Dear ALS

The demise of Bury FC has suddenly brought it home to me just how lucky we have been at my beloved Sunderland AFC. Without the intervention of Charlie Methven and Stuart Donald we could have been in a similar situation with broken hearts locally, nationally and across the globe.

Here in Birkenhead it could easily have happened to my local team, Tranmere Rovers. Tranmere where at an all-time low point in 1984 with no money, hardly any players, a ground (apart from the main stand) which looked derelict and just about surviving in the Fourth Division.

A saviour duly arrived from Yankee Doodle Dandy land by the name of Bruce Osterman. As far as I am aware, he was the first football club owner from anywhere other than Britain. He put some money into the club but as he himself says he hadn't a clue how to run a football club. Tranmere remained on their knees. The kop was closed, it was unsafe for anyone to stand there apart from ball boys who quite literally took their lives into their own hands retrieving footballs.

I recall going to a game against Hartlepool on a freezing midweek night. I think it was at half time when the floodlights went out. Total darkness apart from the emergency lighting which was as good as holding a tea light in your hands. Word came through the PA system that everything was being done to get the floodlights back on. After what seemed an eternity, two floodlights came on (one in each corner of the ground) but it was not sufficient light for the game to continue so it was abandoned. Electricity had been cut off because the previous bill had not been paid.

Though my team is Sunderland (61 years supporting the lads now) Tranmere is my local club and I honestly thought that night would be the last match played at Prenton Park. However, the few fans there (less than 1,000 where in attendance) clubbed together and hired a generator to power the floodlights for the next few games. I was surprised that it was allowed as the noise from the generator drowned out the ref’s whistle

Bruce Osterman was nowhere to be seen. He came to see Tranmere, the club he owned about twice a year. Tranmere Rovers almost went into administration and without the last minute intervention of a local businessman, Peter Johnson, Tranmere Rovers football club probably would not exist today.

So, what has all this got to do with Bury FC and Sunderland AFC?

Answer... owners who just don't understand football or what a club means to the people who support it. It is our escape from the rat race of everyday living. It is our time to voice our support for the team we love and also for the area we live in. It is our identity. We wear our red and white stripes with pride. The badge belongs not just to the club we support but the whole community.

I believe that owners from overseas just don't get it. I think they are just ticking a few boxes on their ever-increasing portfolios. It looks good to have ownership of a football club on your CV.

So, though I understand that the club needs further investment I would love it to be from someone or a company local to Sunderland/County Durham. After all, we are well versed in investment from across the pond and we all know what happened.

I believe that many clubs have completely lost their identity with foreign owners and/or investment from overseas. There again if you've got a greedy so and so from up the road then you truly deserve sweet FA.

We need to take some time to reflect where we are, cut out the abuse (that is what it is) on social media for the manager and continue to support the lads like no other club in the land can. All the nonsense about us winning the league with 100 points or more needs to stop. We don't have a God given right to win anything just because we are Sunderland. There are so called little clubs who will give their all to do well. Accrington Stanley are a prime example. They probably have a budget that wouldn't buy a week's shopping at an Aldi, yet they give everything.

I am pleased with the start we have had and believe we do well. In the meantime, I bet former League clubs such as Chester, Gateshead, Darlington, Hartlepool, Bradford Park Avenue, Torquay, Scarborough, Workington, Barrow, Southport, Barrow to name but a few would be delighted to be where we are.

We really are lucky.

All Sunderland fans are more than welcome to get to my house in Birkenhead on January 28th next year. There is a great chippie close to me and we can turn New Ferry into a sea of red and white before heading to Prenton Park.

Forever Sunderland.

Eddie from mighty, mighty Birkenhead…

Dear ALS

For God's sake what is wrong with people! The Rain Forest is burning down - we are all going to die. Brexit is coming - we are all going to starve. New investment could be coming into the club - Its all going to go horribly wrong. They are using the club assets to buy the club, they are only interested in money (Really - you surprise me), remember the last time we had an American owner and how that ended up - are some of the positive comments (not!) I have heard today.

I have been a Sunderland supporter for nearly 50 years. In that time there have been some highs and lots of lows. I will admit there have been times when I have thought this is just too painful. I have tried to pull back and find something else but it's never worked. It's in the blood I guess.

Over the last couple of years two things have brought me the closest ever to walking away from football and it is not where we are in the league or results. One is the Premier League (more on that below) the other is the constant griping and whining of some Sunderland supporters. Worst of all their numbers seems to be increasing. You know who they are the sort of d***s who if they won £10m on the lottery would complain it was not £20m. Who's only joy in life is whining about something.

What winds me up most is the constant sniping at Stewart Donald. Did he take a punt and get a good deal - probably. Is everything as rosy in the financial garden as it is portrayed - possibly not but you know what, I don't care. He took a club that was on its knees and made it better - lots better. For that he has my eternal thanks. I don't care what he makes it the deal goes through. I hope its lots. I don't care that everything is not perfect - nothing ever is.

And what of the Premier League? Here's my problem - it is all about money, It's about players with no affinity to the club who only care about themselves. It’s about stupid transfer fees of £25m for a very average full back. It's about survival at all costs and maybe the odd cup run with no chance whatsoever of competing with the big boys. Maybe this is controversial but I am not sure I want to be part of going back. The current crop of players we have might be crap at times but I believe they genuinely do care and for that I am prepared to forgive a lot. Competing at the top of the

Championship would suit me fine. Unfortunately, it probably is not what the new investors are after.

Phil Smith

Dear ALS

Imagine the scene: Sunderland don’t give away the free kick leading to the Charlton goal, we hold on until extra time and win on penalties to beat Charlton. In this ideal and very much possible scenario, would Jack Ross have still twisted to his favoured 3 at the back, or stuck with the 4-2-3-1 that won promotion?

Firstly, promotion would have surely helped the cash flow problem, as shown by the significant lack of spending so far this summer. With promotion of course would have led to not only the actual cash bonuses, but we’d also be a much more attractive prospect for investors. Ross would therefore have more funds available to spend and mould the squad more. This would allow the manager to buy the players with specific qualities to fit his preferred formation of 3-5-2, or a “lopsided” system to that effect. Particularly the wing-backs This argument suggests that Ross would have still changed formation despite winning promotion with 4 at the back.

Furthermore, promotion would obviously lead us to a higher quality division where players are much more encouraged to keep the ball on the ground and play actual football. This means that our players would also be encouraged to play on the deck so a free-flowing formation would easily facilitate a more expensive and effective game plan in the Championship. With a budget allowing us to sign specialist players for each position, it can certainly be argued that the three at the back system wouldn’t have the problems that we’re experiencing now in League One: No ball-playing, composed centre halves; No high quality wing backs that can go both forwards and backwards; No centre halves that can’t fill in the flanks when our wing backs bomb forward.

However, the phrase “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” could have also rang true to Jack Ross if promotion was achieved. Surely if we’d won the final, it would only make sense to stick with the same formation and see how it goes in the Championship. Although we didn’t blow teams away last season, the system used was generally pretty successful and Ross would have had great reason to keep things simple but effective in the higher division. Fans could have also been calling for Ross’ head on a much larger scale if we’d won promotion and then switched to a less efficient system. Why on earth would he change a system that worked well in League One?

Additionally, the players would be expecting to be trusted to perform in the same system to a high standard. Their confidence would have been hugely knocked if they’d beaten Charlton in a hard-fought victory, only to return to pre-season for Ross to have lost trust in them and completely thrown away a philosophy that won promotion.

Ultimately this hypothetical discussion is a massive case of ifs and buts, with a sense of hindsight. We didn’t win promotion of course, falling at the last hurdle but it is an interesting question. One that highlights how marginal football can be and the whole perspective can change in a matter of seconds. Personally, I think Ross would be stubborn enough and back himself to change system despite the success if we’d have clung on to extra time and won.

Daniel McCallum

Dear ALS

Whilst interviewing Grant Leadbitter (BBC Newcastle 13-08-19) Nick Barnes suggested that the Stadium of Light could be “a cruel place to play” which to be fair, Leadbitter dismissed straightaway, clearly understanding what our fans have been through in recent seasons, especially the Moyes reign when Nick also suggested to John O’Shea in an interview that the home crowd were a problem to Sunderland.

Despite Grant dismissing the cruel place to play comment, Nick then said that he overheard a Sunderland supporter on the train to Ipswich last Saturday telling his mates that a guy near him in the North Stand takes one minute and six seconds every match before he starts getting on the teams back? Again, Grant wasn’t really interested.

What was Barnes hoping to achieve with this criticism of the fans to someone who is a lifelong Sunderland fan and whose fathers’ ashes lie under the Stadium of Light pitch?

In relation to what they have endured in recent years, Sunderland’s support is absolutely world class in terms of numbers and the fanaticism of the people who follow them loyally home and away. They have put up with a lot and in all honesty have not been as radical and outspoken with their discontent as fans of other clubs may have been if they’d suffered similar humiliations to SAFC, not least ending up and still being in the third tier.

Our support is the least of any problems the club may have. Even manager Ross keeps harping on about the expectations of the fan base. What would he prefer? Apathy?

Tom Lynn

Dear ALS

Your HELP article by Giles Mooney is so prescient, appropriate and spot on I wish there was a way to scream it from the rooftops.

Ross has the resolve, strength of character and demeanour to be successful and to weather any storm. But if his lieutenants are shying away from challenging him then they're doing him a disservice. This is don’t mean a rule by majority, but strong deputies are to provide intellectual rigour and to stress test scenarios and assumptions.

Absolutely everyone has blind spots in their worldview and work. It is incumbent of the staff to help cover JR's. Call me romantic but I just love his calm resolve and stability under pressure. I just can't stand clowns ranting and raving on the touchline like some demented monkey. And I don't rate that operate on a seemingly perma-rage mode. It may have worked with AF but when you are not chasing the triple crown and instead only look ahead to MK Dons, all the outrage looks more ridiculous than intimidating.

Sotirios Soulakiotis

Dear ALS

A weak disorganised defence, strikers who don’t score, a very good midfield who are, as usual, being asked to help with the defence, create opportunities and score.

I know it was the first game but, before it is too late, we need a tall competent defender, a striker who knows where the goal is and the acceptance by the manager that only 442 works.



Dear ALS

I would like to wish George Honeyman all the best for the future as he leaves the SOL for a new adventure. He was not always great, sometimes ordinary and on the odd occasion poor, but one thing no Sunderland Fan could ever say about him is he never put a shift in.

George gave his all for this club. His attitude was fantastic, he loved the club just like the fans do, he was one of our own. My last memory of him in a Sunderland shirt was seeing the tears in his eyes after the loss in the play-off final.

Of all the players who took part that day, I think George was hurting the most. I hope he has a successful career at Hull City and does really well for them, I know he'll give them the same 100% effort and enthusiasm he showed whilst one of the lads.

Pete Little

Mansfield Mackem

Dear ALS

Surely, I can’t be the only fan happy that Cattermole has finally gone? His 10 years of service have coincided with some of the worst football I’ve seen at the club, a number of relegation battles, back to back relegations and the lowest place league finish in the entire history of the club.

His best season for us has been in League One in which he finally found his level as a footballer whilst still being paid Premier League wages. Don’t get me wrong, he hasn’t single handily destroyed the club - he’s had plenty of help from others over the years (O’Shea, Rodwell and the likes) but he’s been part of a problem we’ve had at the club and as long as fans find players of his level acceptable at the club then we’ll be forever be destined for lower league mediocrity.

Thanks for nowt Lee, I wish you all the best in your new venture. And no, I won't be attending your testimonial.

KTF! Rob

Dear ALS

At last we've actually signed a player; all be it a free transfer. This good news was tempered though with the news that Catts has left the club after ten years’ service. Catts was always the sort of player that gave 100% and would sweat blood for the club.

He wasn't always brilliant, but he was always up for the fight. If other players had shown the commitment that he did, we wouldn't be in the third division. He played with his heart on his sleeve, he never shirked a tackle, even if he knew he would get hurt.

I would like to thank him for his dedication to the club and the fans, wherever he ends up playing, some team is going to get a 100 percenter, a player who gives his all. I sure that all Sunderland fans will wish him well in his next adventure.

Good luck Lee. You'll be missed

Pete, Mansfield Mackem

Dear ALS

What's going on? Pre-season begins on Monday, most teams have done some business, incoming and outgoing, seems that Sunderland only has outgoing...

Are we going to wait until the transfer deadline in September to make any signings? Are we going to be running around like headless chickens paying over the odds to get someone in, who's both injured and not had a proper pre-season?

It appears that the club is cutting costs and corners to get the mythical new owner in. There's still a lot of lethargy about the place. There's talk of Lawrence Shankland but we'll delay and delay until another club steps in. He's been available on a free for about six weeks now. there are not many free transfer bargains out there, but it seems we're determine to miss out on them.

The best time to get players into the club is before pre-season, get them match fit and they're then available for the season kick off, but not Sunderland. We prefer to wait until the last moment to save money. It's time for action, not merely mouthed platitudes.

Get your finger out Mr Chairman.

Pete; Disgruntled and disillusioned

Haway the lads

Dear ALS

If only there was a morning after pill to erase the aftermath of yet another failed Wembley encounter. Another occasion when the Sunderland team didn't really turn up. Ahead not even through our own endeavours, after some brief initial promise in the first 15 minutes when we should have taken the game by the scruff of the neck, we let the game drift away once more.

Where did all the early season promise of attacking football and goals go? Down the pan of a January transfer window I would suggest. A strategy which had paid dividends in the early months of this campaign was seemingly dumped with the departure of Maja and the acquisition of a 'proven' goal scorer. Only this is SAFC and it turned out he wasn't. Neither was our other 'headline' striker who, whilst honest in his endeavours, couldn't hit the back of the net with the regularity that the previous incumbent had.

The change in personnel resulted in a change of tactics as we no longer seemed to want to pass the ball through teams (or couldn't?). With my hand on my heart I can't argue that Grigg, Wyke and Morgan have been successes. I know Big Charlie has been with us since the start of the season, but he only seemed to get a chance of a regular game since the turn of the year. Don't get me wrong I'm not pointing the finger just at our attacking options. We looked like we forgot how to pass through teams and creativity from midfield waned plus we couldn't keep a clean sheet. Sky TV showed a graphic yesterday which said only two teams in the English leagues had lost fewer games than us (Liverpool and Man City?) and yet we still failed to go up. Talk me through that one.

I'm not really sure now if Jack Ross ever really knew what his best team was in the last few months. Changed tactics, doubtful team selections and certainly dubious substitutions. How else do we explain why the wheels came off the SAFC bus? Can anyone put their finger on why we just can't play at Wembley? But it should never have come to that. We should have been automatically promoted after all the early promise. However, if there's one thing we do well, indeed have become experts at, it is be able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. In the post-mortem which now has to follow, who will identify what went wrong at the death.

Will Messrs Donald and Ross be contemplating their navels this morning? Yes, we were staring into the abyss last summer, but we started to build something new and the fans did everything that was asked of them - they got behind the team and the club. Can Donald and Ross be more disappointed than the fans? I don't think so. We've had years of this. By comparison they're new kids on the block. I laud their efforts but sadly in the end it wasn't good enough. So where do we do go from here? Look at the team and subs which were named for yesterday's game.

Ask yourself how many of them will or should be around next season and good enough to get us out of this league. We had players with Premiership and Championship experience, but it didn't help get us over the line. Personally speaking, I find it hard to see how we can build the same momentum going into the next campaign. Like loads of others I had already renewed my season card for the next term before we blew our chances for this one but I'm left feeling empty after all the hope drained away in the last few weeks. If only something could take this taste away. The bitterest pill is definitely hard to swallow.

Felix the Harrogate Mackem Fox.

Dear ALS

It was a season with so many twists and turns but we fell short. My opinion was that it was important to steady the ship and change the mentality of previous seasons. Jack Ross has done a pretty good job, yes, he made mistakes (wasn’t Alex Ferguson on verge of the sack in his early days at MUFC) hopefully he learns from it and comes back stronger next season.

To be fair we should have won automatic promotion, but the games in hand became a hindrance and we sadly ran out of gas. To only lose only five games all season is good, but we drew too many.

We failed to kill teams off when we were on top. We were a bit light up front. We also haven’t been helped by the shocking refereeing decisions. We need to get recruitment right by tweaking the squad! Let’s pack the SOL next season and roar them to the title.

Best wishes

We go again in August

David Hunt

Dear ALS

Apart from the obvious passing and defensive frailties one aspect of the team which is not discussed but sticks out like a sore thumb is the mental capacity of Jon McLaughlin. Rarely have I seen a goalkeeper so nervous and indecisive with the ball in his hands. Like a rabbit in the headlights his thought process seems to freeze delaying and delaying until the inevitable punt up the park when the play is broken up giving the opposition the initiative.

Contrast that with the Coventry keeper who was always looking for the quick throw and invariably found a teammate which lead to a productive build up, I think he kicked it twice out of his hands all game.

I don’t know what the goalkeeping coach is thinking but he certainly needs to work on McLaughlin’s woeful inadequacies.


Mal Maclean

Dear ALS

Oh dear, here we are again. Sunderland fans, myself included, are now firmly of the belief that Wembley is not the place to be. When the dust has settled we need to take a long hard look at the season, what worked and what failed. The side was, if were honest with ourselves, simply not good enough, especially in the 2nd half of the season.

The biggest mistake was a failure to replace Maja with a goal scorer that was actually fit. Grigg, to quote Micky Gray did not hit the ground running, he didn't even hit the ground in many fans opinion.

Charlie Wyke, another whose season was blighted with serious injury, is at best playing at the highest level he's capable of, he's not prolific in front of goal and has little pace, he is however a 100% man who gives his all. Before a ball was kicked we tried to sign Lyle Tailor, what a difference he would have made if he'd come to us instead of Charlton. There have been some successes, Maguire, McLaughlin and O'Nien were good. Cattermole also had a good season. People have different ideas on who is good and who's not, but we Sunderland fans all agree on one thing, the sooner we get out of League One the better. Like most fans, we kick every ball the team plays, mentally it takes a toll on fans, but what's the betting we'll be kicking those balls again next season, when hope is renewed and here we go again. Let's chuck the Checkatrade and concentrate on a promotion push without distraction.

Here's to next season

Haway the Lads


Exile from Mansfield

Dear ALS

I feel sorry for all the loyal fans, who made another trip to Wembley, to be disappointed with the dismal result. I have been a true supporter for 50 years, and shared the ups and downs, but this was inevitable, while we couldn't score or keep a clean sheet.

All those 19 draws show our lack of skill within the team, to win games. We were outplayed, by a team who were quicker to the ball in all areas, showed a hunger and desire, our lot could not match, which is why I feel sorry for the travelling fans for their continued support who deserved better.

I have posted before, that we did not have the performances this season, to warrant going up, so to stay where we deserve to be, is an opportunity, to build for next season and the future.

Being a big club, does not mean you deserve anything, you need to earn your performances, they are not gifted. They (the players) need to learn from this season, not to make stupid basic mistakes, or fouls in the dangerous areas, which lead or can lead to goals being given away, thus losing games or resulting in unnecessary draws.

Croydon Mackem

Dear ALS

I've just watched the Southend game on the TV. I'm so pleased that I didn't have to buy a ticket and shell out the other expenses to watch the lads for this one.

We are at least consistent, we were miserable in the second half against Fleetwood and carried that form into the Southend game, where we were even worse. I cannot see for the life of me how we are going to win the play offs with this attitude.

The players lacked passion, they we short changing the fans that travelled big style. Only Wyke came out of the game with any credit, at least he gave 100%. Allegedly the owners want to sell, they've done a paint job and some remedial work on the stadium then it's "Homes under the Hammer" for the fans.

We have the worst central defenders in the football league, there are five of them and none can head a ball clear. Instead of buying "Will Griggs’ on fire" we should have invested in a decent centre half. As for Grigg, where's the fire? He's hardly hit the ground running. Morgan and Maguire are the only other players that Ross has bought in that have been decent. We must hold onto the few quality players we have for next season or we will slide backward. It's time for some honesty from the club owners.

Haway the Lads

Peter Little

Dear ALS

I would like to congratulate both Luton (not long-ago non-league remember) and Barnsley for demonstrating the sort of ruthless footballing prowess which gets you promoted automatically. I congratulate them of their goal scoring record. I praise their never say die attitude where they have demonstrated how to come back from being behind to gain all three points, often by very convincing wins at the end of the 90 minutes. I laud their ability to consolidate an early lead by scoring more goals to put the result beyond doubt. I admire their defences for not allowing opponents to score late goals (indeed many goals) and achieve an endless stream of disappointing draws. But more than anything I envy their supporters for that most elusive feeling (from Sunderland fans' perspective) of the sheer joy when the final whistle goes of having watched some great football, some wonderful goals and another three points in the bag - all leading to surely the inevitable prospect of automatic promotion. Well done those teams.

A League One manager said some time ago that Sunderland with their resources and fan base should have had this league sewn up months ago. He was right. Jack Ross is not a winner and neither demonstrably are his players. I will be the first to apologise if we gain a play-off victory to gain the third promotional but after blowing yet another crucial game against Portsmouth I ain’t holding my breath any longer.

Mick Addison

Dear ALS

I wrote a letter a while back stating how many games we had drawn, and how we had usually come back to earn the draw. While I think JR has made really good progress since he took over as manager, I can't quite understand why he doesn't change something with the defence, to prevent them conceding the easy/early goal. 18 draws now. Only Blackpool with 17 come close to our number and look where they are now.

Too late to make excuses, but even three less draws, would have seen us top of the table, not having to worry about the play offs.

Last week’s 4-5 loss, is a classic example, of how easy other teams score against us. Yes, he has changed the two central defenders since that game, but the replacements are not match fit, or good enough.

Unless there are major changes, it is not going to be worthwhile, if we are lucky enough being promoted, as the teams in the Championship are at another level. To consolidate the team and squad, another year in this division will be of more benefit than going up.

That is not going to make many supporters happy, but the price of being a mediocre team and just surviving, does not make financial sense. We need to be realistic and give JR the funds and time to build a useful squad and sort out that defence.

Croydon Mackem

Dear ALS

It doesn’t surprise me to read Stewart Donald is already talking to potential buyers for the club. Okay we're now in a better position and there’s more of a feelgood factor at the club as well as a stadium that looks like its owners are a bit more house proud. Also, there’s finally talk of us replacing the name of the stadium, which is long overdue.

What’s more of a concern for me is that despite a change of ownership, a new manager and virtually a new team, I’m still seeing traits I’d attribute to the sides that have consistently disappointed us over recent years such as sleepwalking into games and an inability to dominate for 90 mins and conceding late goals – all this in League One! If we’re to get promoted it won’t be in the manner we should given the setup we have, the fans/attendances and players like Oviedo, Cattermole and McGeady earning more than the Peterborough first team put together and that’s after a huge pay cut.

I’ve heard it from different ex managers saying that there’s something not quite right at our club and I think there are still a number of less tangible aspects of what took us from the Prem to League One still evident and performances suggest to me that the new owners are not near or interested in addressing the problem, but are prepared to sell up.

Grandiose names like the Stadium of Light, the Stadium itself, the Academy and the fans must have our players thinking they’re something special, then all of a sudden we’re 0-2 at home to Accrington. Further investment shouldn’t be required to address basics like this and what I expected of Donald/Methven was to make changes to the culture at Sunderland, but when we take the rose-tinted glasses off they’re just speculators out to turnaround a quick profit.

Until we address the underlying reasons for our inconsistencies/complacencies that are quite clear to see even in League One I’m quite confident we’ll just end up back in the place we started, throwing good money after bad. Unless a new owner brings new thinking and cultural change to the club I only see short term gain with investment and more groundhog day performances.

Phil In Leeds

Dear ALS

Just read Alex Miller's blog regarding the possible name change of The Stadium of Light (SOL) and wish to register my horror at the thought of it. I really do appreciate what the new owners have done for the club but surely to rename the SOL purely for financial reasons is so wrong.

Are we really going along the path of sponsorship for everything? I sincerely hope not.

The SOL as everyone knows is named in respect of the miners and the pit on which the ground is built on. For that reason alone, it fills me with so much pride. We should never lose that image. It's who we are. It's what we stand for.

So many clubs have sold their souls to the devil purely to increase finances. I'd rather do without thanks. I have enjoyed this season so much and one of the reasons is that we are not at the mercy of Sky or BT who can order clubs to change kick off times whenever they feel.

For me any thought of a change of name for the SOL gets a big fat NO from me. NOT EVER.

With best wishes to all at ALS

Eddie Charlton

Dear ALS

Just a few words on a thought I’ve had. This weekend I think we should have a few renditions of “Who’s the greatest centre-half the world has ever seen” in honour of the King, Charlie Hurley.

A big public show of the love, affection and admiration of 40,000 supporters for the big man. A fitting tribute to a true loyal Sunderland legend, and a lovely fella, which will put a smile on his face from ear to ear.


South Shields

Dear ALS

Observing the Wembley Ticket scramble with mixed feelings. Living in Oxford, I am not a season card holder, I have a customer number, a vague purchase history and so no priority for tickets. That is all fine and quite right too!

SAFC say as a non-priority customer, Ticketmaster will not register my customer number until this season ends, so I cannot buy away match tickets on-line. SAFC helpfully added that I can buy tickets by telephoning the ticket office and using my customer number for the remaining part of this season. That seems fine too.

A few remaining Wembley tickets were on sale today from 9am, no priority required. I cannot collect in person so telephoned the Ticket Office. I did get through, to an answering machine which gave me the message, too busy to take your call at the moment, please phone later.

Needless to say I didn't bother.

Priority status can obviously be achieved attending away games, difficult though when away tickets are snapped up by season card holders. Maybe a regular 500-mile round trip from Oxford to Sunderland was the way to do it? Or, maybe i should have stayed in Great Lumley!

Enjoy your day out everyone

With all good wishes


Dear ALS

It has been a breath of fresh air this season and so nice to see players giving their all for the club again and the levels of communication from the new hierarchy.

But unless we can get on a run of wins and end up finishing as Champions this fine group of players will have the unwelcome distinction of finishing in the lowest position in the league of any squad ever fielded by Sunderland.

I don't want them to have that "distinction" and I'm sure they don't either so please everyone that can get to the games get there and throw your support behind them every second of every game, the crowd can be our 12th man and help the lads to make sure they avoid that label.

Bob Todd



Dear ALS

I enjoyed the realism of Giles Mooney’s 13th of March blog. He’s enthusiastic about the progress we’ve made this season without being carried away and it’s good that he’s pinpointed the changed attitude of the players for which Jack Ross must take some credit. At least the hardened turners up for a pay-packet, often very expensive signings, have gone and those who weren’t too enthusiastic about playing for Sunderland now appear to be enjoying their football and are committed to the club.

Like Giles, I feared the worst for the club. It seemed that in the days of Ellis Short, Margaret Byrne, Martin Bain and a string of hapless managers that the club was drifting, perhaps even to extinction. Few of the players were motivated and although manager after manager took the blame it wasn’t always their fault - some were managers with a good pedigree. I doubt that even Sam Allardyce could have kept us in the Premiership. Managing Sunderland must have been, at that time, rather like Hercules’ labour of cleaning the Augean stables - a task virtually impossible task for a mortal man.

But the club has been turned around. Jack Ross how has the full backing of the whole Sunderland establishment, from supporters through to owners: something unheard of since the days of Niall Quinn and Peter Reid.

So, if we don’t get promoted? Let’s all hope we do, but if we don’t, it’s not the end of the world and it's still been a good season despite being in Division One. We’ve won a lot of matches and the supporters, the lifeblood of the club, like that. If we miss out on promotion, it can only be that we aren’t quite good enough and it might even be a blessing in disguise. There are some good clubs in the Championship and if we go up, it will be hard to emulate this season’s results. But, realistically, we do need that challenge.

So, the club’s future seems to have been secured. That’s really the best thing to have happened this season.

All the best,

Dave from Sheffield

Dear ALS

I am so sorry to be writing this when I should be exultant following Tuesday. However, my experience thus far with Ticketmaster has been less than satisfactory: in fact, it has been disgraceful. It took over 90 minutes on hold yesterday to register… the website was “busy.” I thought the club had passed this job on because our own ticket office couldn’t cope with demand? Neither could the so-called experts.

The instructions for use are, at best, vague and I am reasonably computer savvy. Many of my season ticket holder friends near me in the ground, are over 70 I very much doubt if they all have computers and certainly think many would be unable to navigate the Ticketmaster site.

Now I discover that we will have to pay various admin fees if we are lucky enough to secure tickets. Further confusion: tonight, I have received a second email telling me I need to register with Ticketmaster for my second season ticket, (which my son uses) despite the fact that the seats are alongside each other and both are paid for under the same name from the same bank account.

If that means I will only be allowed 1 ticket, then I will give that ticket away and write to the Chairman, but I will not be registering again in order to receive the two tickets my two season cards should warrant. It may be that I am confused, but the email does not explain things properly.

Has taken much of the gloss of a wonderful week

Keep the Faith,


Dear ALS

Well done to the Lads on reaching Wembley, let’s hope we can see the thing through and bring home some silverware.

The two disappointing aspects about all this seems to be the ticket allocation to each club and the decision to use Ticketmaster for distribution, hardly fare to the fan who has not got internet facility or the older supporter who'll struggle to use a computer, but that’s the way it is. The main beef however is the amount of tickets each club gets. Portsmouth incredibly will be getting 680 more than Sunderland.

Based on average attendances this season, and a capacity of 90,000, the amounts should be 32700 for Pompey and 57300 for Sunderland. My figure are calculated on average attendances of 32017 against 18282 which each club has had this season.

When we played Charlton in the play offs we got about 38000 tickets and Charlton 33000 with average attendances of 37000 for the lads and only 15000 for Charlton. On the day loads for tickets were being sold by touts and they were mostly for the Charlton section of the ground, we know why that is. Just an observation that's all. it would be nice if the club protested about this, but I bet they won't.

Anyway. good luck on the day,

Pete Little

Ha'way the Lads

Dear ALS

Is it me, or is the manager missing something, with the amount of games where we have given away the first goal? 16 matches won, of those, we came from behind 13 times! Yes, it is great making a comeback, but why is it so easy for the opposition to score against us? More often, it is also within the first fifteen minutes of the game. We are then facing an uphill task. 14 draws, 8 of them coming from behind each time, not only that they are all teams below us in the table.

The old adage is, you only win games if you score more than them or keep a clean sheet. In the recent transfer moves, why were we not also looking for good defenders, as well as strikers?

By now at this point in the season, Ross should have seen the light, and either coached the defenders into being awake from the kick off or changed something on the training pitch as to how to defend properly. Something in his recent comments, defending the needless penalty given away, by Baldwin, makes me think he does not see this defensive frailty within the team.

Croydon Mackem

Dear ALS

Sunderland fans in recent years have had every right to get onto manager’s backs and call for their heads, but Jack Ross is different.

Under the stewardship of Ross, Sunderland have only lost two league games. In the process, the lads have managed to be the only English team to score in every single match so far. This is a remarkable record and has been heavily overlooked by the fanbase. Furthermore, Ross has been charismatic, articulate and confident in his press conferences, something that the club has been devoid of since Big Sam.

It seems that, as the city had been covered in negativity during the Short era, the fans have become accustomed to failure and therefore whenever there is a sense of underachievement, we seem to jump to irrational conclusions. Think of it this way: if we give Jack the Sack, who will replace him and continue to keep the club in the playoffs comfortably? It was a remarkable achievement to bring Ross in in the summer, and there is no way Stewart Donald will be able to replicate this managerial appointment.

My point is, we need to have more patience, and in sticky patches stick with the club and show our support. Stewart Donald revealed recently that he received a number of personal insults that have affected him; this cannot continue. We don’t understand how lucky we are that he and Charlie Methven took over from Ellis Short. We should be eternally grateful as they saved our club from the brink of administration, it seems like we shouldn’t be in League 1, but in actual fact we’re lucky to still be a club with our facilities.

Yes, results haven’t been great recently but surely Jack deserves more time?

Daniel McCallum

Dear ALS

A poor performance tonight against Accrington, our defence was all over the place, I've come to the conclusion that Baldwin is not up to the mark and we've got better players at the club.

As for Charlie Wyke, well, he's stiffer than my walking stick. The difference when he was replaced by Maguire, was staggering. Maguire must surely start games, he was good in the first half of the season and should be in the team.

Grigg showed in patches that he's a good player and his luck will turn, when he gets his first goal. A great assist for Honeyman’s goal and their defence made some good block to stop him, he'll come good. Our main worry is not if we'll make promotion, it’s with all these draws, will we reach the play-offs? We are in for a roller coaster ride for the rest of the season. It's a case of fingers crossed

Peter Little

Dear ALS

Like the majority of supporters, I was left frustrated again on Saturday. Jack Ross now has a large hand of players to choose from (too large?) and to keep happy. This is causing confusion with fans on team selection and favoured players not even making the bench. However, I do believe he'll eventually get it right.

My main point, which will be controversial, goes back to a famous North East manager who said that he always played a 'Maverick' in his teams on the belief that he could be ineffective for 89 minutes but could produce that bit of magic, either a goal from nothing, or pass to win the game. And that would justify his selection. We need to persevere with the only guy who can do this and McGeady is our luxury player.

Jack, you slipped up on Saturday


Dear ALS

It is great to see Grant Leadbitter back at the club.

I have such fond memories of his scoring the winner at Southampton on Easter Monday 2007, and then nearly doing himself a horrible injury as he slid on his knees towards the corner flag!

Minutes later the final whistle went and I left the ground in tears – for we had gone top of the table

Here’s hoping for even better to come!

All the best

Paul Nicholl

Dear ALS

As usual we seem to be leaving all of our January transfer business well into the final hours. Whilst this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it means we have as much time as possible to decide who to spend our money on, it also means that the negotiations have a high chance of falling through. We’ve been known for not being able to finalise deals lately, Chris Martin being one of the most recent transfers that fell at the final hurdle. It would be criminal to miss out on any of our current targets, especially when a backup is not in place. [if !supportLineBreakNewLine] [endif]

So Josh Maja has completed a permanent move to Bordeaux, who compete in the top division of French Football. Obviously, this is a huge blow in our chase for promotion and it will be very difficult to find a striker who can fill his boots. However, there are still positives to this deal. With his contract as a Sunderland player expiring in the summer, we would have lost him on a free because it was unlikely that he would sign a contract extension when in such good form. [if !supportLineBreakNewLine] [endif]

Hopefully his replacement is Will Grigg is a highly prolific and well-known striker, mainly due to his goal scoring form in League 1 with Wigan Athletic, scoring 25 goals in the 15/16 season. Wigan boss Paul Cook has said that they have now rejected a fourth Sunderland bid for the attacker but does not think that will be the last of the bids with Sunderland keen to bring in the Northern-Ireland international. Charlie Wyke has struggled with just one goal so far, so needs support. Whoever comes through the door at the end of the January window they will hopefully help us in the race for promotion to the Championship.

Adam Scorer

Dear ALS

How nice of Josh to make such comments about us magnificent Sunderland fans and the fantastic club he's leaving. I wish footballers would be honest, he’s leaving for money, cold hard cash, nothing else. I doubt the club he's joining are a strength in the French League their average attendance is 21,200 in a stadium as big as the SOL.

They are the French equivalent of Burnley. He would have been better off staying in England. He had every right to go, his contract was up in May so that was not an issue, but as I say, he's moved for money, not to further his career. The big question is, will he be a bench warner like Asoro and McNair or will he actually get a game? Only time will tell. if things do go pear shaped his agent will ditch him at the first turn, they're only in it for the money.

Don't you see Josh

Pete Little

Ha'way the Lads

Dear ALS

Jack Ross has a dilemma: Who can replace Josh Maja and replicate his goal scoring form in the second half of the season?

Here are three strikers that could help the club achieve promotion from League 1:

1. Kieffer Moore. The 6”5 striker caused our defence all sorts of problems back when we played Barnsley at the Stadium of Light. He bullied Baldwin and Flanagan throughout the game, and only the post denied him from a hat-trick. Although he is extremely tall, we also saw that he’s quite good with his feet- this could add an extra dimension to the team as Charlie Wyke has seemed very cumbersome following his return from injury. Rumours have suggested that we lodged a £2m bid for Moore at the start of January.

2. Will Grigg. Perhaps the most obvious choice on this list, Sunderland have been linked extensively throughout January since even before Josh Maja left. The Northern Ireland hitman has a remarkable record at this level, and his experience up top could be exactly what we need to rejuvenate our frontline. Jack Ross certainly seems keen on Grigg, as we have reportedly had four offers rejected by Wigan. He hasn’t played much this season, and manager Paul Cooke has admitted that at the right price, he may leave the Latics.

3. Mo Eisa. Certainly not the most likely transfer, Sunderland were heavily linked with the Sudanese striker in the summer, after having a stellar season at Cheltenham, bagging 23 goals in 45 appearances. Rumours suggested that we had offered up to £2 million for Eisa, however he turned us down and subsequently went to Bristol City in the Championship. Things haven’t exactly gone to plan for the 6ft striker, where he has only managed five appearances for his new side- he has struggled with an ankle injury sustained in October. At just 23 years old, he will certainly be hungry for minutes and almost guaranteed those minutes if he makes the move to the North East.

Daniel McCallum

Dear Accrington Stanley

I attended the December fixture which was abandoned. My understanding was that we were required to hold our tickets and that they would be honoured once the game was rescheduled. However, when I contacted your office today I was informed that where a game enters the second half you do not offer a free or discounted replacement ticket. We are required to pay the ticket price in full, once again. I have checked your supporters charter and found that this is indeed your club's policy.

Might I draw your attention to the provisions for abandoned games at the Sunderland SOL. In this case your supporters would be entitled to a replacement ticket FOC, so long as the game has not been completed. To some extent this reflects my club's consideration of the costs of travel involved but to largest extent simply reflects an attitude of fair play to fans.

Although I understand that the club has match day expenses to cover I would have imagined these would have been more than covered by the catering income from the extremely high attendance in December and by your commercial operating insurances. Your club's policy is doubly surprising since I think most visiting fans were impressed by the extremely warm and hospitable welcome we received.

Therefore, since the circumstances and occurrence of match abandonment are extremely rare, may I ask that you reconsider your approach and either give visiting fans an FOC replacement ticket or a significant reduction on the purchase price of their replacement.

Best Wishes

Ken Dunn

Dear ALS

We are getting to the business end to the season and we need to act now with a striker.

The Maja situation needs sorting and as for Charlie Wyke we need goals from him now and hope we are not left waiting "Wykes" for one.

We still seem to be a different team over two halves and to keep conceding a goal after going in front is becoming a joke.

We should be walking away with this league with our fan base, but I fear we will end up in the play offs which then becomes a lottery.

Concentration levels need to be a lot better and shots on target need to increase.

Keep the faith

Glen Royal


West Midlands

Dear ALS

I write this watching the Southampton/Derby cup replay and it makes me agree with Jack Ross saying Sunderland are a good League One side. The club have gone thru successive demotions and a financial meltdown so we are not a team packed with players who could walk into Championship or Premiership team.

We shouldn’t and cannot expect to demolish the sides immediately around us in the division. I think (hope?) we will be promoted but if we do Ross and the money men will have another job to do to make us competitive. So let’s enjoy a season in which we have only been beaten twice and have scored in every game and hope success will breed success.


Paul L

Dear ALS

It's high time the football club took control of the Maja Contract issue. Will he sign, won't he sign?

Call him into the office, without his agent, after all the club is his employer, not his agent, sit him down and ask him straight; are you going to sign the new contract or not? He's had ample time to make a decision. If the answer is no, tell him he'll be put on the transfer list and made available to other clubs, then contact his agent and tell him what's occurring.

His agent has shown the club no respect whatsoever so why should the club show him any. The fans, the lifeblood of our club should not be held to ransom over this issue. We deserve better, a bit more respect from a player who's been given a magnificent showcase to play football. it's time to stop pussyfooting around.

Ha'Way the Lads

Pete Little

Dear ALS

I’m sorry to have to dispute Seamus Alexander McGregor’s assertion that: “…whether you like Sunderland, hate Sunderland, you can’t dispute this is a big club with an incredible fanbase and an incredible infrastructure.” I don’t think this is the case - the big clubs are those in the top half of the Premiership. I remember writing, years ago in the dark days of Ellis Short, Margaret Byrne and other senior officials, that there was something rotten at the heart of Sunderland’s ownership and administration. Well, let’s hope that that was then and now is now where we can believe that the club is undergoing a healing process under new ownership and new management. We can complain bitterly about the last few managers, but I don’t think they were wholly to blame for the club’s disastrous slide from the Premiership to Division 1, (the old Third Division), but there’s no doubt in my mind that another reason for Sunderland’s slump was the string of expensive signings of scarcely motivated players possessing very modest talents. (Where are you, Jack Rodwell?) But under better owners and a good, intelligent manager in Jack Ross, one can at least hope for a better future, perhaps even one day a return to the Premiership. But Sunderland are not playing like a big club. After a good start to the season, we appear to have been hanging on for a draw or a win in our last 6 or 7 matches and the match reports have tried hard to disguise the fact that we aren’t playing all that well against mediocre opposition. Let’s face it, most of the teams we play this season are mediocre. Division 1 is the home of mediocrity and Division 2 is the home of really poor football teams.

I agree with Alexander that the team have an incredible fanbase, but the fanbase sits in the stands. Cheering the lads on, both home and away might encourage them, perhaps occasionally it might inspire a Sunderland win, but the football is played on the pitch and, although we are well up the league I don’t think we have been all that convincing this season. We need a few thumping wins, particularly at home, and to get good away results against other teams in the top half of the league as well as beating the minnows. We’ve had home games where we’ve been lucky to get away with a low score draw.

One bright spot is that we now have a goalkeeper in the great tradition of past Sunderland goalies - most recently represented by Pickford and Mignolet. I sometimes wonder if, as well as bad ownership and management, poor goalkeepers weren’t responsible for our plummet down the leagues.

But here’s hoping we can get good, convincing results in the remainder of the season. Having sounded as though I’m carping about the club, which I am a bit, it’s good to see them third in the league rather than third from the bottom, or even bottom with only a small handful of wins and points. I’d just like to see a more dominant Sunderland for the rest of the season.

All the best and a belated Happy New Year to you all,

Dave from Sheffield

Dear ALS

Like many owners/managers before them the club seems to think the crowd at Sunderland can make a difference to the team’s performance. We were urged to create an 'intimidating atmosphere' at the Luton game with quotes like ‘It’s getting to the stage of the season where every little thing matters.’

I’ll be honest, over the years I’ve been following Sunderland I’m tired of reading stuff like this. If there was a performance vs support league table, we'd be the worst in the Football League every season, yet people at the club still have the audacity to ask the fans for more!

The fans have already broken the League 1 attendance record, our reward for which was an unconvincing win against the bottom club. Rather than asking us to turn up and create an atmosphere, I suggest they start talking about chasing the League 1 points record of 103 that Wolves currently hold and make themselves accountable for achieving it. Wolves achieved that number with an ave home attendance of 21,000 – ours so far is 32,000, Luton's is 9,300! So, take this attendance/atmosphere nonsense off the table.

My advice to the club is if you deliver a high standard of football/results and you get the crowds/atmosphere to go with it, not the other way around. If your football lived up to your wage bill you’d get a Boxing Day crowd every home game. The piss take party isn’t over, you have players there that earn more than an entire League 1 side put together and if every little thing matters, I’m sure they have a little more in the tank. They certainly have a little more in the bank.

Phil in Leeds

Dear ALS

Pretty good day at the Valley yesterday save for the result and the fact that my son, who I have been taking to see the Lads since a win at Craven Cottage when he was 7, decided he would prefer to go with his mates. Still, as one is a Hammer and the other a Chelsea Blue (both were at home yesterday) it’s refreshing that they prefer the atmosphere generated by the Red and White Army than the sterility of London Premier League sides.

Talking of my son, he was worried pre-match. He had seen Charlton on the opening day at the SOL and reckoned we could be in trouble. I reassured him, reminding him how well we fared at Portsmouth tilt the sending off and that no way were Charlton gonna win six in a row (there is a song there somewhere) at home. So it proved and an entertaining afternoon was had by all.

Now there are some who will point to our finishing – or lack of – which probably should have had us out of sight by the break. I am happy we just keep making the chances – on e day we will score a hatful. But for me there is a greater problem. Not only is our passing sometimes poor, it almost always sets up an opposition attack.

Admittedly I streamed the Portsmouth, Shrewsbury and Blackpool games but those three plus yesterday have me worried. Yesterday in particular saw a spate of ‘back-heels’ all of which bar one (the Wyke ‘how did he miss that’ effort) went straight to the opposition. In the other three matches everyone seemed to catch the Cattermole habit of passing to an opponent. Face it our ball retention at times is wonderful, but our distribution is so off it will one day cause us lost points. Being then a team of average passers makes the notion of 60-yard crossfield passes ridiculous, yet we tried them time and again only to find the opposition. We really need to sort – soon!

Otherwise a relatively pleasing afternoon although I am surely not the only one who thought the Teams had swapped shirts at half time; blisteringly good in the first half and anonymous for 35 minutes in the second.

Luton coming next week – now I am worried.


David Johnston

Dear ALS

A million questions are seemingly been asked with regard to the Josh Maja situation, and the only person who can answer them is... Josh Maja!

We have a scenario whereby Maja intimated to the manager that he wanted to sign his new contract, but this was quickly counteracted by his agent, Eddie Bonsu (check out his pose on his Twitter account) who then told Sky Sports, without having any dialogue with any Sunderland official, that his client would not be staying on Wearside.

So Josh, let’s hear it from your own mouth about what exactly your feelings on this rather important issue is. A naive request, maybe, but you are the focal point in all the current speculation with regard to your future and you can show Sunderland AFC and its loyal fan base a bit of respect in doing so.

If you continue to say nothing and hide behind your agent, who will personally benefit by moving you on to another club, especially one abroad as he did with Jadon Sancho who moved to Borussia Dortmund from Man City as this would mean SAFC receiving no fee whatsoever if my information is correct.

Josh, SAFC have helped develop you as a player and a person and given you regular first team football at a young age. Do the decent thing and clarify your situation now as otherwise prolonging the speculation is detrimental to a hard-fought promotion challenge and shows a total lack of respect for club staff and the fan base alike.

Over to you…

Tom Lynn

Dear ALS

So Josh has decided it's time for a new challenge, or at least his agent has. For the player to tell the club he wants to stay and then the agent say's different the next day, through the medium of SKY Sports is totally unacceptable.

The fans will be sad to see him go, he's been good for the club, but the club has been fantastic for him, it's a two-way street. I know if my employer offered me a 700% pay rise and a chance to better myself, I would have accepted the offer, probably snatched his hand off. A warning to Josh though, the grass is not always greener on the other side, all he has to do is ring Joel Asoro or Paddy McNair, both of whom are now bench warmers in their better more classy surroundings.

Any move to a Championship club will only see him play against Sunderland next season, hopefully! That is of course if he doesn't suffer relegation or is lucky enough to make promotion to the Premier League. A move to a top flight club now would also see him as a bench warmer unless it's someone like Huddersfield who are struggling. Think long and hard Josh.

Pete Little

Dear ALS

I'm not feeling easy about My Garden Shed this year. Happy to sing it at The Etihad and looking forward to giving them several choruses at the new White Hart Lane, or whatever it's called, but at the clubs we're visiting this season?

Some have had their neglectful owners and hostile councils, struggled through administration and multiple relegations, been at risk of going out of existence. Others have never had the resources or fan base to do anything but get by. What they have, however poor, they have worked for.

The fans, proper fans, have turned up to shout and sing for thirty/forty years knowing the best they could hope for. In the foreseeable future was seasons in the lower divisions.

I’m probably just being soft but not sure I want to mock them.

Barry Conlin


Dear ALS

I'm a Manc SAFC. My mate's a proper Sandancer and when MUFC went all profit and win based, I got bored. Been a SAFC supporter, from Manchester for 15 years now. You can't go about thinking you're going to win everything cos you throw money at it or expect it after that. So, glad I support a proper football club.

So, it is so good to see the lads winning a few and staying in contention for promotion. But you are a club that knows only too well, "stuff happens".

Anyway, on to another of my thoughts. In 2017 I was raving to my mate about two guys who were ripping apart defences and smiling while doing it. Josh Maja and Joel Asoro. It was pre-season, but they really looked good. Then Joel went to, Swansea, I think, to sit on a bench and Maja became the world of League 1. If they had played them in 2017, things might have been different.

What do you all think?

Happy New Year


Dear ALS

I just finished watching the Netflix series on last season. The sense of community around the club, the history of the city and the passion felt by all was clear to see. I would love to see the club back in the Premiership as soon as possible, it’s where it belongs and I’m hopeful that return will come within 3-5 years max under the correct leadership.

The reason I’m writing to the fanzine is to make one comment (meant to help in future, not as a criticism). There were many failings apparent from the Netflix series - an owner who should have sold a long time ago, sacking Chris Coleman instead of sticking by a well-liked and excellent manager (who’s decision was that?), Rodwell and his contract (whoever negotiated that contract should be sacked, criminal)

Let down by Grabban and Gibson... the list goes on. However, what struck me most was the passion of the crowd, which on a good day would make the Stadium of Light a fortress, but the hostility caused no doubt out of frustration, led to players being afraid to play at home, fearful of making mistakes and expressing themselves.

If the Netflix series was a true reflection of the way the atmosphere was, the crowd certainly contributed significantly to the club’s dreadful home record. I’d love to have an understanding of whether this is a fair comment or not, I was obviously not there. I’m sure any manager saying it would get slaughtered, so perhaps an outsider saying it is better. Anyway, goose luck for the remainder of the season, I will follow the club’s fortunes with my fingers crossed!

Matthew Botell

Dear ALS

Despite not seeing too much game time since joining from Wycombe, Luke’s efforts have not gone unnoticed at Sunderland. His first goal at the Stadium of Light came in a very entertaining 4-2 win against Barnsley, a much-needed goal to make the final minutes much more bearable. With Jack Ross saying: “I don’t see him as an impact sub” it has highlighted other possibilities for the Sunderland line-up heading into the second half of the season. The midfield has been one of the many positives so far, with all impressing so far as we close the gap on Portsmouth at the top of the table.

Of course, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it, the saying speaks the truth; but surely his time must come soon. Heading into an away journey against Walsall at the Bescot Stadium, it could be the perfect time for him to prove his worth and show the red and white faithful his potential. He’s already found a soft spot in the Sunderland fans, but it would be very difficult to replace anyone at this moment in time given our league position and performances of late. At 24-years-old, it’s time for the central midfielder to start pushing for a start, especially with Dylan McGeouch and Lee Cattermole injured. Would he earn a place in your Sunderland line-up at the weekend?

Adam Scorer

Dear ALS

As a casual correspondent and Mackem in exile down south I can honestly say I'm glad to be a Sunderland fan again for two reasons, passion and positivity.

Gone are the limp lifeless displays of over the hill established pros the likes of O’Shea and Seb Larsson put on in their later years replaced by young hungry players who care about the club and city eager to prove themselves.

And to have a manager who thinks we can win games and beat teams rather than hope to match them for an hour before we lose is a revelation.

I haven't felt this good since the peter reid days when we smashed the championship with SuperKev the Discopanted one and even Danny Dichio scoring for fun.

Being able to look at soccer Saturday or final score without that ominous dread of seeing us being slapped around by mediocre teams we should be beating is basically life affirming goodness summed up.

I don't know how long it’s going to last but I'm just glad the new owners and Jack Ross have brought life back to my club. Those were some really hard years just gone, even when we got 15 points under big Mick, I never felt we were as bad as we have been for the last six or so years.

But it seems the malaise has been banished and we are back on the right track, like most of us I'm not expecting trophies or a return to bank of England days but just to be proud of my club again is a fantastic feeling and I'm glad it’s back.

Ross Martin

Dear ALS

It’s good to find Sunderland winning almost week in week out and conceding so few goals and to read Alex Miller’s blog, "Decent Keeper At Last.” It’s a star-studded list he gives us, but there’s one keeper he’s missed:

John Mapson. I saw Mapson in his later years playing at Bramall Lane against a decent Sheffield United side in the early 1950s. He was getting on at the time, but still an excellent goalkeeper. The rest of the team, mainly the remnants of the 1937 cup winning team, were pretty good too, but by that time, my favourite player, Raich Carter, had gone to Derby; I never quite forgave Sunderland for that! Like many of his generation, Mapson missed what should have been his golden years through the war. He played on until 1954 and played in that great “Bank of England” team. He is probably Sunderland’s longest serving goalkeeper and amongst the longest, if not the longest, serving Sunderland player. I thought he was worth a mention.

All the best,

Dave from Sheffield

Dear ALS

It was interesting to read the comments of the managers of Shrewsbury, Southend, Doncaster and Plymouth. All have said their teams were better than Sunderland on the day and deserved a better result.

All were beaten, none of them scored against us. We've gathered 20 points from a possible 24 since we lost to Burton, with only three home games and five away games in that run. We've scored 17 and conceded just 5. If our "luck" continues we might even get an opposition manager to say that we deserved to win a game soon.

The other thing they throw at us is the money aspect, saying how big we are and wishing they had a similar budget, funny how when were disastrous last season, losing nearly every week the opposition never mentioned the cash situation. Long may our luck continue.

Peter Little

Dear ALS

Well I never ever thought I would see the day when my beloved Sunderland are only above Accrington Stanley (no disrespect to them, John Coleman is doing a fantastic job there ) on goal difference, well that time is hear and I hope all those underperforming players etc who put us here and have graced the SOL turf are happy.

Rob Edwards

Dear ALS

Once again, the club’s magnificent supporters have bought up all the ticket allocation for a match. This has happened every time we've played away this season. This time it's the away game at Plymouth which for those interested is just 401 miles from Sunderland.

What I would like to see the club do is negotiate with our rivals a special deal on ticket price as they are minting it on the backs of Sunderland fans. A good starting point would be no charges above the price their fans pay at the SOL. better still, due to the travelling numbers a decent discount on prices to compensate for the incredible mileage and transport costs our fans face.

Last season we were charge an outrageous £38 for an adult ticket at Sheffield Wednesday for a midweek fixture, about £13 more than their fans had to pay at Sunderland. If these clubs don't agree, we should refuse to sell tickets for the games, a massive loss of income would sharpen the minds. I believe Bob Murray and Niall Quinn did a similar thing when our fans were been fleeced with ticket price rises for away games, it worked, the prices came back down. We have enough clout in this league to make this happen. Just a thought.

Peter Little

Dear ALS

I have just read the essay by Sobs about his first game at Roker and realised that I was at that match too! It made me think about my first game which was 20th October 1962 and the final score was Sunderland 5 Walsall 0. I lived about 25 miles from Roker and my dad wasn't keen on taking me but eventually he relented and took me and my grandad (who had been a regular at Roker Park since before the First World War and had seen Charlie Buchan and George Holley play).

We went into the Clock Stand Paddock which in later years became my regular spot, at the back of the Paddock in line with the centre spot - and always the same people were standing in the same place match after match. I remember Charlie Hurley of course but also we had a pretty good centre forward at the time, name of Clough. I think he scored a couple of goals that day. I was hooked, obviously and the greatest day in my life was when we won the FA Cup in 1973. I was sitting just by the steps down from the Royal Box and was able to touch the cup and pat Bobby Kerr on the back as he came down from the presentation.

The last few years have seemed like a continuous bad dream but there is now hope for the future with Jack Ross and we must all give him our support.

Alan Haile

Dear ALS

Lee Cattermole appears to be dividing opinion more than ever. In my view the weight of the argument is that he gets paid more than pretty much any team put together in League One so he should be seen to be carrying that weight of responsibility.

Some would argue he’s playing for a move so I’m not sure why folk are bigging him up as Its a damn sight easier for him to look good in this league. Dick Advocaat described him as the ‘controller’ of the side yet look where his influence has taken us over his time at the club. In his defence you could argue that we’ve had a very badly run club for a number of years, but for the percentage of a club’s turnover that ends up in the player’s pockets, they have to take a huge degree of responsibility for our position.

Like him or loathe him, he’s on a contract until the summer of 2021. If he can start looking like Lionel Messi in this league, I’ll cheer him as that’s what his wages suggest he should be doing, but I doubt I’ll get my hands warm clapping him. In my view a player like Cattermole highlights a huge talent vs wages disparity between players outside of the top 6 in the Prem and League One.

Phil in Leeds

Dear ALS

Just wanted to say a few words about Mr Cattermole.

At the end of a game at the SoL last season (one of the many we lost after another abject performance), our Lee was leaving the pitch when three drunken SAFC numbties sitting near the away bench took it upon themselves to hurl abuse at him. Cattermole wasn’t the worst player that day and certainly didn’t deserve the vitriol he received.

He could hear it all coming his way and simply clapped them in an ironic way (which was probably wasted on them). I hope any or all of those three pricks were at Bradford last Saturday to see his commitment to the cause (if it was ever doubted). Ok he’s one of our highest paid players but the club gave him that contract and unlike all of the other high paid wasters I submit that he has at least made the effort, and clearly continues to do so.

Thank you, Mr Cattermole

Felix the SAFC Fox

Dear ALS

I just wanted to say thank you to you for pointing me in the right direction after my email about 4-wheel walkers not being allowed into the SOL.

With help from yourselves and Chris Waters my husband and I were able to attend the Fleetwood match on Saturday. This was the first time for 2/3 years that we have attended a game and we both enjoyed it very much. It is good to know that someone recognised that not all disabled people use wheelchairs. I will be contacting Chris again with the view to attending some more matches.

Thank you once again

Anne Hudspith

Dear ALS

I’m looking to the future and expecting Sunderland to be promoted back to the Championship, this is when the serious money would need to come into play. Unfair as it might sound, the current squad as I think we all know would not do well at a higher level.

So, is it a shrewd move by Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven to bring Juan Sartori on board so if promotion does happen then do we see his father in law a Russian billionaire come onboard? also the connection with Monaco will we see any loan deals to gain players match experience? But like I stated we will need serious money in promotion we have to look to the future before we get there.

Alan Graham

Dear ALS

In response to Chris Weatherspoon’s "Catt’s Ninth Life" comments, I would like to add a few of my own.

I first saw Cattermole in his first game away at Bolton and in my opinion he "transformed" the team’s performance. Not that he produced superstar soccer, but in the way he organised the players around him, applauding them when things worked, consoling them when it didn’t and making suggestions for when it happened again.

Cattermole had the knack of making the team play better, but that’s just my opinion, there are opposing opinions that have been expressed from individuals who are standard Sunderland supporters and some who are paid to express their opinions. We all have one thing in common. We have no idea of what the manager’s instructions were prior to every game played by Cattermole, and we have no idea of how well he complied with those instructions.

What is on record is the high praise every Cattermole manager has heaped on him (with one Italian exception) from the time he captained Middlesbrough as a 17-year-old to the latest comments from Jack Ross, all (with one Italian exception) are highly complementary.

Looking at Cattermole’s bookings, it’s obvious that the bulk of them came when Steve Bruce was his manager, it makes me wonder just what was Brucie’s pre-match instructions to Cattermole, even after his red cards Steve Bruce was highly supportive.

As for Cattermole`s playing skills, well we see what we see on the playing field and we make our own opinions. Kevin Ball was not blessed with outstanding skills, but had abundant enthusiasm, yet Kevin Ball has achieved cult status among those Sunderland supporters who saw him play, and it`s unqualified support that`s given to Kevin Ball.

Lee Cattermole has given at least as much to SAFC as Kevin Ball, we should respect him for that.

Michael Thompson

Dear ALS

Over the summer months the club have made massive changes to the management and playing staff, the new owners have been a breath of fresh air, re-inventing club it you like. Most of the bad apples have been moved on and we have a squad united in its goal, to embrace the challenge of a long season, with hopefully a promotion push at the end, that is the least our fantastic fans deserve.

The harmony within any squad of players is all important, if they get on well together, they'll give their all for each other and the fans.

All this good work could be undone at a stroke if the two want aways are allowed to return. Djilobodji and Ndong must not be allowed to play for Sunderland again under any circumstances. They, by their actions in not turning up for pre-season was a stab in the back for the other players and a massive snub to our club and its fans, who have stuck with the team for years despite the dross being served up.

The inability to find another club is purely down to their personal greed. Basically, they cannot find a club stupid enough to pay the outrageous wages they've been paid at Sunderland. Their refusal to train with the club was disgraceful and I don't know how they could look the other players in the face. especially Cattermole and Oviedo, who did the right thing and behaved in a professional way. I very much doubt that any fans would want this pair back in a red and white shirt. If the club cannot get a fee for them they should sack them for gross misconduct, refusing to even train must come into that category. They must never be allowed to draw another penny from the club. They're not been paid at the moment and it should stay that way. So, I'm pleading with the club’s owners not to undo all the good work by accepting this pair back. It's time to cut our losses and get rid of them.

Pete Little

Dear ALS

I went to the Luton game with a Luton fan, sitting behind the goal at the opposite end to the magnificent Sunderland supporters.

It was a million miles away in expectation and enjoyment compared to watching the dross (with few exceptions) which fell through into League One with no fight.

Without a salary cap in place the only teams which will win trophies in the Premier League are the teams which have countries and/or oil rich sheikhs and Russian billionaires as owners.

I look forward to the day when these clubs in the Premier League are denied stupid TV money and implode.

Then and only then will supporters of the less fashionable non-prawn sandwich eating clubs be able to compete.

Give me a Luton v Sunderland game to a Manchester City Megabucks v Huddersfield Town mismatch, which is not football as we know it.

Terry Reilly. Burgess Hill Mackem

Dear ALS

It's interesting to read comments from both Lynden Gooch and George Honeyman regarding the team spirit in the camp at the SOL at the moment. I'm a believer that if people have a positive attitude and focus, they can do well. This brings me on to the general malaise that choked the club over the past few seasons.

If there are a few bad apples within a squad the negativity tends to rub off on others. There have been a huge number of departures over the past few months, mostly for the good of the club, spirit has been raised, so an assumption can also be made about the attitude of the departed. However, not all the players to leave were of that attitude. There were some who left for genuine football reasons and some who left that were a disappointment for the club and supporters. One such player was Paddy McNair who did not want to play at level 3, even though he played his part like others, in getting us to the said level. Since his departure to Middlesbrough he's managed 90 minutes twice, in league cup games. Of the 5 other league games he manages a total of 33 minutes football, as a sub in every game except one, where he was injured. If sitting on the bench and getting an average of 8.5 minutes playing time per game is better than playing a full part in matches, all be it at a lower level, I'll show my arse in the Vatican.

I was always of the opinion that playing the game was far more important than sitting on the bench watching, even if the playing is at a lower level. The grass is not always greener, is it Paddy? However, I wish you luck with your new team.

The start the lads have made is fantastic and hopefully we can keep it up, even improve on it. Promotion is the target for all fans, but a big thank you to Jack Ross for restoring a bit of belief in the club and giving the supporters a team worth turning out to watch. You have helped restore a bit of dignity for the football league's, long suffering, but most loyal group of supporters. Haway the Lads.

Pete Little


Dear ALS

I felt compelled to drop you an email to say that your support is sensational.

I’ve been a Gillingham season ticket holder for 30 years and I can’t remember a team bringing those kind of numbers, especially to a night game. I hope you win the league!

Martin from Bromley

Dear ALS

At least three times towards the end of his commentary BBC’s Nick Barnes suggested that the lads were fortunate to win 4-1, having only four shots on target which resulted in goals.

I’d like to join Nick in being critical of a 100% striking success rate. Disgraceful from Sunderland eh?

Tom Lynn

Dear ALS

I went out to a pub last night to see The Lads take on Sheffield Wednesday. I’m not an Owls fan, preferring Sheffield United, if only because Sheffield United’s Joe Shaw's dad worked at Murton Colliery with my dad. Joe Shaw was said to be England’s best uncapped player, ever.

Things looked promising in the beginning: Wednesday, very sensibly opted for their familiar blue and white stripes instead of the usual swirly, spotted kit which comprises most clubs’ strip and although both teams wore stripes there wasn’t even a hint of a colour clash.

I had high hopes: Wednesday are a Championship side, but not an impressive one and Sunderland looked to be on the up in Division One, which we should keep reminding ourselves is another way of saying we’re in the Third division (North). I have to say, I thought it was a poor match. Sunderland played like a group of lads who had only been introduced to each other and told they were playing together as a team 10 minutes before the kick off. Wednesday, on the other hand, did look as though they had played together before, although not very often. What was worrying about Sunderland was the lack of skill and cohesion in the team. passes were wild, seldom accurate for anybody to run onto without changing pace or direction. Ball control was poor, and passes which had a random look about them often looped up in the air more in the hope than the expectation that it would find a well-placed Sunderland man. Generally, our tactics seemed to be incoherent and muddled - although they’re both more or less the same thing.

Wednesday made the most of their chances. Their first goal was a shocker. Ozturk seemed to forget what he was on the field for, had crossed wires with the keeper who expected him to hoof the ball away, but instead simply let the Sheffield player in to poke home a ridiculously easy goal. No wonder Ozturk looked mortified and held his head in his hands. Sunderland put in one or two decent crosses, but there was never anybody in position to get on the end of them. Sheffield’s second goal had an air of inevitability about it and it knocked the stuffing out of us. Sunderland ran around quite a bit and got in a few clattering tackles, but rather more than that is needed to win games consistently.

When the final whistle went, I had the feeling that if the match had gone on all night, Sunderland still wouldn’t have scored - they never looked like it. Given that Wednesday are in a higher division, one that Sunderland couldn’t cope with last season, the gulf between the Championship and Division 1 was all too apparent. Sunderland will have to turn into a much more skilful team to have any hope of promotion this season. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if we weren’t battling against relegation again at the end of this season. My fervent hope is that we won’t be, but although we have four points out of six in the bag, much depends on how bad the other teams are in Div 1. I don’t think we’ve been very impressive so far this season. We need, what all decent teams have: a couple of forwards who can score goals win a regular basis and a defence which doesn’t commit too many schoolboy errors. Jack Ross really has his work cut out.

All the best

Dave from Sheffield

Dear ALS

We hear many people banging on about splashing the cash on bang average players and wasted money on no marks over the years. Yes, they are right but we have to ask ourselves why have we got to splash the cash on bang average players?

This Is what I think it boils down to in my opinion. It doesn’t matter what amount of cash we have to spend one of the main problems with Sunderland and Newcastle for that matter is the location. The North East but more so Sunderland.

Sunderland as a city has not got that much to offer for the families and WAGS of potential new players, sad to say it but Newcastle has a little more. Jackie Whites Market, The Bridges, Nightlife etc, compared to other cities Sunderland is not the best.

Now for my next point.

Traveling to games is a big factor when playing for a team. If you play for Liverpool, Manchester or any London club then traveling to away games isn’t that bad but when it comes to Sunderland and Newcastle a lot of the away games can be quite a trip which means that you will be spending a lot more time away from your families. Something that a lot of players don’t like to do these days.

Add all this together then playing for Sunderland starts to not look that attractive as a team This is why we end up paying a lot of money for bang average players as that is what makes them come to Sunderland in the end which also brings into question the players integrity.

The North is always going to struggle to compete with any team in London and bigger cities with shopping, good schools, nightlife and closer proximity to away games.

The only way to attract the type of player that we want is to buy them into the dream of Sunderland being as big as I know it can be.

KTF Karl Chadburn

Dear ALS

It’s easy to see that one of the main reasons SAFC are currently plying their trade in the third tier is because of the generally hapless manner in which they have splashed multi millions on players who, in many cases, cannot even be labelled ‘bang average’.

The disgusting pea hearts like Ndong and Djilobodji are a disgrace to their profession. They must also be a little bit thick as their refusal to train or make themselves available once we were relegated will have hit footballs grapevine and many other clubs will perceive them, rightly in my opinion, as arrogant troublemakers with the wrong attitude.

When you think that many Sunderland fans, and football supporters in general, make many financial and lifestyle sacrifices in their lives to be able to afford season cards and away travel expenses etc., to have players at their club basically refusing to play is just not on. It’s the lowest of the low and could not be more disrespectful.

Apart from clubs being wary of these poisonous characters because of their unprofessional attitudes, they are on such high wages that loan deals, as we’ve seen with Kone, may be the only short-term solution to getting rid of them.

The new regime have turned the club around superbly in a short time, and no owners should have to be in a position where some inherited playing staff have refused to carry out their contractual obligations.

Hopefully these players will have the future careers that their hideous behaviour warrants. Good riddance.

Tom Lynn

Dear ALS

So, where do I start? Well I suppose it would start 13 years ago, when I got married and had a kid so then gave up my season ticket for the first time (which I’d had every season since my first one in 1993/1994).

I continued to go to the matches but obviously for financial reasons I could not make them all and family rightly had to come first. This period consisted of some dark times for Sunderland, but some good times also, six in a row, Cup Final etc. So upon our latest relegation I had begun to feel this growing optimism in me that recognised that regardless who took over our club, change was due to happen in whatever shape or form.

So, me and a good friend of mine, who also hadn’t had a season ticket for quite some time. decided we would get season tickets in a row just behind our other friends who have been continually attending in our absence. They thought we were crazy as everything is doom and gloom with Ellis Short’s tenure etc. But as I told them I could feel change coming and I think our future would be rosy (I’m the optimistic one of the group).

So as time has gone on we all know now the Three Amigos (Stewart, Charlie and Juan) bought the club and so began the long rebirth of Sunderland AFC. We all knew we had to be patient as “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. But they took to the task quite well, getting rid of the mercenaries we all wanted out and recruiting who potentially seems a brilliant choice in manager, and some players who want to be here and not just “for the money” that also will excite us.

So, then Saturday came and I was like a kid on Christmas Eve, I had my alarm set for the morning to get up in a decent time b4 the lads picked me up to go to the match. I was checking my phone through the night checking the time as I just wanted it to be the morning. Must have checked every hour on the hour during the night. Social media was exploding on the morning with cautious optimism from every angle and those hoping or expecting this to be the start of something special. New friends added on a near daily basis as Sunderland fans came together on twitter to eagerly chat about this upcoming match.

On arrival to the ground me and the lads took to the Karbon for a few pre-match pints, seeing regular faces we had all seen in seasons gone. Meeting people for the first time that I follow on twitter, which was both surreal and cool at the same time (incidentally I also met someone I met whilst removing pink seats, showing it is a small world amongst 31k Sunderland fans).

Again, eagerly checking twitter again for team news to find tweets showing the Three Amigos playing five a side with fans in the Fanzone, was both unheard of and utterly class at the same time. It showed that they all backed up how much they wanted to engage with fans and are genuine football fans.

Team news came is out, and excitement ramped up another level, young 16 year old Bali Mumba starting the match was both exciting and scary at the same time. As a fan we all wanted him to be a total rock star on the pitch but feared he maybe too young to start….

Pint in the ground before kick off and I could feel the buzz around the place, the music had already started and the atmosphere was growing by the minute. So, I then take to my seat to be greeted with a near packed ground (taking the West Stand Upper out of the equation) at 31000+ fans. Then the music and volume ramped up another level with Tiesto – Adagio For Strings blasting out of the speakers and giving the atmosphere a euphoric feel, then the players came out and I could feel something I hadn’t for a while, passion and belief.

The rest as they say is history and we won our first opening day fixture since 2009 and dare I say restored hope and faith in 31000 fans albeit doing it the hard Sunderland way as normal.

I for one am a happy chappy and have faith and trust in the owners, manager, staff and players to do what is required this season and complete the first chapter in my beloved club’s rebirth story.

Kev Taylor

Dear ALS

It's Saturday morning, the sense of anticipation is in the air, you can almost smell the excitement. Yes, the new season is here. This is the day all fans of our beloved game have been waiting for all summer. None more so than us who follow the Red and White's. Not only is it a new season but hopefully a new start, a re-boot for our club.

How will we fair? Well for a start, we surely must see a massive improvement on the past two disasters. It will take a while for the new team to bed in and patience will be required by all concerned, not least the fans. One thing I’m sure about is the general attitude of the players will be different, there's not a feeling that they are just there for the money, their enthusiasm has shown through in pre season and hopefully will continue.

I would like to wish them all the best for the coming season and hopefully a bit of success will come our way. Give us a team that we can feel proud of and 100% effort.

So in 12 months’ time we are all looking forward to another season, in the Championship, not League One.

Pete Little


Dear ALS

It’s really very good of Lamine Kone to spill the beans as he has, although we know his version of the Sunderland story is very one sided. He’s presenting himself as a player worth £25m in the Premiership. I wonder, though, if Everton think they might have had a lucky escape.

There’s little doubt that Kone can be a good player when he feels like it. But the sting lies in “when he feels like it.” He certainly didn’t feel like it very often when at the SoL, although I’ll bet he always felt like drawing his pay. When he complains that Sunderland blocked his transfer, he seemed to forget that he had signed a contract with the club: one he honoured more in the omission than in the performance.

Kone might have playing quality, which he displayed on occasions, but if he had shown any leadership qualities, or even a sense of responsibility, we would feel more kindly towards him. He’s certainly one of last season’s squad of whom we can say, quite heartily, good riddance. What can be said in his favour? At least, he’s not Jack Rodwell.

All the best, and lets all hope the new players live up to their billings.

Dave from Sheffield

Dear ALS

The expected mass exodus from our club has virtually been completed. Kone, Catts and Djilobodji remain, however their inevitable exit isn’t too far away. With the incoming transfer total currently sitting at seven players, Evans making it eight soon, are we actually ready for the season to start in two weeks today. The obvious answer is no.

Players cannot be expected to come into a squad and bed in straight away. Couple this with adopting to a new style of play and new surroundings it’s going to be a tough August for us. Preparation and stability at the start of a season is paramount in hitting the ground running. Well we’ve had neither due to our massive upheaval.

I’m sure the preparation is in full swing behind the scenes and stability will come. However, until that arrives in a month or so, it’ll be a challenging August. The fans and the club are buoyant at the moment and I’m sure this will carry us through a tricky month.

Tony O'Donnell

Dear ALS

Unfortunately, it seems another consequence of the last ten years of mismanagement at our club is the departure of the kind of talent we'd rather keep. More worryingly they're leaving quicker than the players we genuinely want rid of.

Years of being denied a first team start while watching less than average players being bought and played in the first team no doubt has made up the minds of a number of youngsters at the club, especially now that even the prospect of staying offers limited financial reward. The departures of Greenwood and Asoro as well as the speculation about Honeyman and Maja suggest that we have issues at both ends of the playing budget.

On top of the issues we have with our own playing staff I thought we'd have made better progress with signings so far both in terms of the names we'd targeted and the positions we need to fill. Everyone is saying its crucial we get off to a good start, yet with 26 days to the first game I can't see how on earth we'll be in fighting shape to do that.

A glance at the League 1 table shows we'll start in the bottom 3 - not a good omen!

Phil in Leeds

P.S massively proud of Henderson and Pickford, with Maguire and Kane they're now the backbone of the England Team.

Dear ALS

2018/19 shirt design revealed... well that was certainly worth waiting for.

Its crap... no stripes on the back and a collar like a shirt my great grandfather wore in bed. Let’s also hope that awful "black kit" is hardly seen. Who designs these things, I should think his or hers guide dog has better taste

Rob Edwards (Luton)

Dear ALS

Watching England’s exploits in Russia has brought back memories of our greatest post-war player, Charlie Hurley.

Harry Maguire is the nearest you will ever see to the way Charlie performed, dribbling out of defence and heading ability at corners. Unlike Maguire who will improve, Charlie was the finished article, pity there wasn’t a Shack clone in England’s team.

Derek Lambert

Dear ALS

The two Jordans, Henderson and Pickford have done England proud so far and, in their way, having started out at Sunderland, done the club proud, too. I’m thrilled to bits for them and for Sunderland and England. Two ex-Sunderland lads, regulars now, isn’t a bad proportion and I hope the youngsters at the academy are inspired by them.

Perhaps the only sour thing about this tournament so far as been the often bizarre and very obvious cheating mainly by South American teams. Maradona’s “hand of God” all those years ago is not forgotten, and his recent hypocritical observation that England (and of course Sunderland, these days) had robbed Colombia. He really takes the biscuit, does that lad. But, the great thing is that England didn’t lose their cool when some Columbian or other, they were so anonymous I really can’t remember any of their names, threw themselves to the ground, writhing as though at point of death, only to get up and trot off when the ploy hadn’t worked. England took no notice and just let to happen. I suppose we could look at Colombia's juvenile attempts to play the ref. as a kind of back-handed compliment, or cack-handed might be better. They certainly weren’t going to out football us.

I didn’t play much football after leaving school, but went on to Rugby Union for 20 years. I recognised many of Colombia’s tactics as being quite legal in rugby. I’ll tell you what, though: if any rugby players had tried to feign injury like these South Americans, we’d have given them something to complain about: something along the lines of a good kicking which really brought such players back to their feet. Most refs were ex-players and very understanding of that sort of thing! I’m afraid refs in this tournament have been far too tolerant of foul play. A few red cards early on would have concentrated quite a few minds.

All the best

Dave from Sheffield

Dear ALS

The World Cup has been a feast of entertaining football, thrilling games, shocks and surprises, so far it's had the lot, I do however write before the Sweden v England game. The players that have played for Sunderland over the years have also done very well, some have had questions asked, like, why did he not do that for the lads?

What we have to accept is that tournament football has a totally different feel to it than the daily grind of a league campaign and it shows. The two Jordans have left every Sunderland fan with a sense of pride, well done to both of them. They like Maguire, Walker, Trippier, Deplh, Stones and some others have shown that you can make it to the top with hard work and ambition without the start afforded for beginning a career at one of the so called big six.

The only spoiler is the antics of the cynical cheating South American's and we all know who they were, thankfully they're all on the plane home now. My wife had a serious operation on Monday the same day as Neymar rolled around in "agony" after his bootlace snapped, it showed the sharp contrast between real life and fantasy, she was back on her feet five hours after the surgery, his antics disgusted me and many followers of the game, it's high time the gutless nomarks that run FIFA did something about cheats like him. He'll need an Air Ambulance if he ever gets a sprained ankle. Good luck to the boys later today, come on England and come the Lads for next season.

Peter Little

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