but have shown nothing this season.

So, who will stay at the club? Without naming names, I can think of four or five who will want away to continue their careers in the Premier League. Too many others will want away for an easier life down the leagues. I dread to think what next season’s squad will look like and that’s going some when one looks at the present bunch.

At 81, I still have a memory of teams way down the leagues who once graced the old First Division: Leeds United, Sheffield United, Birmingham City, Grimsby Town, Sheffield Wednesday, Carlisle United (once), Preston North End, Blackpool, Wolves, Ipswich Town, Notts Forest, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Charlton Athletic, Portsmouth plus others I can’t think of. All of those clubs have found the climb back beyond them. Grimsby even went out of the league for a while. Sunderland, given their geographical location could find it difficult to recruit the best players, let alone even good ones. Ironic when one thinks that our noisy neighbours up the road and Sunderland once ruled the old First Division roost.

Perhaps we’ve had some bad luck with injuries, particularly with Watmore, Pickford and the human dynamo Cattermole. We’d need to put three players on to compensate Cattermole’s absence. But once a decent player is injured, there seems to be no adequate replacement.

I feel pretty glum. David Moyes says we need to win five of our remaining games. Fat chance.

Dave from Sheffield

Dear ALS

After losing another “must win” game to an average Watford team David Moyes post match comments were baffling to say the least. He said the team battled hard and were unlucky not to get something from the game.

What I saw albeit on “Match of the Day” was a team short on skill, fitness and application. With the usual exceptions, the majority of the highly paid mercenaries would not get in an average Championship side.

The lack of concern by David Moyes at the ineptitude of the sorry bunch is worrying. It is obvious to me that he no longer has any fire in his belly and this transmits to the players.

I doubt if Sam Allardyce was still manager we would be witnessing the inept and lacklustre performances of this sorry bunch. It is obvious now that we are going down and we need a young manager with energy, spirit and the ability to change a game should plan A not be working. David Moyes does not have a plan B.

Please sack Mr. Moyes and employ a young tough manager who will get rid of the dead wood and bring in young, fit and capable footballers. Start some of the academy players who want to run and sweat for the fans who pay their wages.

If the owner and directors had the same income as the ultra-loyal fans who travel to away games and witness the dross which is served up they also would demand change.

Living in Sussex and getting on a bit I rarely get to a game. This does not mean that I do not care. My local pub is full of pals who know I am a Sunderland fan and regularly take the piss.

Over the last few years I have learned to cope with the mickey taking. When I walk in the pub my first words to the mickey takers are “Sunderland were shite today” and that keeps them off my back.

If I was living within reach of the stadium and putting up with the crap that has been served up over the last few years I doubt I would have the stomach to attend.

Sunderland fans are among the best on the planet and deserve better. If my letter is read by Mr Short and Mr Bain it may give some indication of how even far flung fans are affected.

They need to get the whip out and be merciless.

Terry Reilly
Burgess Hill Sussex

Dear ALS

After experiencing first hand the dismal performance at Watford, I find it almost a relief that we are at last all but certain to be relegated. Blame England, Moyes, Short, the players, the weather, anything, but I do believe there is an issue with the training. It's been the same season on season. Half the players looked tired. I saw little or no skill on the pitch by either team yet Watford got the all-important win.

In the close season the players will scatter. I don't think that's a bad thing as they are not even good enough for the Championship. Only two are worthy of the first team and we are certain to lose both. On a positive note, I'm looking forward to seeing some wins. I miss the highs that got me through the week with a smile.

A thought, if we had not sent the Scum down we would have had six more points this season. I think that might have been enough to survive.

The Scum hold the title of the yo yo club, being relegated twice in seven seasons. That'll be the only title they will ever hold.

I live in the South East now and will be winding my weary way to the Manchester United game this coming weekend. Wins against Watford and perhaps Leicester on Tuesday would have given me some hope. We'll all just go through the motions and it'll be heads down by the final whistle. But I love my club to distraction through thick and thin. It's the disappointment I can't stand.

Can we expect the new seats that have gone in at the stadium to be pink by the time all the seats are installed? Forth Road Bridge comes to mind.

Gillian Hill

Dear ALS,

I agree with Nick Pearson's letter about long term planning, but have no confidence in the ability of the directorship at our club to plan for the longer term.

The leadership at our club has taken steps to focus on our core product of football by announcing redundancies within admin/media functions, but who made the decisions that we needed to invest in those areas in the first place? After 15 years of underperformance and underachievement we've just worked out that the core product needs major surgery? I've always said that if you've got a winning side a bunch of chimps could run media/advertising because you've got a product everyone wants.

Unfortunately, the long term future of our club will not be underpinned by Moyes or another new face turning things round, be it in the Prem or the Championship, you just have to look at the average lifespan of a manager to realise there needs to be a significant degree of ownership and involvement from the directorship that keeps the ship on course as managers come and go. Let’s face it, just like any player who's successful at our club, a manager will leave for greener pastures just as quickly.

I don't like to draw comparisons with our neighbours, but if you watch the 'my sporting hero's' episode with Harmison interviewing Keegan you get a feel for the level of directorship involvement/support that drove Newcastle's relative success over a sustained period not just from a financial aspect, but there was clearly a 'togetherness' in what they were doing and where they were going.

We've nothing like that - no leaders within the directorship and none on the pitch. All we have are a bunch of mercenaries both in the boardroom and in the dressing room with a far greater affiliation to Premiership money than they will ever have to our club. How salaries can be justified that are being paid to the likes of Bain and former director Byrne is beyond me and what makes it harder to swallow is that having overseen 9 years of underachievement, decline and internal controversy (player revolt to get rid of DiCanio and Adam Johnson) while on a salary greater than the Prime Minister (including a 25% pay rise), Margaret Byrne was receiving messages from the likes of Mannone/Niall Quinn applauding her move to become a football agent.

Sadly, Its all aboard the gravy train these days - we've lost local ownership, virtually no local players and a bunch of anonymous figures in the boardroom. In my view the long term plan to Premiership sustainability will be very long term.

Phil in Leeds

Dear ALS

Last year there was a real feeling of optimism around Sunderland. This was going to be the time that we finally cracked it, to really build on what we'd achieved under Allardyce initially. Then England got beat off Iceland.

Since then, I have watched everything unravel in front of my eyes. When he came in, I was right behind Moyes; he could pick up where Sam left off, yeah he'd had rough few years but he'd had relative success at Everton in a similar position. Maybe he could recreate that at Sunderland. What I didn't realise is that he would proceed to try and recreate the same team he had at Everton about 8 years ago.

From the off, the defeatist attitude was there. "We will be in a relegation fight". This was after game number 2, and was passed off by many as realism, at least he was being honest. It's gone on and on though, his persona has become increasingly dour and miserable in the media. Imagine relying on him to inspire you, to turn the game around, to get you playing as if your life depended on it. There has been injuries and elements of bad luck but his performance in the job has been nonetheless, pathetic.

We expect and need better than this. We need someone with hunger, some drive and self belief. The season is gone, finished, and at anywhere near this level so is David Moyes.

Matthew Keeling

Dear ALS

Organise something to get this useless, miserable wanker out of our club.

This dickhead is making me more miserable than my first fucking wife.

Dave McKeever

Dear ALS

The rumour that Neymar is wanted by Manchester United cements my belief that the Premier League is an obscenity. To pay a transfer fee of £173 million and a weekly wage of £416,000. has gone beyond the boundaries of reality.

Sunderland have been constrained by fair play rules yet other clubs can spend more than Tiger Woods on his lady friends. The stupidity of paying players and leeching agents more money than they can spend in one thousand lifetimes has got to stop.

I would like to see two or three of the mighty spenders implode and go to the wall. If Sunderland get relegated and play in The Championship then at least they will be on an equal footing and be able to compete.

Why don’t the megabucks clubs (Man. City, Chelsea, Man. United) join P.S.G. Marseille, Real Madrid and form a league of their own and play anywhere but the UK.

No one would miss the prawn sandwich brigade and football may return to a format which we would be able to recognise and enjoy.

Terry Reilly
Burgess Hill Sussex

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