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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