Dear ALS

So, here we go again. Pantomime season has come early with cries of Oh! No, it isn't. Oh! Yes, it is. I picture Stuart and Charlie blindfolded pinning the tail on the donkey that may well be our next manager.

I really do feel sorry for Jack Ross who it must be said has conducted himself impeccably. No whinging. No complaining. No bad words spoken about players who need to take a good, hard and long look at themselves and ask if they really made efforts to play as he wanted them to.

So, now the manager needs to be chosen.

There seems to be so many in the running but I'm not keen on Daniel Stendel.

My choice would be Chris Hughton.



Dear ALS

When will it all end? Another manager forced to walk the plank. I’ve lost count of how many have gone after short tenures in the last 20 years. So, we’ll have another new manager, then another new manager, then yet another new manager. It will remind me of the banquet scene in Macbeth where the ghost of the murdered Banquo points out a never ending line of his descendants. Yet, statistically, Jack Ross has been our most successful manager for years, although only in a lower league. Who can we get who will be more successful, given what he has to work with?

I know somebody has to take responsibility for the dismal displays on the pitch, but must it always be the manager? If, for once, we could land a manager from the top drawer and let him manager the squads we’ve had over the past years, how well would he do and how long would he last? If sacking managers was the answer, we’d be comfortably placed in the top flight.

I’ve been banging on and on over the years about a sickness at the heart of our club - it was probably at its most apparent under the disastrous reign of Ellis Short and Margaret Byrne. At this time, the club actually signed a few players with decent pedigrees, but as soon as they hit the SoL, they lost their appetite for the game. It became just too easy for them to turn up and draw their hefty pay packets. They were taking the Mickey.

So, what’s changed? Charlie Methven and Stewart Donald seemed to be the answer to our prayers, since they both seemed, initially at least, to be committed to the club - fans, even. But they soon seemed keen to sell up. Why? They’ve only had a short time at the SoL. Then there are wealthy, but shadowy people allegedly displaying an interest in the club without coming out and saying they’d like to buy it, wind it up and set it going again with money invested in enough good players to get us moving up the league.

But back to managers and playing staff. We might only be a Third Division club, but we have a ground, and given what remains of the infrastructure, to die for. Yet, we’re only getting unconvincing wins and draws against clubs without an even recent pedigree. There are clubs in our division who, 20 years ago, of hardly anybody had heard. Sunderland play wooden, unimaginative football based on not losing if a draw is on the cards. People grumble about Jack Ross’s lack of tactical nous, but he came to Sunderland with a good enough record, as have a few of his predecessors. Once the team are on the pitch, there’s not much beyond good substitutions a manager can do.

Of course, a game plan is necessary in all sports, but there’s also room for invention and improvisation. All of the great clubs have managers and players who have the knack of making something out of very little and overwhelming their opponents. They watch each other around the pitch and use their highly developed sense of what each of them can do, which is often the unexpected, and score. They have remorseless build ups often resulting in a score. This method will usually beat both rigidity and kick and rush. Poorer players, such as those now at Sunderland, seem to be short on both imagination and skills if the number of missed tackles and scoring opportunities is anything to go by.

Interestingly, Jermaine Defoe is still scoring goals for Rangers. Leaving our home-grown stars like Henderson and Pickford out of it, he’s about the only imported player to leave the club and continue to enhance his reputation. We spent millions on players who, unsurprisingly, have just faded into oblivion. Sunderland, who once were famous for having good goalkeepers, recently ended up with Ruiter, Steele and Camp. Well, at least they’ve gone, but what were they doing at the SoL in the first place?

Frustratedly yours, but still, all the best,

Dave from Sheffield