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Dear ALS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know which I'd sack first.

Paul

Dear ALS

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

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

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

Terry Reilly
Burgess Hill West Sussex

Dear ALS

Magical Mystery Tour Again?

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

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

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

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

John Robson

Dear ALS

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

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

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

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

Dear ALS

What a difference a week makes. We capitulated against Burnley, a decent, but not top notch team and then drew with top notch Liverpool in a game we could have won with better finishing.

Sunderland played with real confidence and looked too good to go down. Let’s hope that is the case. Sunderland have some decent players and David Moyes now needs to aim for more consistency based on yesterday’s result. We have two of the best goalkeepers in the premiership, which should give the outfielders confidence.

Dave from Sheffield

Dear ALS

I was one of the unfortunate thousands at Turf Moor on Saturday.

I know that our squad is threadbare at the moment but I would suggest that our club captain is no longer selected for premier games.

John O’Shea is so woefully short of pace and athleticism at this level that we are forced to defend 10 metres nearer our goal which creates an enormous amount of space in midfield for our opponents to exploit and our own midfielders to cover.

On Saturday we were simply unable to cope with very simple balls over the top and a pacey striker getting in behind.

It was very noticeable that after his substitution Jones and Djil pushed the defensive line up to the centre circle and we actually bossed the game for the last 15.

Sheasy has been a model player and professional both for Man U and for us but time catches up with even the best and I believe his time has come.

Cheers
Kenmintcake

Dear ALS

Humiliated by Burnley, the town time forgot must surely mean that Ellis Short sells up and goes.

After 10years of shuffling the chairs around on the Titanic his reign must end soon. Let’s bring big Niall and Roy Keane back to spend the TV millions. It did not take Keano very long to realize what a joke Ellis Short is. The only thing is the joke is not very funny so please Ellis go and go now!

John Robson

Dear ALS

As a Mackem in exile in the barren wastelands of the West Midlands it's difficult to be so far from the club and the craic, a task made immeasurably harder by what seem like our weekly forays into the media to spread doom and gloom through the medium of Moye’s stoic reassuringly craggy face.

I can't remember a season for a long time where we seem to be encountering problems with such frequency, from Moyes early doors proclamation of a season long relegation fight to the almost daily injury list additions to the recent no money bunker buster

I'm not sold on Moyes entirely, on the one hand he's clearly trying and not doing truly terrible but on the other he's also clearly pointing out the problems he has to work with in order to rebuild his shattered reputation and go back to being a good honest manager. It's a little too self-serving at times for me.

The fella seems to want to stay but he's running with the hare and the hounds at the moment, ingratiating himself with the fans with your standard platitudes then swanning of to his media mates and giving it " 'kin hell lads look at the mess I've got to work in here" in a sort of reputation rehabilitation quick fix at the expense of making us look quite frankly somewhere between hugely unlucky and massively moronic

We all know the club's been run in a not ideal way and the proliferation of at times shat managers with open cheque books have led to some truly terrible signings, Ignacio Scocco anyone? But it is what it is. We know all about it

I just don't appreciate seeing us portrayed as this inept bunch of cowboys run by a literal cowboy who's desperate to get rid on the cheap

Ellis Short isn't all bad and Moyes isn't all good, this is like some turgid example of two people fresh of the back of some massive relationship trauma getting together and feeling each other’s vulnerabilities out. It would have been almost sweet in a sort of Ken Loachy kitchen sink drama way at another time

We know it's not great Moyes, we've been living this all our lives and I'm sure I like most people would appreciate him not looking for catharsis and just getting on with the seemingly half decent job he's already doing

Ross Martin

Dear ALS

Having praised the match winning contributions of Jordan Pickford and Van Arnholt in his team of the week Garth Crooks had this to say about David Moyes:-

“However, I do wish the Sunderland manager wasn't so publicly negative about his team's capabilities. His team might be in the bottom three but it doesn't mean that they are not capable of special moments. What Van Aanholt produced was one of those special moments and I am sure there is more where that came from - if only the manager exuded a little more belief.”

Moyes has been running the team and club down since his arrival which makes me wonder if he wants to be our manager, or perhaps he thinks he is too good and should be somewhere bigger/ better? Please David try to sound a bit more upbeat and like you actually give a fcuk or resign and give someone else a chance.

Rob G 
London

Dear ALS

I’m really fed up of hearing and reading crap from football “experts” portraying Sunderland as some kind imposter in the top flight. As this table shows, we are still 6th on the all-time list of titles https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_English_football_champions

Look at who we are ahead of. Spurs are 19th by the way. It is disgraceful that we are again in a position of looking upwards at crap like Palace and Bournemouth, clubs who have won nothing in their history.is there a club worse run than Sunderland over the last 20 years? After 10 solid years of sucking up the Premier league riches…140 million quid in debt and nothing to spend in January it seems. Where has it all gone? Clearly, we have repeatedly bought players at the very top (panic) price and sold them at a loss. That’s what happens when you have a different manager (or two) every season. Who knows if we can get away with it again this time.

Gordon Lilley
Ottawa

Dear ALS

In the name of the world-wide supporters of SAFC it is time for Ellis Short to GO he has made a shambles of this once proud club let’s do a Barcelona and have supporters controlling the club and officials. The man does not have the testicles to come out and tell us the truth. 

He even chose Paulo de nutcase Canio He knows nothing about football and how did he make his money?

It is time he spoke up or moved out! MY cat could do a better job and I don’t have one. It has been dead 50 years!

John Robson

Dear ALS

I have followed Sunderland for 55 years and this is MY best 11

1 Montgomery
2 Colin Todd
3 Joe Bolton
4 Dave Watson
5 The King
6 Slim Jim Baxter
7 Bobby Kerr
8 Niall Quinn
9 Brian Clough
10 Kevin Phillips
11 Dennis Tueart
12 Stefan Swartz

As my mate Alan Black once said he would have run on the pitch an kissed Big Charlies big bottom in 1964 when we were promoted.

Let’s hope football gets back to those days when men were men and players were gentlemen!

I doubt it ever will.
But let’s all try to make it happen.

John Robson

Dear ALS

In my letter to ALS early in the season I encouraged the fans to be patient and give David Moyes and the team until Christmas before complaining.

After the Arsenal game I expressed disappointment at the apparent lack of effort and inability to track back. My faith in our quest for survival was strengthened by the performance against Leicester.

If David Moyes can sign a striker to augment the forward line, one or two other class players to bolster the defence I look forward to another season in the Premier League.

Well done to David Moyes and the team in general, with special mentions for Jermaine Defoe, Jordan Pickford and Victor Anichibe who have been outstanding.

Terry Reilly.
Burgess Hill West Sussex

Dear ALS

Watmore out for the rest of the season is a massive blow for us. Yes, he is lacking in the football brain department, but his eagerness to run at defenders and ability to take us up the field will be sorely missed.

We hear that Borini is close to returning, which is welcome news. He is a grafter and has a bit more cleverness to his game than Watmore so it would make sense for him to slot into that wide role.

However, Moyes doesn’t strike me as a man to rush a player back in so I think it may be longer than we are hoping until Borini makes his return. This means it is time for Januzaj to stand up and be counted. There is no doubt that the lad has ability but it’s time for him to show he wants to play for us, or at the very least show Jose that he is worth taking back at the end of the season!

All that considered I’m predicting either a wonder goal or season ending injury next week at Swansea for him.

James Smith

Dear ALS

I am really looking forward to big Victor against Huth on Saturday. It should be one for the scrapbook.

Extraordinary statement from Klopp last week, that we were the most defensive team he had ever encountered in football.

Did he imagine we would play an open and expansive game given the huge disparity in form and quality between the teams?

The Liverpool team he sent out carried a last transfer value exactly 6 times that of David Moyes’ team. I thought we were very good value for our nil.

KENMINTCAKE

Dear ALS

It was a great idea to invite members of the 63/64 team back to the SoL, no doubt most there never saw Charlie & Co., in action. However, for lots like me who watched the promotion games that season it was a little disappointing that apart from Charlie, the rest did not get much recognition.

Here were some of our best post war players, homegrown England international Stan Anderson, one of Rokers best passers of the ball. Mercurial George Herd, the elegant wing half Martin Harvey solid full back pair, Len Ashurst and Cecil Irwin. Monty of course needs no introduction.

All together a very good PR exercise by the club, hope there are many more in future.

Derek Lambert

Dear ALS

Now is the time to bring down the curtain on Moyes’ reign! He has shown that he cannot coach and persists in playing a “passing” game that the players are both uncomfortable with and not skilled enough to play. His acquisitions are poor and actually worse than the players they replaced. Kaboul is a great loss in defence and Kone is obviously not motivated. Djilobodji was in no way worth the price and N’Dong does not impress. We could have signed M’Vila and Yedlin both for the price of N’Dong. This situation is ridiculous without mentioning the dross we spent good money on for two players from MU that are around Division 1 standard at best.

On being appointed as manager I find it ridiculous that Moyes did not insist on a decent war chest for his signings but looking at the quality he signed maybe that would have been money wasted. I thought Allardyce was finally starting to turn the tide with his disposals and signings but we all know how that turned out! We are now back at square one with a harder track to follow. I feel that I am watching goal after goal conceded by schoolboy defensive mistakes and wonder what goes on on the training pitch. It is obvious that we are going to set a record for the worst ever Premier season!

Richard Beck

Dear ALS

It's getting closer to the weekend and I am full of trepidation. I cannot remember a time when I was so concerned about our prospects. I thought it might be the Arse who would give us our first spanking but they only managed four (three of which were in a seven minute spell - it's laughable really) and so now my concern is that it will be the clever Eddie Howe who sticks one on us.

Whether he does or not, our attention then moves on until after the international break. I hear the calls for the blame to be focussed on Ellis Short but mark my words, if Moyes produces the same performances on Saturday and then against Hull City, he himself will wish he had taken my advice and honourably resigned - the opprobrium that will be poured down on him at that next home match will be terrifying. And about time too. I guess the management will recruit a Security team to protect him in the dugout from physical violence (which of course, as useless as he is, I would never condone) but it will not stop the booing and catcalling that the Scots Incompetent will have to get used to hearing.

Now, the Shields Gazette say the club is reporting that his job is safe. So, if not a 10 game run without a win how many? 15, 20, the entire season? Do you mean to say that we're are going to let our beloved club sink without trace because we are frightened of getting stick about the management merry-go-round, when the incompetence of the incumbent (and many of his predecessors) is there for all to see. This guy makes Steve McLaren look good.

Alan Fenwick

Dear ALS

Some weeks ago I wrote imploring Sunderland fans to Support David Moyes and the team until Christmas.

Having watched the non-performance against Arsenal I now harbour serious doubts about his ability to motivate.

With few exceptions (Pickford, Defoe and Watmore) there was an apparent lack of interest in the physical side of the game.

When Arsenal beat our midfielders with ease they then jogged back to help the defence and failed (they arrived too late).

I can understand a team being more skilful than S.A.F.C. but I cannot forgive laziness and lack of effort.

What we are witnessing now is similar to Dick Advocaat’s reign when the majority of the players seem not to give a flying f***.

Terry Reilly
Burgess Hill Sussex

Dear ALS

Kenmintcake states that our fortunes will improve when our injured players are back. Wrong. The malaise and lack of positive energy is so rife within our club that it is firmly embedded and will take a monumental effort to remove. Multiple problems from poor quality signings to lack of desire, ambition and leadership from the top-down, all very eloquently outlined by other supporters, have combined to create a state of disarray and a shockingly negative and defeatist attitude throughout.

Even with a fully fit squad we are nowhere near good enough to stay in the PL. It is a truly sad and desperate time. I think our team will continue to expect not to win each time they take the field, in other words they will be mentally making manifest that which they don't want to happen.

I really can't see anyone turning this squad of players into one with a winning mentality. We all know in our hearts that we have been piss poor for way too long and this season we will pay a heavy price and, if we ever do recover, it could take a very long time. 

Pete 'Down South'

Dear ALS

A football club is an organisation. Different yet similar to other work organisations that many of us spend our time in. 

An organisation is simply a social structure containing people in a hierarchy so everyone knows where they fit. Like many struggling organisations SAFC has faced constant change, attempts to find solutions to perceived problems created by a constantly changing and increasingly competitive external environment. 

This has resulted in a rapid turnover of managers and players. Sooner or later people in such organisations are faced with and suffer from, 'change fatigue' a malaise created by constant changes in managerial philosophy and operationalization that leads to anxiety, role ambiguity and an increasing sense of alienation. Work performances therefore suffer, personal credibility is lost as is trust of each other and a culture of failure becomes embedded. The organisation becomes a low trust environment.

At some point it must stop. If not, creation of stability becomes increasingly illusive. Building from the bottom with a new crop of players will take time. Maybe not changing the manager and not giving into short-termism is the only way to remedy a sorry situation. The organisation needs to become high trust where mutual credibility is built together. The Championship may provide a temporary respite to lay the foundations. 

Thanks a Lot
Alan Blackburn

Dear ALS

Way back in the summer of 2003, I boarded a flight from the UK to Marseilles: for some reason I was in the very front row. Next to me were two empty seats and they were eventually filled by the last two people to get on board - David Moyes, and his Everton Head Coach Jimmy Lumsden.  At the time I was flirting with a career in journalism - and I was afraid Moyes would think that I was a journo following him to get a scoop about his intended summer signings. Moyes was clearly a real force, his self-confidence filled the plane like Donald Trump can fill an aircraft hangar in Albuquerque. So I kept my head down and just observed, casually flicking through L'Equipe - and let me tell you, I don't recognize the manager of today in the memory of the man who sat next to me on that plane.  

Let's recall that Moyes at Preston was the man who signed Dickson Etuhu; at Everton he signed and Louis Saha (and of course Kevin Kilbane) - but he also made many hugely successful moves in the transfer market especially in central defense (Jagielka), midfield (Gravesen, Cahill, Arteta...), all over the pitch in fact. He seemed plugged into the transfer market and the European game in a way that I remember lamenting at the time Sunderland were not. Following our relegation under Mick McCarthy, we had just offloaded Lilian Laslandes, David Bellion and Bernt Haas as well as Super Kev and all our 'good' players, and were about to sign Jeff Whitley and Gary Breen.

Doesn't it feel as though the tables have turned, and Moyes is now signing the players he would never have signed back then, and that Jack Rodwell is our Jeff Whitley (no disrespect, he did try at times).  

So this leads me to suppose that it is NOT the Manager, it is the club management which is at fault. And unfortunately, this has been going on for years. 

I can understand if fans feel the Manager should carry the can. But I think what we have here is a case of appalling incompetence in the upper echelons of the club, unfortunately there is no enough transparency to be able to judge where the disconnects are. I know less about football than many people, however, I successfully managed an amateur side to Championship and Cup titles in working class Turkey a few years ago, and I have run businesses reasonably well for many years. 

It always seems to me in my career that Americans own everything, they give the orders, they cut the resources and they expect you to 'out-perform' against all the odds. Last year, my European sales team - the equivalent of a couple of playing squads - got halved and told to go out and promote products that were 20 years old, competing against fantastic new alternatives which are all the rage. When this happened, we got the remainder of our squad together, and within 48 hours we put it all on the table, we argued and we fought and we analysed and we decided collectively to man up to the challenge, backs to the wall (a lot of my team are ladies, but they have shown everyone else what this phrase means). And we just finished our year 7% ahead of budget.  Success has many elements - you need discipline, honesty, openness, passion, togetherness and a lot of , luck sometimes, but anyone who has grown up in the north-east knows what I am talking about - we've seen all these lacking in 'managers' since de-industrialisation which in my view is the disease of giving up, the opposite of what people can really do when they are properly led and deeply committed to each other.  

In management there is more than one 'man' - there are 'men' as well and there is an age when they all have to step up and sorT it ouT (ha, ha).  At Sunderland, there has to be more than one man who is accountable.  If those in charge can't sort it out let's have 'fanagement' instead.  

With my rose-tinted spectacles, I'm inclined to believe that Moyes is a good choice - I remember him charging off the plane in Marseilles, a ball of energy and verve, off to look for more canny signings. Now he looks like he wants to be our Walter Smith.  I am not going to judge David Moyes, because he knows infinitely more about football than I do and I respect his CV.  However, someone should start reading him Henry V before his press conferences because he is starting to make Neville Chamberlain sound like Dr Pangloss.  
But the future of this club is what's at stake and I do feel qualified to judge the board and the management. They are not hitting their budget, they are a laughing stock in the country and our squad are perhaps understandably running for the hills. Of course the players can always do more - that's so easy to say. But it is time the invisible MANageMENt of Sunderland show some leadership - or let's get them out and let people who can lead come in and sort it out. We are Sunderland - and we are bigger than you.  

Sunderland till I die!
John Carney
Luzern, Switzerland
PS - I am not a Chinese investor

Dear ALS

One of the criticisms I heard levelled at David Moyes on Saturday was that he doesn't have a Plan B.

If someone can shed any light on what Plan A is I would really appreciate it, as not trying to score, letting in soft goals every week and signing players who weaken the team seems a strange system to me.

Cheers,
Gareth Hern

Dear ALS

At the end of last season I really thought that this season would be different and we would do well. Then England lost to Iceland and I could see clearly what was going to happen next.

So off went Sam and David Moyes arrived in his place without any time to acquaint himself with the club, the players, the area before he was being urged to buy players, any players - the poor chap didn't stand a chance. Then the injuries started to pile up and Kaboul wanted away for family reasons and the season started with us having a makeshift team who hardly knew each other. I thought we did quite well at Man City and could have won the game but for dreadful refereeing over not seeing we had won a corner and then two seconds later giving City a very soft penalty. So first game in and Moyes is not getting any luck. OK things have got much worse and it seems the lads must lack fitness the way they suddenly fall apart after an hour or so's play. I don't think Moyes should be sacked, what would that achieve?

The problems of recent years can't just be the managers, we have had too many of them and they can't all have suddenly become incompetent after joining Sunderland. The problem must be with the structure of the club, the owner and the chief executive.

Ellis Short should make it clear to everyone that David Moyes is staying. We will go down to the Championship next Spring and Moyes can rebuild the team properly and show what he can do, He needs time to do this and it's no use bleating about relegation. 

We will go down this time and it's probably for the best. Maybe it would have been better if it had happened a couple of years ago.

Alan Haile

Dear ALS

'When the going gets tough.......'

Billy Ocean got it right when he said 'When the going gets tough- the tough get going'. Whatever reservations the fans may have about David Moyes, I do not believe he lacks resilience. But how does this apply to not only the present group of players, but previous wearers of the famous shirt? The reasons for our current predicament have occupied reams of newsprint and are complex. Some can be attributed to football in general, too much money, not enough loyalty etc., and some can be explained by a less than impressive buying policy. Lack of investment may explain part of the problem but so does paying over the odds for average players whose commitment to the club lasts as long as it takes for their agent to manufacture another lucrative move- step forward Mr Kone and friends. The club's scouting policy must attract much of the blame. When Stoke City can identify and attract quality players such as Joe Allen to the Potteries, we are in trouble.

But these factors, valid though they are, do not explain the lack of mental resilience that has bedevilled successive Sunderland squads Adnan Januzaj’s post-match reflections concerning the lack of fight once Arsenal went 1-2 up on Saturday merely confirm what all Sunderland fans have known for years. A lack of resolve and professionalism. I would absolve Defoe and Cattermole from this criticism as well as Whatmore whose energy levels demonstrate a willingness to compete even if they are often misguided.

Part of the problem in my opinion lies in the way the much praised Academy insulates players from the realities of modern day high- intensity football. All the hydrotherapy pools, saunas and Chef prepared meals seem unable to prepare players for the need to concentrate and compete for 90+ minutes. I would argue that, experience at our club has shown that players are living in a 'bubble' from Monday- Friday where players and staff mix with each other immune from the 'real world' where the fans live producing a mentality that falls short of that required to concentrate and compete at the top level. Other clubs have similar facilities but our players seem to enjoy them almost as a private health club rather than a place of work and preparation.

Chief Executive, Martin Bain has pointed to the need for a new self-identity to reverse the spiral of decline. He could do worse than look to how Burnley have performed this season. Unfashionable they may be but they have used this to show the kind of fight, determination, grit and resolve that the current Sunderland squad lacks. They have beaten both Liverpool and Everton at home and battled for a point last weekend at Old Trafford. Can you imagine the current Sunderland squad having that sort of resolve? Can you see Jack Rodwell fitting into the Burnley way of playing? Yet he has been selected by successive managers despite holding the record for any Premiership player going without being part of a winning team- 35 games and counting. It says it all that we pay £10m for a largely anonymous player who Sean Dyche would not even touch with a barge pole.

Maxisafc

Dear ALS

Moyes has lost the plot. Shows no enthusiasm. Has spent £26m on shite. You couldn't make a decent player out the three that have come from Man Utd if u put them together. The £8m centre back is an embarrassment as for the new £13m Rodwell to go with the £10m real thing. No Yedlin and no M’Villa.

There won't be an M’Villa either. Then he brings in two ex Everton players nobody wants because the dick did not sign a striker in transfer window. Kept going on about pissing Everton and relegation from early on. Cheers Moyes. Worst Manager since McMenemy, if not worse than him.

I have sent him a letter asking for him to meet myself, my father (who is 80) and my son who is 12 years old, so that he can explain to all of us why the decisions have been made that he made and what he can do to persuade my 12 year old son from going off supporting another team this breaking a generational cycle going back to the days of Charlie Buchan watching Sunderland.

He is pissed off and doesn't want to go and watch a team devoid of any character or will to fight with a manager of the same ilk. I live in Doncaster and the prospects of driving to York picking Dad up then dropping him off and getting back home late don't fill me with joy either. He won't reply or even look at my letter unlike Mick Buxton who met my Dad or Len Ashurst who phoned up my sister with two tickets for the 1985 League Cup Final when she wrote to him because like his players he doesn't give a shit.

Dave McKeever

Dear ALS

I’ve never felt so hopeless and negative about SAFC. For once I’ve no opinion at all on what I want to happen next, because both scenarios seem doomed.

I’ve always tended to be against sacking managers too soon, wanted to go for the long patient build-up through adversity that will eventually make us a decent side, etc., but we’re deteriorating so fast and so irretrievably I don’t think that is a feasible option any more. I truly feel Moyes can’t do the job.

We need a clean new beginning, but if we do sack Moyes, we still have the not very good (but at their best not that bad), scared-shitless players… who could lift that lot up? I’m kind of clinging to the thought of ‘when Borini and Cattermole come back, they’ll bring some spirit…’ but I know really it won’t be enough. So I honestly don’t know. No light whatsoever at the end of the tunnel (and if we think we spot one it’ll be the headlight of the bloody great engine of false hope bearing down to smash us up entirely). And the sad thing is I really don’t care. I’ve been so angry before, but this time I just feel it doesn’t matter anymore.

Sheila

Dear ALS

I occasionally wonder what qualification one needs to be a BBC pundit. Chris Sutton compares the performance of David Moyes with that of Sam Allardyce, each working, according to Chris, with basically the same group of players. Of course Chris is almost right apart from: Mannone, Cattermole, Kirchoff, M’Vila, Yedlin, Kaboul, Borini and Seb Larson.

I heard a great one in the East Stand, on Saturday. Admittedly it may have been down to low blood sugar levels caused by the early kick-off and missed lunch. My neighbour loudly suggested that we “get rid of Moyes” because he is “not a good fit for this club”. I have not a clue what that statement might mean.

I think David Moyes was right when he predicted a long and difficult season given the quality and depth of his squad in August. However, he would not have expected the additional loss of seven first teamers to injury.

Our current difficulties, I suggest, are simply down to that. There is no way that any manager could develop tactics or combine the available players into a team capable of genuinely competing with Arsenal.

Nothing more complicated than that. When the first stringers are once again available then our fortunes will improve.

Cheers
Kenmintcake

Dear ALS

I'm sure the numbers are dwindling as the weeks go on, however, when he was first appointed, I was a huge fan of Moyes being appointed. A like-for-like (at the time) replacement for Big Sam. However, 10 games later, banging the same drum of "positives to be seen" and "win will come soon" (aye how soon?) has turned my rather optimistic mood for Moyes, to a one of well, we're in a spot of bother.

Not even before the season kicked off, when he said "We’re in a relegation battle" did that deter me? No. I mean he only had two weeks of preseason to prep, with the damage that had already been done by Big Sam and the FA, to Kone wanting away, to the numerous injuries.

I'm not disconnected from this team whatsoever, regardless of the current situation, it can improve yes, it must improve, yes. IF we do get rid now, who do we appoint? Tim Sherwood? Roberto Di Matteo? Paul Lambert? Kevin Ball? (Had to break the run of ex-Villa managers being named there).

It's the case of better the devil you know than you don't. Stick with Moyes, keep the faith. If we go down, stick with Moyes as he knows what will have went wrong and will get it right in time.

Only things that is questionable by far in Moyes' tenure is €17 million splashed on N'Dong and £8 million spent on Papy Djiliobodji.

Jake Collinson

Dear ALS

Typical week of a Sunderland Fan

Saturday morning- tinge of optimism. This could be the day we start to turn things round.
Saturday team time. We lose. Mags win. Feel lousy and fed up.
Sunday - wake up sweating after nightmare that Jack Rodwell had moved in next door. Feel crap, sad and angry.
Monday- despondent. Apathetic.
Tuesday- can't be bothered anymore. We're a laughing stock.
Wednesday- O'Shea and Defoe serve up the usual mid-week optimism.
Thursday- build up begins for Saturday. Searching for crumbs of comfort
Friday- Moyes Press Conference the usual defence of current players with no change in the long injury list.
Saturday morning- here we go again. Could today be the day? Ha'way the Lads.

Maxisafc

Dear ALS

Ten Reasons Sunderland are Going Down

1 Ellis Short
2 Ellis Short
3 Ellis Short
4 Ellis Short
5 Ellis Short
6 Ellis Short
7 Ellis Short
8 Ellis Short
9 Ellis Short
10 Ellis Short

John Robson

Dear ALS

I have a friend from my time in Bournemouth who went to the match on Wednesday. What a brave man he was to go to Southampton when he must have known we were going to be rubbish. Still he turned up and sure enough we gave him what other Sunderland reporters called an "insipid", "sterile" "tame" performance. That is to say, pretty much like the rest of the season. The only difference I guess was that they didn't wait until extra time to lose the game but gave it up after about an hour. I will resist the temptation to rant and rave about what has been the worst start to a season since records began because that has been well covered by all of the media, but I will declare for the Sack Moyes School.

Because he is the tenth manager in eight years or whatever, and because with his five year contract he will cost a lot to boot out, some people say he should be kept on. I am not one of them. Like O'Neill and Advocatt he is a man whose previous reputation does not mirror current capability. Football managers have their sell by dates too and Moyes' date was at the end of his time with Everton. He couldn't do it with the most expensive team in England and so he is never going to do it for us. Please Mr Short get rid. Don't listen to the people saying we have to have stability; this guy will kill the club. He will be the new Lawrie McMenemy and wasn't he just the best example of a man who had past his best (coincidentally with the Saints).

For the first time I can remember since I owned a season ticket I am not going on Saturday; I am though going to watch it on TV. However, I think that most of the time I will be watching from behind the sofa with my hands over my eyes. Despite appalling performances and managerial ineptitude of gigantic proportions we haven't been really tanked yet. Well, I think that might change on Saturday lunchtime. Arsenal turning up the gas could easily have them three - nil at half time. The atmosphere will be as poisonous as the famous Aston Villa game where Poyet had to be escorted away just prior to getting a justifiable sacking. After that it would be up to Arsene to decide whether or not he wants to humiliate (i.e. give us the tanking I think that we are at risk of suffering sometime soon) or just coast to a finish in the second half, in front of what will be an almost empty stadium. Or maybe it will be Bournemouth who do the business - it doesn't bear thinking about.

Isn't it just horrible to think that even if our dour Private Frazer of a manger (we're all doomed, I tell ye) does turn it around or gets the push, we are already this early in the season looking for three other teams to fail massively to give us any chance of rescue.

Regards,
Alan Fenwick

Dearest ALS

Confirmed next fixture result: Arsenal 1 Sunderland 2 or 3!

Now please tweet facelivre it or whatever, from 40 k+ fans to the players. This comes under the clause in their contract “performing any other reasonable duty” as requested by your employer.

When the lads face Arsenal, MOTD opinion, London press et al we know where real support/passion truly lies and this will be with you players on the day as others.

Come on, play it as your last game, do it as J.Kay, C.Irwin, JoBo and co. Take it to them don`t let them breathe for the 90 and beyond!!

S
FTM

Dear ALS

Sunderland have lost far too many games in the dying minutes and, in the case of West Ham in the dying seconds.

It’s become a habit and a careless one, too. It’s time that David Moyes got a grip on his defence and schooled them into being watertight over the last 5 minutes. Pack the defence; pick up everything; get in the way of attackers, but don’t concede. Sam Allardyce was getting this right and Moyes has, more or less, the same players. If they could do it for Sam, they should be able to do it for David Moyes.

Dave from Sheffield

Dear ALS

WHY I LOVE SUNDERLAND AFC

Sunderland AFC formed in 1879 have became a main part of my life the Red and White shirts on the walk to the Stadium of Light on match day, the smells of the burger fans the noise when you het inside the stadium to see the match . My first match was against Wolverhampton Wanderers' in the championship a game that the Black Cats won two-one thanks to Nyron Nosworthys' late winner.

Although over the last few seasons the club have been involved in relegation battle's this doesn’t make me love the club any less the tension the excitement of those in theory cup finals at the end of the season, Sending your biggest rivals Newcastle United down last season it couldn’t have ended any sweeter .

For a struggling team to get in excess of 40,000 people at the Stadium of Light week in week out shows just how big the club is stacked with history including eight Division one titles and two FA cups most notably beating Leeds United in 1973 thanks to a world class Jimmy Montgomery save.

Away days with the club are even better than home games the club selling out most allocations at away grounds the noise is just incredible from first minute until the ninetieth the away end in full voice.

The North East of England is all about football the passion involved its what everybody talks about so this is why I support Sunderland AFC.

Josh Bunting

Dear Mr Rolfe

Every fan is entitled to his views but when you start by calling someone an idiot I think this deserves a response Not sure what your point was- is it that I want Sam back or are you saying that Moyes has "rebuilt the team". I stand by the former and pretty sure not alone, and as to having rebuilt the team would you like to offer some evidence?

Frankly I don't care what message it sends to David Moyes. I have nothing against him personally, my point was that to take off two of your three strikers when 0-0 and not struggling invites the home team to kick on. Were you actually at the game? Doubt it.

Rocket science stuff saying that the club has lost its way after 4 seasons of relegation escapades and every manager saying the same thing in that period. And you are talking bollocks about under investment and how important the season ticket money is these days. It has been bad investment hence all the losses in the last 10 years but not under investment, so either get a set of the accounts and read them before you spout off or shut up

Emotional I may have been, idiot I am not. Surely Bain appointed Moyes who I assume you want to keep? And finally you’re sounding very black and white with the threats to stay away until things change. I will be at Southampton on Wednesday so I think that entitles me to an opinion

Paul Ellison

Dear ALS

John Rolfe complains about the club buying players of “average ability.” Average ability? If only. If we had eleven players of average ability we wouldn’t be struggling as we have struggled for the last few seasons.

West Brom, Crystal Palace, Watford and Stoke, for a start, have a lot of average players, but haven’t struggled through the same crises as we have. Average players? Bring ‘em on.

Dave from Sheffield

Dear ALS

Just wondered if anybody connected with ALS knows of any fans that Moyes has spoken to, as it was mentioned on MOTD that Moyes had met fans and they were supportive of him. As I would have thought you lads would be the first they spoke to.

Club is a bloody mess yet again. God knows why consecutive managers (excluding Allardyce) seem intent on spending money on shite when punters like me and you and thousands others can see players that would make our team better going to other clubs. I think Moyes days are numbered.

Fingers crossed this shit at our club gets sorted and Rodwell sods off.

Dave McKeever

ALS: We believe it was the Supporter’s Association he met with. We were not invited; otherwise he may have heard a few more home truths.

Dear ALS

As a rule try not to write in straight after a game or when full of lager but on the train alone back from the insipid athletics arena having strained my eyes for 94 minutes to watch two very poor teams and just want to ask Mr Moyes the question

Was either Watmore or Khazri injured when you took them off as we were fortunately right back in the game, the bubbles were quiet expecting to be mugged and you put a right back and young midfielder on and decide to play attack v defence?

Pathetic, only the West Ham fans couldn't see it was going to happen

If there is anyway on earth bring Sam back? I wasn't impressed by him the way he left, but I care more about Sunderland than any miff with Sam.

Moyes takes no blame for any of this shite and at the minute he's the worst in 20 years.

Look at his buys Djillibob, McNair, Love can't get into a team with seven first teamers out. Jermaine is spot on but we have gone back miles since he came

Asaaagh please puddsey make it stop

Mackem Paul

Dear ALS

Got to have a rant at the above idiot, the news that he is happy to have Big Sam back at a later date after David Moyes has rebuilt the team beggars belief.

Firstly what message does this send? Is Moyes going to be highly motivated by this news, not likely he will feel undervalued and unwanted.

Secondly this really does reinforce my belief that my club has lost its way, after years of underinvestment while happily taking the loyal fans money week in and week out and buying players with average ability surely it's time to stay away until things change.

The sooner a new owner takes over and sacks the inept Mr Bain the better.

Not happy

John Rolfe

Dear ALS

It has always been my understanding that an agent is paid by the person he or she represents. It puzzles me as to why the agent of Paul Pogba has received in the region of 25 million pounds from the selling club and the buying club Manchester United.

The agent does not work for the club and should be rewarded by the player only, do SAFC pay agents when signing players and how much?

If we do pay now might be a good time to stop a practise which is unsavoury and stinks.

Terry Reilly
Burgess Hill. Sussex

Dear ALS

Ten facts about the WBA game...

1 Full marks to the intoxicated Sunderland supporter singing Pro Sunderland and anti Newcastle songs on Monument metro platform at 1.30 before the match. He must have a death wish.
2 Jack Rodwell continues to steal a living from Sunderland AFC.
3 Flabby Kasri showed why he must have a place in the team.
4 Tony Pullis has managed in over 1000 games and only ruined 997 of them.
5 Our squad is so weak that a case can be made that PVA is now our best player.
6 PVA's pipe smoking celebration tell us that him and Smiler Moyes don't exactly get along.
7 Smiler Moyes reaction to our equaliser suggests to me that he may already be ready to walk away from the impossible task set him by our invisible owner.
8 Jordan Pickford is going to emerge from the current carnage as a top goalkeeper or a nervous wreck.
9 Paddy McNair looks as much like a premiership footballer as Paddy Maginty's goat.
10 I think the guy who sits behind me and moans through every match including when we were 3-0 up against Everton last season should have a serious word with himself.

John Robson

Dear ALS

The under 23s are almost as bad as the first team!

I attended the Cardiff City Stadium to watch some of our future "stars" in action in the Premier League Cup. What a disappointment, they were just as bad as the first team.

At least the defenders jumped to head the ball, but their distribution was shocking. Our right side pair of Embleton and Joshua Robson gave the ball away every time they had it.

Embleton was withdrawn at halftime. On the other side captain Thomas Robson was getting the run-around from the Cardiff number 7. Not one of the players who have played for the first team, Robson, Greenwood and Asoro stood out in any way. They did improve in the second half thanks to the introduction of Luke Molyneux and Carl Lawson. We still looked second best but somehow took the lead which prompted a 10 minute period of dominance. Although I wanted the lads to win it, would have been very harsh on Cardiff if they had not got a draw. If this is our future it looks bleak.

George
South Wales

Dear ALS,

What a week it’s been. Big Sam apparently free to return to club management again? Well, most wrongdoers excuse themselves by claiming that they haven’t done anything wrong when they clearly have. Allardyce is in a slightly different situation, though. It seems that he hasn’t done anything legally wrong beyond displaying the level of greed common to most very wealthy people these days and shooting his mouth off in the most idiotic way he could. One can only imagine that, as England manager, a job he says he’s coveted for years he believed that he was untouchable.

Should Sunderland try to get him back? David Moyes has seemed an almost ghostly presence at the SoL since he arrived and I find him even less impressive than Di Canio. Perhaps we should offer Sam his old job? Perhaps he has learned his lesson? But as Ben Jonson (the playwright, not heavily drugged Canadian athlete) put it: “To be a fool born is a disease incurable.” Would he be as good as he was when he first took over at the SoL? Has his experience damaged him? Goodness knows, but out might be worth finding out.

But it’s time that ALS revived that old Top 50 SAFC Nutters, expanded it to Top 50+ Nutters and added Sam and perhaps a few others who have darkened the doors at the SoL. The Top 50 Nutters still exists at:

http://www.a-love-supreme.com/50nutters.htm

It’s still fun to read. Milton Nunez ought to be at number 1, though.

Dave from Sheffield

Dear ALS

As the final whistle sounded at the Allianz Riviera and the England side, beaten by Iceland slumped to the floor I wondered where the FA would go from here. I was in a bar in Montenegro with the locals giving me sympathetic glances (which I knew they didn't mean). My wife, also captured by the pain of the moment asked me what I would do? At that point I just knew how things would pan out .Sam Allardyce would become England manager. I'd wanted him to be Sunderland manager since the cycle of appointments that followed Steve Bruce. I felt he had a connection to Sunderland (I was at Roker Park when he made this debut) and I didn't buy into the long ball theory that seemed to follow his teams. His sides were always strong at the back, unlocked the opposition in midfield and always carried a goal threat and after the dross churned out by O'Neil and Poyet , I knew that he could be a good fit.

After the escape masterminded by Dick Advocaat and with Allardyce leaving West Ham I wondered why such an obvious appointment didn't seem to be happening. We all know how the story unfolded with Dick's departure the one and only man for the job duly installed in the hot seat I felt it would only be a matter of time before we saw Sam's legendary organisational skills be imprinted on the team. Even Shearer said he was 'made for the job'. One defeat in the last eleven matches saw us home with a game to spare. Thoughts turned to the summer transfer window and how Sam would build upon the good work that had brought The K-Force to the Stadium of Light. A 15/20 goal a season striker, a box to box midfielder and more strength at the back.

As we walked back to the apartment I began to piece together how things would fit together . Alex Ferguson was a big mate of Sam's and also had the ear of David Gill ( now on the FA panel ) . Arsene Wenger would turn the job down as he'd agreed a new one year contract at Arsenal and the other candidates would be discounted ,Howe (too young) , Bruce (too crap) leaving Sam a free run at the job he'd always wanted . By the time we'd got back and turned on BBC World , Roy had already resigned . I then began to turn my disappointment upon the England team , it was Wayne Rooney's fault that Sunderland would lose the only manager since Keane that had filled me with a sense of optimism , then it was Joe Hart , Harry Kane (taking corners) , Gary Cahill and then Roy Hodgson.

As June turned into July my disappointment grew to the point that I just wanted it be over. The game at Hartlepool only served to make matters worse as Sam was there on the bench and then he wasn't and then he was gone. I tried to rationalise the situation by admitting the whole thing was for the greater good but it didn't work. I wondered what would happen to the new signings that he'd lined up , would the new manager change direction just when we'd set a course for stability and progress. We all knew it would be Moyes but the feeling of disappointment was palpable and in all fairness it still hangs over the club today.

Fast forward to today and now I'm disappointed (and angry) at Sam Allardyce for a second time in two months. How a man who clearly craved the one job he managed to get (and I think deserved) cock it all up by greed. But that's the wider problem with football today , money just clouds judgement to the point where me and all the other fans (and not just one's of our club) just can't comprehend what goes through people's brains . Until some order of reality is restored II feel as though I'm destined to feel yet more disappointment.

Mark Pearson

Dear ALS

I’ve been an SAFC supporter for 53 years. My first game was at Swansea in the old 2nd division when we needed to win the last game of the season for promotion. We failed. I can’t remember the score but we didn’t get the points we needed. It was a very long journey home (pre-motorways). They let us down then, and apart from a handful of little sparklers like Stokoe and Reidy in between, they continue to let us down.

My dear old dad died the year McMenemy dropped us into the 3rd tier, fortunately he passed away before the end of that dreadful season. Before I kick the bucket I’d love to see just one season where we do well, where the BBC actually mention us in some positive light, when other teams dread coming to the SOL and when we can all hold our heads high again. I fear that season will remain far off as long as we have this present chairman.

What is he doing there? Is the ownership of a Premier League club just some kind of after dinner conversation piece? Does he take SAFC seriously at all? Does he sleep at night? And has anyone ever seen his wallet? Apart from the mad Italian we’ve had some pretty good managers over recent years, but each one has had to do the job with a miniscule fraction of the budgets enjoyed by the likes of Gaurdiola, Morinio, or even Venga. They have owners who take this business seriously and appreciate that you have to spend big money to succeed at this level. David Moyes will do the job well, given time (all too rare these days) and a decent sized cheque book. Unless Mr Short is prepared to provide this, he should pack his bags and go

Geoff Eales

Dear ALS

I am afraid that after six games in charge I don't think we will be any better with Mr Moyes at the helm come the end of the year.

He doesn't instil any confidence with me and I think the players more than likely think the same.

We have a player who has just scored 2 goals at QPR who must have been thinking he would be a shoe in for Saturday and confident of maybe repeating the feat or at least knowing where the goal is.

He plays three players in Cattermole, Pienaar and Kirchhoff who are not match fit and risky to select all of them at the present time.
He then replaces Pienaar with Watmore who if he runs any straighter or faster he will end up on the A1 heading to Edinburgh!

I cannot understand why John O'Shea is not playing to steady the defence and add his experience to a very young back line.

I don't think Djilobodji is the answer at the moment but what do I know. Then again I am thinking does Mr Moyes.

Good luck
Glen Royal

Dear ALS

The way we have kicked of this season is just like the other past seasons where we have lost far too many games in our first fixtures. It’s easy to criticise, but Sunderland have scored too few goals and let too many in, it’s as simple as that. Apart from Defoe, the attack is toothless and of the defence, so far, the least said the better.

Given the present start, relegation already looks to be a threat and I fear the present team would struggle in the Championship. Sometimes, in nightmares, I look back at our national league tables there are teams in the lower leagues who in my young days, I’m 81, were in the old First Division. I’m thinking of Grimsby Town, Brentford, Blackpool, Bolton Wanderers and Leeds United to say nothing of teams who have dropped out of the senior leagues altogether like Gateshead, York, Tranmere, Lincoln City, South Shields, Southport, Wrexham and Chester. Even Glossop had a league team in the distant past. No club is too big to fail and although I doubt if we will end up out of the leagues, we could end up struggling in the mediocrity of Division One. I think I’m possibly wrong, but the above list should serve as a warning. I now live in Sheffield where the two teams both have impressive histories and pedigrees, but they are now just mediocre fodder for better teams.

I’ve thought for long enough that there’s something wrong at Sunderland. Sam Allardyce came as near as anybody to cracking Sunderland’s problem and at the end of last season had the team playing decent football, with a bit of steel in its backbone. This season, so far: zilch. There have been injuries and perhaps that’s a fair excuse, but at least some of the injured should be replaceable by players who are more or less like for like swaps.

These are highly paid professionals and certainly, the defenders have been below par this season, goalkeeper excepted. All I can do is to hope that my worst fears aren’t realised, but we can’t expect to get away with a last minute avoidance of relegation season in, season out.

Dave from Sheffield

Dear ALS

I hope you are not too downhearted over SAFC's performance and the lack of points. I'm writing to ALS in the hope that mention can be made of a little known condition that can affect anyone, although it tends to be hereditary. In my case it's not. When I was in my youth (played at Roker Park a couple of times) I never thought in a million years that I would struggle to walk.

Sunday 25th September is International Awareness Day for Ataxia.

I suspect most readers haven't a scooby what Ataxia is, so here's a brief description: Ataxia is the name given to a several neurological disorders for which there is no cure. The one which I have is Cerebellar Ataxia which affects balance and coordination as well as a host of other physical functions. Many sufferers will end up in a wheelchair.

I hope this snippet of information is helpful.
If you want to chase up anything, please contact Ataxia UK: ataxia.org.uk or tel: 08456440606.

Thank you
Phil Whitwell
Seaham
Co. Durham

Dear ALS

In a letter I had published a little while ago I appealed for the supporters to desist from whinging until the New Year.

This has fallen on deaf ears as Hammy has given David Moyes and the team a slating. David Moyes needs time and patience to turn things around.

Sunderland AFC will take some time to turn around, like the Titanic when the Captain has spotted an iceberg. If the situation has not changed by the end of the year feel free to slag off.

Until then do not undermine confidence which is fragile and a manager trying to turn SS Sunderland AFC around.

Terry Reilly
Burgess Hill
Sussex

Dear ALS

Five games into a new season, and already supporters are fearing the worst, and I can totally understand why. Ten new faces in yet Moyes has made the squad worse.

We have a star in goal in Jordan Pickford , not that we will have him long? We have a defence that goes missing at times, and seem unable to concentrate for ninety minutes. We have a midfield totally devoid of any flair and creativity, playing three holding midfield players is suicide for any attacking intentions.

And as for our forward line, that consists of Jermain Defoe, who is still making the runs into space that he has done for years, which have brought him numerous goals, but we have no one capable of delivering the ball into the right areas, a waste of a talent who was the main reason we survived last season.

Moyes is already talking in a negative manner, after every game, but it is him that is picking the team, sending them out with negative tactics. I do not like what I have seen so far this season; we have regressed in a major way. A long season ahead, long boring negative season ahead.

Hammy

Dear ALS

In the midst of the past couple years one thing has stuck out for me, Sunderland consistently needs a good goalkeeper to stay up every season. No matter what they do in the transfer market in January, it’s what is done between the sticks in the latter part of the campaign that matters.

A recent keeper of note, Simon Mignole, came out of nowhere to be a cult hero for us. Found in Belgian Second Division side Sint-Truiden at age 18, he showed up in the North-East in 2010. His battle with Craig Gordon for the number one spot was well documented but eventually after the Scottish keeper suffered a devastating knee injury Mignolet took over in goal. Graceful and cat-like the young man ruled the goal for the Black Cats until the 2013 season when Liverpool came calling. It was no doubt a sad day for Sunderland fans everywhere. I know I was upset to see the young man go. Mignolet has gone on to play 112 matches for the Reds.

One of my favorites following the departure of the young Mignolet is the fiery Italian Vito Mannone. Mannone came to Sunderland from Arsenal in 2013 on the heels of a two year deal. The 6 foot 2 inch keeper plays with passion and authority demanding nothing but 100% from those who guard the goal in front of him. Mannone helped guide us to the League Cup final at Wembley and has been through the relegation battles of late. His grit, leadership and determination have been a key factor in why the Lads haven’t faltered.

Mannone now is sidelined with an arm injury he suffered in training that forced 22 year old understudy Jordan Pickford into the starting limelight. At 6 foot 1 inch, Pickford made his first start of the 2016 season against Southampton registering a handful of good saves. His only mistake was a Jay Rodriguez goal that slipped under his outstretched arm that tied the match 1-1. For a young man forced into the start, he produced a great debut. Since then he’s been on the wrong side of some defeats, Everton 3-0 and Tottenham 1-0. However, he has produced fine saves even in the face of defeat. At 22, Pickford is the goalie of Sunderland’s future.

If Pickford can be anything like Mannone and Mignolet he’ll be a fine goalkeeper. Sunderland does have a history with Jimmy Montgomery, Thomas Sorensen and Chris Turner. He’ll need to be great to keep us afloat this season.

Jonathan Sager

Dear ALS

FTM. For The love of Moyes.

I feel I must express some sympathy for David Moyes. Managing Sunderland under Ellis Short must be like living your life with your head in a sack and your hands tied behind your back. This is the same sack that has been handed to previous managers by the spring following the appointment.

He has been sold a pup. One striker if you disregard an unfit unwanted, out of contract Anchibe. A paucity of options in other areas. Could I please recommend our silent owner takes a trip to communist China to find another billionaire who would like to join the Premier "greatest league in the world" gravy train and try again to bring this once great club some form of respect and credibility? I better check my economic text book the last sentence does not make sense.

On a lighter note I was walking through the Toon earlier today only to find a load of rubble in the street adjacent to Greys monument. I thought to myself they don't appear to have taken yesterdays defeat too well. It transpired there was a film shoot taking place!

Keep the faith
John Robson

Dear ALS

I don't believe that Liam Kennedy for a minute, he hates us with a passion and would love nothing better than for us to fail and get humiliated just as we would the Mags.

Just because we are in the North East doesn't mean he wants us to do well for the sake of the area. I would like nothing better than the barcodes to lose every game and am glad Wolves are creaming them right now! Mind you I do hate West Ham just as much but, as you know, that's another story!

Fingers crossed for Spurs, I reckon we'll go down fighting, 1-3

Siren Haunt

Dear ALS

Once again we have started very poorly, although I thought we did OK at city. However our display v Everton was fair in the first half but dire in the second. And once again outcome the players to tell us they must do better (bloody right they must). If Watmore took his eyes off his boots when he has the ball would help, he seems to think it's a one man show.

And as for PVA blaming the language barrier, is he have joking. His defending was pathetic and his work rate not a lot better. The only good bit of news is Kone signing a new contract and Kirchhoff getting back to playing.

Keep the faith.
George Davis
South Wales

Dear ALS

So it goes without saying that I will support Moyesy and of course the team/players. I think so far it's been a lack of quality and circumstance that is to blame for our usual shite start to the season, but this time what feels weird is the total lack of emotion I have.

This is not because I am not bothered, or that I am confident we will not get relegated, it's because it feels like to me, there is no point, if the people that run the club do not seem to want to learn or make changes from the past five seasons, then why should I lose sleep or tremble with fear every time I check the score or tune into the radio / TV coverage?

And that is what makes me so f****d off. I am, and always used to be, the most passionate of Sunderland fans, sometimes it got me in trouble, other times made me a laughing stock, but I never cared because it was always for a reason and a feeling that made me buzz, now I am dull to it all. The constant story of uselessness, the depressing way our club seems to not have moved on in a decade, the pointlessness of hoping that things will change one d, but knowing that in ten years time we will still be having the same conversations, or even worse, not, as we will all have lost interest!

What is Ellis Short trying to achieve with my club? Does he realize that it is an area, and club, run on the passion and loyalty of its supporters. Does he know the usual statistics of how many of us (well not me now I have had to move to Munich!) live within 15 miles of the ground, is he or the board aware of the positivity a successful team brings us all when times are tough, does he care that we have a pride that is represented by our team, that should be a reflection of our City?

There is one constant theme during the last five seasons of the managerial merry go round, the huge turn-over of totally average (at best) players  and drivel we have had to watch on and sadly off the field. Ellis Short.

Is anyone else starting to get that feeling??
KTF and FTM
Alex The Munich Mackem

Dear ALS

I agree with the last letter (Terry) that we need to get behind the team and draw a line under what has gone before.

So long as we that is SAFC learn from all the past mistakes, I do think that Moyes has our best interest at heart. I like the fact that he is going with the youth and the "energy" which they can bring. Moyes knows how to stabilise a club, and though we might not be pulling up any trees along the way, "stability" is the key issue at present. The tree pulling can come later. I am always excited about our beloved Sunderland football club, and no matter what life throws at it, we always bounce back. That is the nature of the region, that is the nature of the DNA in our blood. We are always there for the club.

Mackem Stan
God bless all Sunderland Supporters

Dear ALS

David Moyes was thrown into the deep end with no time to rectify the problems caused by the FA in its unwieldy and time consuming choice of the new England manager.

He has recruited a mixture of youth and experience. The signing of Victor Anichebe to help Jermaine Defoe could turn out to be an astute move.

The requirement from the fans now is to put criticisms (particularly of the youngsters) on hold for a few weeks to allow them to gain confidence and bed in.

It does nobody any favours to whinge at every opportunity; give David Moyes and his players our full backing until the end of the year.

This is the least any genuine supporter should be prepared to give.

Terry Reilly
Burgess Hill Sussex

Dear ALS

It seems to me that the plight of our beloved club over the past three seasons which culminated in Poyet’s, Advocaat’s and Allardyce's “Great Escapes” was laid down by the disastrous summer transfer window of 2013 from which we have suffered both financially and on the pitch. The only positives to come out of it were Mannone and Watmore, with the possible addition of Altidore, as at least Poyet was able to swap him for Defore!

Thus when assessing how well this summer’s window has gone, one major positive is that much of the poor transfer business of previous windows has been disposed of with a massive clear out, and this must leave the club in a position of strength. The sudden change of manager has not helped, but Moyes has certainly done well in the little time he had, and this also bodes well.

Comparing this window with other summers, the honest truth is that we haven’t done too badly, but, of course the proof of the pudding (as they say) will be seen on the pitch.

By the way, going back to the 2013 purchases, has Mavrias been released or can we expect to see him on the bench at Rochdale?

Best wishes
Paul Nicholl

Dear ALS

I am prepared to eat my words. I was 100% convinced that Khasri and Kone would be sold last night. They were not.

We have not invested heavily, but at least not disinvested as I feared and expected. There is a net investment of 15-20 million. Not enough for this League, the soaring market and in relation to our competitors, but my dashed hopes are resurrected by ab 30%.  Defensively and in midfield with Catts and Kirchhoff returning we should be all right, provided we start to pick up points soon and are not already desperate, when M’Vila returns in Jan. Flickering hope, alas!

Best Regards
Udo Marin
Geschäftsführer

Dear ALS

SAFC’s problems are...

A) Location. Top players and their wags are interested only in working and living in either the North West conurbation or London. With the exception of Leicester (and it was an amazing exception) who, outside of those two areas, has never won the premiership?

B) Money. The seemingly endless stream of managers we have had in recent times has cost the club a fortune in settling contracts.
We received compensation in respect of Sam but overall it is a huge deficit so we can’t just blame Mr. Short.

Until we have an owner that is not only eye-wateringly wealthy but doesn’t care how much he spends or how much the club losses financially the best we can hope for is premiership survival. David Moyes has a hell of a job on his hands.

I believe Ellis Short will sell in the near future.

L.S

Dear ALS,

There has been a couple of recent transfer rumours that have disturbed me, so I felt I should express my views in a letter.

We'll start with Joe Hart, a goalkeeper who I've never really rated all that highly, that is probably on an astronomical wage at city. Do I think he's better than Mannone, yes, and if I'm honest I don't think there's much difference between him and Pickford at this moment in time, but that there is the point. I strongly believe that Pickford will be the better keeper, and a future England number one. If we bring in Hart, he'll play ahead of Pickford because he has a name and a reputation, where does that leave Pickford? What does it say about the managers confidence in him? If he can't dislodge Vito Mannone now, what happens when he's fit again? Future England number one, very highly rated, made premier league debut but is currently third choice goalkeeper at Sunderland? Na. If we sign Hart, I think we'll lose Jordan Pickford. That can't happen.

Then we come to Mister money grabber himself, Asamoah Gyan, the greedy shit house. The same man who decided he wanted to leave the club after the transfer window had closed so he could earn much more money than he's actually worth in the Middle East. Wey aye, sign him up, eh? Listen, while I'm not saying he's a bad player, he is a lot of style and not a lot of substance. He'd often piss about taking too many touches and end up losing the ball. He may have matured since playing in the world class leagues in the Middle East and China, I don't know, I haven't followed his career since he was offered sacks of money to sell out. I don't think any fan would welcome him back, he showed us all what he really is. I should point out that I don't believe this link one little bit, but it's troubling all the same. He's a bad person.

Yours,
J. Chapman

Dear ALS

I'm sure we could all do with a bit of cheering up so I offer this Steven pienaar chant, to music man:
He is south African
He's coming down your way and he can play
What can he play
He plays the football
Pien pien Pienaar, Pienaar Pienaar,
Pien pien Pienaar,
Steven Pienaar

Steven Lish

Dear ALS

I’ve witnessed loads of low points in 50+ years of supporting SFAC but I think we’ve now reached the nadir. I can’t remember a spectacular regression like we’ve witnessed in only the last 3 months. It is the speed with which it has happened which has shocked me the most. It’s almost like the club is imploding before our very eyes and seemingly little is being done to arrest the decline.

In all of the recent relegation fights I’ve been happy to renew my Season Card well before our Premier League status had been secured because I can remember worse time like the old Third Division days. I thought I was used to the disappointment (a conditioned reflex for all Sunderland fans?), however the endless grinding down of spirit eventually becomes emotionally attritional and you get to the point where you start to think you can’t take any more. If anything, the transfer window saga epitomises and highlights the current SAFC malaise. Moyes says he knows what he needs – so he spends around £5M on McNair and Love who, on early showings, could best be described as squad ‘makeweights’. No sign of M’Villa yet, nor another striker (Januzaj isn’t an out and out forward and has clearly shown he can’t support Defoe – he has also shown he can’t even take a decent corner!). No sign of another centre half and we may need 2 at this rate! No sign of another right back which we clearly need desperately and this brings me to the straw which could break this camel’s back. Yedlin. If the Barcodes sign him for £5M the SAFC hierarchy need to do some serious explaining. Like why didn’t we spend what is essentially peanuts on him and bring him back to the SoL? Ok sometimes his defending can let him down and he’s not a world beater but in my opinion he has two characteristics we need, namely loads of pace and ‘bottle’. He surely would rather play in the Premier League than the second tier and he was one of those who seemed to buy into the idea of what SAFC is about. It now poses Moyes a huge task which is to bring in another right back who would represent better value for money than Yedlin (i.e. someone who is either miles better than Yedlin or at least as good as, for the same money). Personally speaking, based on what Moyes has done so far, I can’t see it happening. The Yedlin farce is symptomatic of what is wrong with us.

Unless Moyes can turn things round very quickly (and he doesn’t seem to inspire confidence that he can) he himself could be out by October and we won’t even back to square one – we’ll probably be in a much worse position than we have been in the last 3 years. I could even see one of those lowest league points seasons ahead.

I’ve seen the comments from those saying it’s still early days and I freely admit I’m a pessimist – it has been inculcated into me from an early age and I wonder why?! However, I like the quote I heard recently, something along the lines of ‘an optimist is just someone who doesn’t know all the facts’. Consequently I have to say that, after only 2 games (and 50+ previous years experience), I’ve already reached the point where my patience/tolerance has gone, sucked out of me yet again by ‘same old, same old Sunderland’. Football is supposed to bring joy (at least occasionally) into my life but it is now only bringing anxiety and dare I say it, stress. I can longer say I will definitely renew my Season Card next year and I know a significant number of lifelong fans from the Darlington supporters bus who have either already let theirs lapse or are now tempted to. That in itself is probably echoed elsewhere around our significant fan base and if Ellis Short and Moyes knew this they should be very worried. I know I am.

Sooty the (verging on suicidal) Harrogate Black Cat

Dear ALS

One of the things that Sam made a big thing about was how injury free we were during his time in charge which he put down to the training and the science they were employing.

Since Moyesey came in we seem to have a huge number of injuries, what has changed did some sports science genius leave or is David just pushing the players too hard.

Cannot just be co-incidence.

Bob Todd
Australia

Dear ALS

So Sunday we played a poor team and lost, drums are beating for Ellis Short to put his hand in his pocket and here we go again echoes all around, but just take a little step back and think it through.

That was the worst team we will put out this year, yet there was an obvious talent found in Gooch, big Poppy soon realised he can't beat his man to every ball and engaged his brain and Rodders is looking now like the player we bought.

The injuries will heal soon enough and we know business is to be done soon (although is £5m to secure M'Villa sooner really too high considering where we are).

Kaboul is a loss but do we really want to build a defence around a 20 game a season player?

We finally have a manager who is not the next one to watch or a past master (remember Wilkinson never mind Dick) but at his peak.

Enjoy the ride; going grey early is the new black after all.

Nathan
Manchester

Dear ALS

I’m sure I’m not the only one who is concerned by the noises coming from David Moyes. After just two league games he has confirmed that we are in a relegation fight.

Personally, I agree with him. But this is not sort of sentiment that should be coming from our current manager as it blatantly says to the current players, “You’re not good enough”.

In addition, he has also stated that he is putting his faith in Ellis Short. What does that actually mean? If we have a disastrous run of results he hopes to keep his job? He hopes that the chairman gives him more money to spend before the transfer deadline?

Obviously, I really hope that David Moyes is a success at the SoL, but recent sound bites and his apparent desire to be reunited with players he has formerly managed rather than look further afield doesn’t fill me with great confidence.

Let us all hope that I’ll eat my words.
Tim Birkett

Dear ALS

I have been a SAFC fan for 10 years living in Manchester after being a MUFC fan for 20 years - got sick of their ability to buy success and their fans joy at scraping a 1:0 win. It was all win win.

Won't bore you with the rest of the story, but I was baptised at SOL, so I hope this will come as heartfelt.

I looked forward again to another season, then big Sam left (can't blame him GRrrrr) and in cam DM. I don't want to blame the board or the manager, but I have really serious doubts about the person, however it is, that decides attacking strategy.

It's not the lack of money - Brian Clough should have proved that - and it's not the lack of international stars - Leicester should have told us that. It's the lack of a plan going forward. We don't seem to have one.

I agree that playing the same attack becomes predictable, but we don't seem to have one. It's almost schoolboy errors, and if you play football correctly, i.e. passing through a defence, shooting to bring them out and passing to your own players, then we would have the basis for a chance. But doing this without a purpose is just accurate football. This doesn't win you matches.

The team should know where the out player is and how to get it to them. Then they need to have a plan to break down the defence (triangles, pass throughs and overheads, crosses and long shots to bring the defence out before breaking them down with triangles again). They have none.

Hope this gets through and makes sense cos SAFC and fans deserve better

Graham Smithies

Dear ALS,

Kaboul gone for personal reasons. Those might exist – looking at the turmoil at present I doubt it, but why allow him to leave within a day? Why not ask him to stay till the Southampton game?

It is a business and a tough world. Which employee in which company would be allowed to leave within days leaving the company in the lurch and even worse taking his capabilities to a competitor? This story stinks so much that even someone without olfactory sense can smell it. And Kone? Is asked to wait till Sep 1st, because Messr Moyes and Bain are so bloody busy just now. Then a contract offer out of the blue and well before Sep 1st is dropped into Kone’s lap. He refuses it and promptly gets injured. He is now trying to force his move. Who can blame him? Big Sam gone, Kaboul too and the club very obviously untrue to his word. Khazri on the bench to accommodate Gooch – a good way to tell him that he is not wanted.  About 30 to 35 million to the good if Lens goes too, which will not be reinvested. It is a disastrous disinvestment, the spine of last year’s team dismantled. Moyes asked to perform a miracle with cast-offs – Pienaar – youth and loanees. It is a work of deliberate destruction, to spite Allardyce, because he needs the money elsewhere – Short is squeezing every penny out of the club. And Moyes and Bain puppets on his strings. Gutted!

Best Regards 
Udo Marin

Dear ALS

Just a thought, but I see that Groundhog Day.

The Musical is currently packing them in at the Old Vic in London. I am very tempted to spend my "hard earned" on a trip to the smoke each weekend to see it, rather than spending it on football. It can't be any worse than the version currently starting its 10th consecutive season at the Stadium of Light, and is sure to be a hell of a lot more entertaining.

All the best
Mike Painter

Dear ALS
We should be indebted to Dave McKeever for bringing to our intention the website Swissramble.blogspot.co.uk

To any true fan that understands the slightest bit of accounting and economics the article on Sunderland's finances is truly frightening. The scale of the financial trouble we are in is staggering for a club with our attendance and ten consecutive seasons in the Premiership, it explains exactly why we are not signing players.

Up to the accounts of 2015 Ellis Short has loaned the club £160 million interest free £100 million of which he only receives back if he sells the club. He has not taken one penny out of the club in nine years.

Whilst the website recognises him as a good owner and benefactor they condemn his nine years at the club as an unmitigated disaster in terms of miss management.

£241 million has been invested in nine years on transfers and wages the majority wasted.
He as apparently become tired if using his own money as recent investment has been through a fairly large bank loan with high interest repayments.

The extra TV money we will receive has already been set aside to pay back the loan which leaves us with no money for players.

How Sam and David Moyes were ever persuaded to take on this job under these constraints is beyond me.

To sign the players we need will take a huge financial commitment from Ellis Short which I don't think will happen either he hasn't got the money or he is no longer prepared to spend it on Sunderland.

Here's hoping
John (Consett)

Dear ALS

The grief, the moaning, the booing, the exclamations I heard and saw on Sunday amazed me. The ear wiggling I did to listen in on my fellow fans dissatisfaction left me puzzled. Yeah, I get the passion, I've been a fan all my life, over 40 years, most of it set away from my beloved team and away from the great city of Sunderland. But through well thin and thin, I've always been proud and glad to be part of the club.

But we need to get a grip. We really bloody well do. We need to understand our position in the football world and get on with being positive and support the lads, the club and hope for a steady improvement in fortunes.

Things we need to consider...

1. We've got a slightly aloof eccentric American owner, who is a businessman, who has had to learn about football, lucky for him, at the hotbed of divine passion that is SAFC. He's not tight, cautious, conservative, requires ROI and data to spend his, remember that, his money.

2. We haven't been that great a team for a few seasons now, buggering about in the bottom 4-6 for around seven years or more.

3. We have had more managers than the established top 6 teams have within the same time period added together.

4. We are not based in London or Manchester and thus sadly off most decent players and their greedy agents basic grasp of British Geography.

5. We survived last season, and I still don't know how, but looking back it was great fun and I am still grateful and massively relieved.

So what's the craic why write in, well:-

Now, I think David Moyes was a huge bit of luck, here's why. We could have been knackered after the FA nicked Big Sam, but swift action has bought in Moyesy, he will slide into place and move us on a tad, "Not doing a Leicester", that's once every fifty years kind of result.

What we have, is a canny manager who is used to working with a conservative spending boss, a manager who understands he will get a great player just as they are about to be massive and will be required to sell them on. Why? Because like his other club, ours is a slightly old fashioned at worst, traditional at best and geographically not a location, location, location club. A club that will in the main need a mix of "who?" young players and if we unkind "has beens and unwanted players". Evidence, just look at our squads over the last ten years, there are stacks of that type of player, and in there the odd genius who we have had to lose.

Moyes will need a bit of time, a bit of luck, a bit of effort from key players, a stack who are injured now or playing out of position, yes of course we would love 4-5 top signings, but passion and love to one side, would you at 24-29 years old at the pinnacle of your career sign for Sunderland AFC, based on club league position, management history and geographical history?

Just read the pride and passion that exudes from those home developed lads, who ran around on Sunday and Saturday against Man City. Yeah I concede we looked a little devoid of how the hell to play football until Pienaar came on and galvanised things in midfield, alongside Lens and lads. Do you know what, if one buggering off to Arsenal in January for £25 million such is life? Kone I don't know and gossipy speculation doesn't help, like the muppets who air their dirty washing on 606.

I so love my Sunderland AFC, probably as much as my kids and possibly more than my misuse and pet dog. I put in a lot of time, energy, money and effort to follow the lads. I am grateful for what we've got, I wish, fantasise and dream of more. But realistically, this season, next season and maybe the two or three after that, but I will still support a team that will finish somewhere between 10th and 17th. But If I and my legendary fan brothers and sisters get a grip and get behind the lads, holdback on the booing of our team and managers, sing our hearts out for the lads and are patient, we will see slow improvements. Maybe if we don't hound Moyesy out, he'll turn us into a better than Everton club, maybe we hit mid table mediocrity and word gets out. And we see more sexy players desiring to play for the fan base who deserves more consistent success.

Until then, get well, Fab, Seb, Cat, The Kirch and O'Shea. Welcome the new grafter Lens, welcome to our club new born Januzaj, Pienaar, hello Love, McNair and Djilobodji. And fabulous welcome to Goochy, Pickford, Watmore and Asoro.

Keep the faith folks, please let's be a bit more realistic, dignified and tolerant.

Yours
Midlands Based Adoring Fan

Ps I'm happy to hear alternative views, but not interested in personal criticism, idiots just gobbling off without a thought.

Dear Ellis Short

I've noticed on a few occasions in the past that you really want to been seen to be 'with' the fans. Well if you really do want to be noticed, not just by Sunderland fans but by all football fans, you have a big opportunity to do something now that would make your name forever in 'soccer' circles.

It's a simple solution, that could be a game changer, and although it's not cheap it's easily affordable for a man with your wealth. All you have to do is give David Moyes an extra £18 million in his transfer kitty today. This is in place of the fee that we would get from Everton for Kone or 'Kon£' as I like to call him. Then put aside 30 grand a week for the next 48 months to pay Kon£ to train all by himself at the AOL for all of his contracted working hours, for every single working day.

If you did this your name would be known throughout the game in the same way as Mr Bosman's name is known. They'd even call it 'doing an Ellis Short'. More importantly, you'd have the life time respect of every football fan including myself. And even though it may put off some players from joining my club in the future, I would at least know that when a player kisses our badge, or tweets #safc #teamkon£ he at least means it a little and it's not just all for show until another team agrees to pay him more to do it for their fans.

In this day of player power some might think this suggestion ridiculous, that I'm being naive expecting any loyalty at all, and that such actions could actually damage our club in future transfer dealings. Personally though I'm so absolutely sick of all the Darren Bent's and Lamine Kone's of this world, that right now I feel like I'd happily jump off a cliff as long as I could take them with me. Is that just me?

David Pout

Dear ALS

Almost a decade of Ellis Shorts mismanagement has culminated in the team presented today. I have no criticism of the players or their effort but why were boys sent out to do men's jobs?

Because of poor choices of manager poor people running the club we are left with a wafer thin lightweight squad. Do other clubs do what we did and sell our main central defender with no replacement. Big Sam who created last season's miracle was all ready tearing his hair out at the lack of recruitment before escaping to the sanctity of the England job. With Kone whose behaviour and that of his agent is despicable now likely to be sold at a profit to Everton a rare event in itself, we will be shopping at Poundland for his replacement and the other five or six that are required.

When coloured players came in fashion we got Roly Gregoire when Argentineans were in fashion we got Claudio Marangoni, when foreign managers were in vogue we got Paulo di Canio and when billionaire owners were in fashion we got Ellis Short no wonder they call us the Black Cats.

John Robson

Dear ALS

I have no problem with the appointment of David Moyes but would have loved Sam to stay as I think we would have done a Stoke and been safe with the odd cup run which realistically is all we can aspire to.

However we seem to have a self destruct button as every manager coming in wants to put his mark on the team and change it around. Ranierri managed to resist that and look what happened. Why not tell Kaboul that we understand the problem but you will have to wait until May ad we will let you go then. Kone you are not going anywhere so get it in your skull and either write your career off or get on the pitch with your bad back. What's happening with M'Vila no idea- he wants to come we want him and his contract ends in December 2016 - what is going on?

Instead Moyes has gone back to his old clubs and taken kids and released players and I am not alone in saying not one signing has raised any excitement. Richie to Newcastle tops our lot and they went down.

Unless we do a signing which makes us al, say wow  this could be the year we push our luck that bit too far

One question don't get why we aren't in the Benteke league as quoted by Moyes? Palace sold two players for the fee they paid- we could sell the ungrateful Kone for not much less so is it wages? Christ Palace are shit and even now bottom of the league so if that's true then we really are screwed

Totally and utterly depressed after thinking Sam had taken us around the corner. If the money is there spend it now on exciting players not big club reserves or cast offs

Struggling to keep the faith after another shit start that shouldn't have been

Mackem Paul

Dear ALS

Subject: Same 'ol ....

This is history repeating. All the money and effort on a manager, hardly any on players needed to win games. Don't get me started on $5.5 million for a pair of Lemons. The squad is poorer than the one that barely survived last season.

I read the ALS round up spin. Reality check. That performance was crap. Pure unadulterated rubbish and against Boro too. Middlesbrough. For crying out loud!

We are down this time. No question.
All the best
PJ

Dear ALS,

Missed game today as working down in Peterborough, if anybody wants to know why we are in this mess & not spending money on big transfers, & instead bringing in players at cut price from Man Utd & not bringing back M’Villa etc, etc then take a look at the following blog. Swissramble.blogspot.co.uk, basically the club is so financially in the shit it is unbelievable.

This blog is the most comprehensive run down of each Premier League team I have seen & Sunderland are by far the worst of financially. God knows what would have happened if we had gone down.

Short has hived off £100 million of debt to the states on top of what the club show as being 24 million in debt, remember Cabral, Altidore, etc, etc, etc. Last five Managers have spent a fortune on shite.

Short is at fault, no doubt about that, especially with that fruitcake Di Canio & Di Fanti. Margaret Byrne on £650k a year also. A Joke. Even Charnley at Newcastle was on apparently £150k.

What happens now? Who knows. Who gets the shit end of the stick? Yes the fans yet again.
Understand there are injuries to players but the squad is to thin & there seems no rush to improve.

Here we go again.

Dave McKeever
FTM

Dear ALS

I wrote a week ago about our beloved Sunderland having no business nous.

This Kaboul transfer is just what I am talking about. Kaboul 1 year into a 4 year contract and sold for the same money as was purchased. Solid partnership with Kone and now gone with no profit made on player. What does £4 million get you these days? Even Championship players go for more than that. 

Stan the Makem man
Still keeping the faith

Dear ALS

When will SAFC ever learn, when will the fans be taken seriously, the first time in many years we had a glimmer of hope and built a great back 4.

We are now in a perilous situation with transfers and a shit small squad and what does this once great club do. Sell one of their f*****g best defenders because he is home sick. When will we have a Manager and owner that will stand their ground and run the club like a business and not like a corner shop. Kabul is contracted to this club and we probably gave him his last big chance to redeem himself. The management of SAFC should have had the balls to make him see out his contract or the very least stay till Xmas to give the club a chance to recruit a replacement, how could Kaboul do this at this stage, it just goes to show how much respect these players have for the club after what it did for them. Unfortunately we endeavour to hire spineless Managers and an owner who needs to sell up urgently to allow the club develop. £5,000,000 for 2 untried kids from Man United because Fergy told him to buy them and we sold one of the best performers in the world cup (Giaccherini remember him) for around £1m. I am convinced after watching many Managers walk through the doors and out again that they are injected with a serum when they sign up at SAFC to warp what little brains they have . This is with the exception of Paulo as he was natural dipstick.

Malcolm Harrison
Laird Of Glencoe

Dear ALS

The Fallout: Losing The ‘Battle of Relegation’.

Watching the Everton game, watching our fans take the opportunity to display their positive passion, expelling the relief and pent up pressure that had been instilled in us through another season of despair. I couldn’t help but feel like the tide was turning, a manager that understood our unfathomable passion and could blend that through the squad to create result after result. Could it have ended better? Relegating our nearest and dearest; remaining in the Premier League with the looming influx of millions of pounds and surely with a team to build on.

Fast forward exactly 100 days: Sam Allardyce - stolen by the F.A. over a torturous three week period of doubt, transfers put off until the situation was “sorted”. Welcome David Moyes, a good appointment many believe, as do I. Thus cometh the most Sunderland of Sunderland weeks following. Sunderland being very much used as a verb nowadays, ‘to do the exact same and expect different results’, being its meaning.
After today’s press conference I couldn’t help but feel deflated, Kone becoming the next Bent. The lacklustre signing of Steven Pienaar and more injuries on top of an already threadbare squad. All this before, and I use the term lightly, the derby on Sunday afternoon against Middlesbrough.

But we are Sunderland! We have to find the positives in everything, we have to find them as they don’t easily come to us. We dared to dream and if I remember rightly that dream lives on… always. Negativity will not get us anywhere, the Stadium of Light will be a pressure cooker on Sunday, always teetering on a knife’s edge. We must show our infallible support more than ever, the players on the hallowed turf deserve it and so do we. We, the fans, have the power to make this season beautiful.

Sing your hearts out and show everyone what we are truly about.

Jason Beig

Dear ALS

I just wanted to put in a word for the man who I thought was Saturday’s unsung hero – Fabio Borini. The man’s work rate is phenomenal but for some reason he doesn’t get the same recognition as any of his colleagues who may play in midfield or up front. As a striker Defoe is always going to grab the headlines because he scores goals – I would suggest that’s because that, whilst he’s a good striker he’s also given more chances in the box and never has to track back anywhere near as much as Borini does. The latter’s efforts however, which are all over the pitch; don’t seem to get the same attention. It is interesting to note (for example) that both of the match reports on ALS say that Januzaj passed to Rodwell for the latter to then play in Defoe for our goal. Perhaps my eyes are failing – I could have sworn Januzaj actually passed to Borini who at full stretch then got the ball on to Rodwell for the killer pass.

I know it's only a minor point but I always thought the one thing SAFC fans did was acknowledge effort and hard graft and would forgive anything else provided they could see a player putting in a shift. Borini is a striker, a breed who are usually notoriously selfish and yet if anyone puts the team first it’s him. For that, his unsung contribution all over the pitch deserves some praise.

And no, I haven’t got a crush on him but ‘Er Indoors probably has. Mind you, being a slaphead, I wouldn’t mind having his hair style.

Grumpy Old Git in Harrogate

Hello all at ALS

So, the circus that is commonly known as the Premier League has begun.

Forget about the result today, the issues I have run far deeper than a loss on the first game of the season. This ludicrous situation over Kone's contract or non contract must be sorted before 1st September.

For the life of me I just don't get it. If Kone was promised a contract at the end of last season, then honour it and get on with sorting other transfers. A quick call to big Sam could get this fiasco done with once and for all as he would tell Moyes what was promised or not.

How long does it take to type up a contract? For heaven's sake this could be done in 48 hours. It's not rocket science. I'll bloody well come up and sort it out myself.

If we are to make any progress we must keep hold of our best players and Kone is certainly one of them. We really do need to keep him.

Why doesn't Moyes tell Everton and any other clubs after our players to go fuck themselves. Apart from the obvious deadwood to clear out (and that is getting sorted) none of our players should be sold. By the way, if John Stones is worth nearly £50 million then Kone is worth at least a similar amount. To consider selling him for £18 million is a joke. Secretly, I think Moyes still has a soft spot for Everton and will sell his soul to the devil for them.

On the transfer front, I hope we can get good players for a fair price as I don't want the club to pay the obscene transfers fees being paid by the usual, so called big clubs.

Here's hoping for a better season as my old heart can't take another relegation battle.

With best wishes
Eddie
Wirral

Dear ALS

Those stewards at Man City are surely the worst in the league. A section of them seemed to be looking for confrontation

If they wind up our good natured lot, like they did, there'll be trouble there at other games with supporters that aren't so well behaved. Then of course they'll blame the supporters and use it to justify their attitude

Barry Conlin
Nottingham

Dear ALS

Baffled that the club have allowed the Kone situation to develop to the point where the player is saying he wants to leave & Moyes says he's part of his plans?


The minute they got wind of interest from Everton/Chelsea they should have sat down with Kone and put pen to paper on whatever they'd agreed as part of his performance/Sunderland staying up. Moyes is talking about sitting down with him on the 1st Sept because he's busy sorting players out before the window closes? I'd suggest ensuring Kone is settled at the club is more important than the business we've done so far.

Phil in Leeds

Dear ALS

I love Kone, and I'm gutted about this whole situation. I even signed that petition and pleaded with the big lad over Twitter to reconsider. But a few days into this saga, two things are very clear.

1). Big Sam promised Kone a new contract knowing that he would be off and wouldn't have to deal with the repercussions of a key player being disillusioned with the club. Kone went cap in hand to Moyes/Short/Bain and they said "we don't know what you're talking about." Kone then will have said "you know, the contract that Big Sam promised me?" Followed by "Sorry, no idea mate."

2). It's understandable (given the above) that Kone would be disappointed. But the way he has gone about this whole thing, six months into his four year contract, tells me that he is a disruptive force and the club are probably better off cashing in. Yes, he's worth every penny that he's asking for, but the precedent it sets is a dangerous one. We paid circa £5m. He was instrumental in keeping us up. Now we stand to make a tidy profit. On the other hand, the great unwashed up the road passed on the chance to sign him in January, and look where they are. Things could be a lot worse. Now get out and sign some God damn decent players!

Michael Bartley

Dear ALS

It's looking like money from sales will outweigh money spent on new players. Given this is the first year of the new TV deal it is utterly unacceptable. Makes Shorts comments about not being perennial strugglers look outright lies.

As for Kone, I was gutted at first but now he can go. His agents a scumbag and we can't give in to him, makes me wonder why this deal took 3 goes in January to get home. Just don't take less than 18 and don't re-invest it on championship shite. I'd take Kone to city as part of the match day squad but leave him out of team and bench. M'villa and breaking our record transfer are a must or we may as well have gone down.

John
South Shields

Dear ALS

When PDC was appointed I thought that our club had reached rock bottom. I sent a letter to Margaret Byrne outlining my concerns and disappointment as a supporter of 60 years.

I did not even receive an acknowledgement and so I decided that I would give up my season ticket.

I was really pleased to see the appointment of Sam and the resignation of Margaret Byrne. However it seems that the owner and the current administrators have learned nothing regarding the importance of securing the best players with good contracts. Unless the chairman and directors have a very good reason, which should be made public, for not giving Kone the contract that his playing contribution would appear to warrant then surely many more supporters will stop giving the club their money when they are treated with so much disdain.

I am now a season ticket holder at Harrogate Town and am very much looking forward to the new season.

Best Wishes
Mike Gibson

Dear ALS

I hope the club are listening to the fans but I seriously doubt that after some of their decisions!


For years Sunderland have struggled defensively. I remember signing O'Shea and Brown and thinking 'I hope that is to steady the defence while we bring some long term blood in'... but low and behold, O'Steady was still the most reliable (or unreliable) CB we had come Christmas. Then we brought in the brick wall that is Kone and his partnership with Kaboul just seemed to go from strength to strength.

Finally we looked strong at the back... I'm not saying we were without faults but we had a CB that we could rely on. Finally, a problematic position sorted that we'd tried and failed to resolve before. We bought this guy for a relatively small fee (in the world of transfers), this is a steal. We took a punt on a guy that had never played in the prem before and it worked a treat. Problem solved.

Brilliant, we can now focus on the 4-5 other positions that really need filling.

All we apparently needed to do (according to his statement) was give him a new contract like he was promised. Personally I think this is a no-brainer. But we're Sunderland, we don't do things the easy way.

Instead of concentrating on the remaining 4-5 positions and progressing, we'll create ourselves a problem by letting Kone go and taking another punt on a CB to replace him, on top of, trying to fill those others that are needed.

I wouldn't have such a problem with this if it didn't mean we've left ourselves with so much to do!

We shouldn't be a selling club; we're not in the position to be a selling club. We're a weak club. We are strong(ish) in about 60% of positions. This summer should have been about sorting out the remaining 40%. By selling a position where we are strong, it leaves us with another area that we need to focus on. Why? Why do that when we have that one nailed! We've only just steadied the ship in the last half of the season where we can clearly see the areas we're weakest and need to work on. By all means, strengthen those areas, make sure the new guys in those areas are settled and play well, see what position we're in (strength-wise and league-wise) and then listen to offers for players if we're comfortable with losing out on that position.

When buying anyone new, you always run the risk that they don't settle well, don't mix well, don't like the area, don't live up to expectations, etc. You can never just buy someone and guarantee that it's going to be better than what you had before. We're playing russian roulette by replacing 'what we know' with 'what we might get'.

And that's just one position! One position that we were all happy with, and while we were happy and sitting there thinking 'where is the new striker, where is the new playmaker, etc', Sunderland come along, chuck in a curveball and say 'right, not only are we doing sod all about the positions we need, we're also gonna chuck in a new void to fill'. Cheers Sunderland, one day til the prem starts and we seem to be lagging so far behind in the transfer market.

It's hard to have optimism when we can't do the simple basics of 'protect the good and replace the bad'.

All the best
Pete Donoghue

Dear ALS
 
The supporters need to know whether or not Lamine Kone was offered an improved contract. If he was and the club reneged on the promise he has every right to walk away.
 
I he was not promised a new contract and is a money grabbing bastard then the club should get rid of him for the highest fee possible and sign players with ethics.
 
Players should not hold clubs to ransom as they are paid more in a year than most fans earn in a lifetime.
 
It is now up to the club to give us an explanation which will tell the fans that they will not be blackmailed if the new contract story is untrue or Sunderland AFC have no ambition and are a bunch of cheapskates. Which one is it?
 
Terry Reilly
Burgess Hill West Sussex

Dear ALS

I don't understand what the club are doing; we should be building our team around Kone not giving him the flick for wanting a new contract. Double his money cos Everton sure will. He with Kirchoff and Wasiri saved the club & brought in all this extra millions. Look at Chelsea giving John Terry one more year and he is "dead" on his feet. It is like giving Charlie Hurley the flick in his prime. Kone is a right Unit, build the team around him. We need the best centre half going, it is not just Everton sniffing around him but Chelsea also, come on Sunderland wake up and get in the game.

Stan The Very Sad Makem Man.

Dear ALS

Is it just me or does Kone's statement sound like he wants to stay? It could of course be his agent finding a way to exit and benefit from the percentage of his new deal; however the only way to really clear things up would be a statement in response from the Club.

I appreciate that the Club will not want to discuss its transfer dealings however this seems to me to be a real cross roads. Keep our best players and slowly add one or two quality ones each year, or carry on selling anyone decent to the first high bidder and waste the proceeds on unproven cast offs.

Ellis wake up for god's sake, it's your money you're wasting.

Mackem Paul

G’day,

So Kone says someone said at the end of last season he would get a new contract.

At that time we didn’t have a chief exec so it couldn’t have been him or her. So it can only have been Ellis or Sam. We should get both of them to swear in a legally binding way (affidavit?) that this was not the case.

We should also get David Moyes to state categorically that Kone is very much part of his plans but that being only 6 months into a 4 year contract he feel that Kone should be expected to honour that contract but is prepared to review his contract after the end of the coming season

I’ve no doubt he will still try to go and football being what it is today there is no doubt he will go but at least we can that all see that Kone is in the wrong and is a money grabbing little shit.

On the other hand he might realise that he is at a club where he will be a much bigger player than he will ever be at Everton.

There again we could always just keep him and play him in the reserves for a year or two if he is on such poor money.

Cheers
Bob T

Dear ALS

It is very interesting to read the growing number of letters you are posting that are expressing deep concern for the future of our great club.

I was not someone who rejoiced when 'Big Sam' was appointed manager but his transfer dealings in the January 'window' were inspired and that we managed another 'great escape' meant that I was looking forward to the 2016/17 season with optimism.

Sam's protracted departure cast a shadow over our pre-season and the eventual appointment of David Moyes has not filled me with a great deal of hope. Having been out of the game for a while I am sure he jumped at the opportunity to manage in the Premiership again, although I feel he was very badly treated by our friends at Man U. His first press conference seemed to indicate he had agreed a transfer chest with Mr Short to enable him to improve our squad, but this appears to be another false dawn as the acquisitions so far have been totally underwhelming and the prospect of losing Lamine Kone indicates that yet again Ellis Short has no desire to see us emerge from our 'sleeping giant' status. SAFC fans are the most loyal in the world yet we are being increasingly 'short changed - no pun intended' by our billionaire owner. We deserve better.

With the Mags in the Championship we have an opportunity to establish ourselves as the premier club in the north east but with a lack of ambition that is never likely to happen.

Smaller clubs have recently been bought by middle and Far East investors who seem to want to make their club great again and who are prepared to put their money where their mouth is.

2016/17 looks to me like being a defining season. I hope I am proved wrong but another annual battle against relegation would appear to be on the cards.

Keep the faith
Phil Herdson
Bridgnorth Shropshire

Dear ALS

Absolutely agree with all the recent letters so why can't Ellis Short, David Moyes and all the other experts who run our club see the problem?

Kone is basically mint, did loads to keep us up and if he's worth £18m he's worth a new contract to keep the back four (with a new right back) together. Why do you not get it? Moyes has said that the club needs stability and where does that start? The centre backs.

If we kick off with no M'villa , Kong gone and three players who couldn't make it at Man U or Chelsea then we are back gambling. Look at Leicester FFS they had a settled team who got on great and won the bloody league

It's not rocket science or even economics this year - sheer fucking stupidity again

Every fan knew that we should sign M'villa, a right back, maybe a reserve centre half and a big striker and we wouldn't be bricking it again in May and the new Premier league monies would allow that to happen

Please tell Everton to fuck off just like they did to Chelsea and Man City and sign a striker

Mackem Paul

Dear ALS

I cannot believe this football club, there business brains must be up there a**e we are desperate for quality players so we decide to sell one of our best players Eh!!!!!.

We waste £5.5 million on two young players from Man United for when we have 11 quality under 21 players probably 4 to 6 on the fringe of getting into the first team and others are getting games for the first team. Watmore, Agnew, Gooch, T Robson to name but a few and some playing regular for England under 21s.

Then we go and buy two more youth who are probably not as good as what we have. This buying and selling also selection of players they bring to the club is absurd, Fletcher, Graham around £18,000,000 sold for nowt! All the shit brought in for Paulo, including Giaccherini £6,000,000 sold for £1mill. You could keep going, and now when we are starting to look like a team with some quality we decide to break it up. Moyes says sometimes you have to sell your best players to bring fresh faces in, what a load of BS, if you know how to manage then you get on with it, make sure the youth side is performing and coming through. He said he had to sell Rooney, bollocks Rooney was on his skateboard ready to go and Moyes spat his dummy out and never spoke to him again till he got the Man U job.

If there is anyone out there that can enlighten me on SAFC transfer policies please let me know as I am totally dumfounded, however, there is one thing for sure Mr Ellis Short is not the man for the Job, he needs to sell to someone who realises the potential at SAFC if they keep all there good players and take some gambles on more quality players. Where else in Europe and probably the world is there a Club like SAFC with their superb facilities and Fan Base and can never win a game till the end of the season and threat of relegation. SAFC should be fighting for a top 4 spot every season and they struggle to keep out of the bottom 4. However, good luck to David Moyes he may pull something off but I will still say it again Ellis Short must go now.

Malcolm Harrison
Laird Of Glencoe

Dear ALS

I am trying to be positive, honest I am. I am trying to keep the faith Moyes knows what he is doing but I have to say my confidence was dented a little when he sanctioned a £8m move for a centre back who has no Premier League experience and reports say can be prone to lapses is concentration - remind you of anyone? Vergini perhaps?

Call me negative if you like but this is how I see it panning out. We buy a dodgy ex Chelsea defender (£8m) a couple of kids from Man U (£5m), Naismith (£8m - God help us all) as back up for Defoe and Januzai on loan He did so well last season he was kicked out before finishing his loan). We also sell Kone to Everton (£18m) with the club spouting rubbish about not wanting to keep an unhappy player, with no mention of a new contract would have kept him. Nett outlay £3m - Yeeehah!

Can't even blame all the deadwood lying around the place as Big Sam (bless him) dealt with most of that. Hope I am wrong. I hope M'Villa comes back but I have heard twice now a deal for him is close only to be disappointed. Can't see it happening.

Little Phil

Dear ALS

So we might be getting McNair and Donald Love, and possibly selling Kone, well that is exciting. That will put bums on seats.

Throw in Naismith for good measure; well let me know when they have signed Donald Duck cos I can see where this team is going. And how come all the Premier teams are busting a gut to sign star players and we sell Giacherini for £2m when he cost us £8.6 mill, and just starred for Italy. No the wonder we behave like the paupers of the biggest and best league in the world. We have no business nous.

Stan the Sad Makem Man

Dear ALS

Lamine Kone was outstanding last season, instrumental in keeping Sunderland in The Premier League.

If he goes to Everton the owner and manager must explain why. We should not be selling the backbone of the team. If Kone goes it will tell the footballing world that Sunderland are a feeder club and have no ambition.

Terry Reilly
Burgess Hill Susssex

Dear ALS,

Why complain about Bain and Moyes? They are puppets on Ellis strings. They were happy to get back onto the bandwaggon and into the big time off the dole or Israeli backwaters.

If they somehow manage to keep Sunderland in the League, they can move onto better things, as Sam did. It is not Ellis ambition to transform us into a more successful club. He wants us to preserve our status, just. When he loosens the purse strings, he did it January, when we were desperate - but only then. We have done nothing in last year's close season and even less in this.

Where is the TV money gone? He is supposed to bankroll our annual losses to the tune of 25 million. Does he? I would like to see the club's cash-flow account and the in's and out's between Short and the club. My guess is, that he has recouped his initial outlay and his holding out for a Sheikh to pay him a fortune for his shares.

I despised Cowie and Murray for their stupidity and incompetence. But I never doubted that they at least were trying their best in the interest of the Club. Ellis does not give a damn, for the club, the region, the people. If you want to see the ugly face of capitalism, get yourself a picture of Ellis.

Best Regards
Udo Marin, Berlin

Dear ALS

You could not make this up, Sunderland at last have something to give back to the most loyal supporters in the land.

Big Sam persevered and bought probably one of the best defenders in the land, he is a joy to watch and scores great goals what an asset as without Defoe we have no one to score goals. We line up two kids from Manu U who I do not think many will have heard of, they are talking of signing Naismith OMG, someone from Derby County and probably half of the Hartlepool fat Bobbies team.

They never learn, take a look at the ambitions of Middlesbrough, (Negrado, what a scoop) Sunderland two  failed players on trial (remember Fletcher and Graham). Easy answer Ellis Short must go and sell the club to a group who sees the potential in the assets and best fan base in the country. Five years of fighting relegation and this is the reward for the loyal supporters.

Malcolm Harrison
Laird Of Glencoe

Dear ALS
 
If the growing rumours prove true and Moyes/the club sell Kone they’re going to have to do an awful lot to ‘sell’ the idea to the fans that it is ‘good business’.

For the last few years we’ve struggled like buggery to get a defence with pace all across the back, especially in the middle. Kaboul & Kone make a great paring (the best we’ve had for many a year) so why bloody well spoil it?! To make a quick profit? Fool’s gold. It’s just the same as selling a good striker and then blowing the money from the sale on people who are never as good as the person you’ve sold.
 
Does anyone think that if Allardyce was still at the club he’d consider selling Kone after 5 months? When will we learn? Never it seems.
 
Cheesed off (again) of Harrogate

Dear ALS

Not looking good is it?
 
Moyes is going to take us to the Etihad without a right back. Not only have we not improved the squad, we haven't even got back Yedlin or M'vila
 
Now we seem to be prepared to buy a second rate player to replace Kone who Moyes seems willing to sell to his old club
 
Make the most of this season lads and lasses
 
Barry Conlin
Nottingham

Dear ALS

Like many others I've been keeping a close watch on the ALS website for news of new players and have shared the general concern at the lack of fresh blood coming to join the cause.

However, I do this every year and can't now remember the last time the thrill of reading about the potential world beaters (none of whom I'd ever heard of) who were replacing the dead wood didn't, within a matter of weeks, turn into the disappointment of realising they had already turned into the new season's dead wood. There are honourable exceptions but you get my drift.

So, perhaps there is logic in not buying anyone. At least we'll be spared the false hope and the inevitable disappointment that follows close behind and we won't have frittered away all that TV money before we've even earned it.

Dalesman

Dear ALS

Well having written earlier on my optimism for the future of our club under Big Sam's management, lo and behold he then leaves for pastures new. To him the post on offer was too good to ignore and how could you resent him getting the one post he desperately desired? Therefore I wish him all the best and hope he can be as successful in turning our national team's fortunes round as he was ours.

I must add that when Sam was appointed our manager I had at the time no positive or negative feelings on his appointment, however as his short tenure developed so did my faith and belief in his style of management, which brings me onto the subject of our new manager.

The appointment of David Moyes again fills me with neither dread nor excitement but a quiet confidence that he will maintain our status in the short term and hopefully push on in the future. If he can follow a similar path with Sunderland to the one he did with Everton, then this would be at least an improvement to our last few years fighting against relegation. A lot depends on who he can buy to strengthen the team in the next few weeks.

A must in my opinion is a defender, a forward and an attacking central midfielder. It has to be quality as opposed to squad players (no more Bridcuts and Buckley's) this should not be impossible and not necessarily too costly. Our best players after all have often been bargains: Defoe, Phillips, Bould, Quinn to name a few which have been far better than some expensive flops like Flo and Rodwell. As long as Moyes has the remit to buy players who he wants (no outside interference), then he should be able to build on the team already strengthened under Sam's reign.

Thanks
Colin

Dear ALS

Like most I cannot begrudge Sam his move to be manager of England, it has been his ambition for god knows how many years, though I suspect, like many others, he will find it to be a poisoned chalice.

It's the first time for long time that the manager has left us for something that is arguably better and while the manner and method of his leaving might leave us all a bit disappointed I am left wondering when was the last time a manager left us for something better rather than being shown the door. I've been a supporter since 1966 and am struggling to think who it might be?

Answers on a postcard please to crackerjack, BBC TV anywhere you can think of.

Cheers
Bob Todd
Aussie

Dear ALS.

Following the announcement of David Moyes as our new manager let me put the record straight.

Big Sam could not give a farewell wave after the Hartlepool game because he had not officially been named as the England manager.

Without him we would be in the Championship and struggling to stay there. This is a once in a lifetime chance for Sam to manage England and we could not deny him.

The players, manager, and owner all have the right to jump ship should a better career opportunity arise.

The supporters on the other hand have no right to jump ship and must support SAFC through thick and thin.

Everyone must now give David Moyes their full backing and build on the foundations set in place by Mr Allardyce to whom we owe a vote of thanks.

Terry Reilly
Burgess Hill Sussex

Dear Sam

When you got the job at Sunderland I was absolutely delighted. When you struggled with the team that you had been left with I was patient, I kept the faith. When it came good in the end I felt vindicated that you not only proved a lot of people wrong, but that you also seemed to embrace our club. West Ham drove you out after a good job well done, and the Scum, well no further comment needed. I read your autobiography and it concludes with you having turned us down. I read how your Mrs pointed out that the vast majority of Mackems actually wanted you as their manager, rather unique since Bolton, and that this made the difference to join us.

I accept that you have always wanted the England job and that it's reportedly in your contract, which frankly when you left West Ham was a million miles away. I get all of that, however it literally made my blood boil to hear you moan about the lack of signings, and then the pictures of you at Hartlepool looking like you had won the lottery. Spare a fucking thought for the Club you leave behind back in the shite that we were when you joined us with three weeks to the new season and no signings. At least you didn't spend our money then fuck off like Dick last year.

Secondly the FA are wankers. They announce that Woy will not get a new contact if England (I nearly wrote we but fuck them) don't make the semi's, and then when they cock up against Iceland he's gone. To be fair Iceland was a slight surprise but France in the next round wouldn't have been, and the clueless bastards decide that 5 weeks before the Premier league kicks off they will start a round of interviews. It took them 3 weeks to interview You and Bruce ( I mean for fucks sake couldn't they pick someone better than Bruce to make the numbers up) and even then as I write they still haven't actually announced anything

Rant over unless You come out with a master class leaving press release grovelling for your handling of the situation- then both you and England can fuck off and as I'm quarter Irish its Eire from now on.

It's the hope that hurts and I really thought that you were the one

Mackem Stepping Stone

Dear ALS

During the hype and discussion around the appointment of Sam Allardyce as England manager, not one commentator has mentioned that a Premiership team has to look for a new manager just three weeks before the beginning of the season. It just beggars belief and I agree with Sobs that if this was one of the so called 'big' teams this would have been completed with swift efficiency.

My advice to Ellis Short is to get as much compensation as you can from the FA and don't bother with a contract for the new manager, are they worth the paper they are written on?

Keep the Faith and forget about the whole fiasco
Diane Dimmock

Dear ALS

So Big Sam has been given the England job. Good luck to him; he has always wanted the job and has been selected.

There is not one of us that would not want to reach what we consider as the pinnacle of our career. He saved our season last year with his signings in January and got us playing winning football. If not we would be where Newcastle are now! It's time to move on. Yes I agree the behaviour of the FA has been deplorable in that it has taken so long to nominate Sam as manager.

It's not Sam's fault! It's time to move on and David Moyes will be a decent replacement. He proved at Everton he can manage a club that is only ever going to be a top ten club at best. Let's not kid ourselves. At Man Utd it was just a bridge too far, but Sir Alex Ferguson thought at that time he was the best in the world for United. Who are we to argue with that? So again we will be behind the eight ball in relation to transfers etc. so let's get behind the new manager, thank Sam for what he did for us, and move on. Players, managers come and go, we have seen it all before, but what remains constant is the magnificent support of the Sunderland fans, and will remain long after you all and I have moved on from this earth!

And remember FTM that will also remain after you and I have left this earth! Thanks Sam best wishes with England thank you for what you did for us, welcome David Moyes you are joining an awesome family and good luck to you, if you thought the fans at Everton and Man Utd were special, you ain't seen nothing yet!

Barry Hansen
Sydney
Australia

Dear ALS

I have been patiently waiting for developments in the transfer market for SAFC, until now with little to be excited about. I have, however, heard on the grapevine that our search for a hard tackling right back is shortly to reach a successful climax.

John Pearce (the latest in a family line of psycho full backs) currently plying his trade at Widdecombe Rovers is at The SOL having a medical at this moment. Big Sam has said that he is excited by the prospect of Pearce signing because as well as being a defensive genius he is great at going forward especially "all along, down along, out along lea". Big Sam has denied that other members of the team are under consideration. He has been quoted as saying that "there is no truth to the rumour that Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney, Peter Davy, Daniel Whiddon, Harry Hawke or Tom (Uncle) Cobleigh are now or ever have been of interest to the SOL management team. We could not fit these guys into our playing style probably for copyright reasons."

I think you know where I'm coming from guys
Andy Davison
Supporter since 1955

Dear ALS

I have watched and listened with interest how all the media factions have pushed for big Sam to become the next England manager.

I wonder what it would take for an Internet campaign to start to help promote Mr Bruce’s chances of getting that much sort after job. (I know that you couldn’t possibly comment)

Peter Sanderson

Dear ALS,

Very interesting article in The Times today where the journalist states in no uncertain terms that in spite of earlier promises, Big Sam has a very limited transfer budget so hes offski!

The Drummaville Consortium saved Sunderland. Subsequently Ellis Short also saved Sunderland and established them as a going concern. The continued limbo in the summer transfer market however continues to cost the club dear. 

We have the best manager for years and he's off. Ellis Short will bring in another manager who will be promised the earth on appointment to subsequently discover limited budgets and strict adherence to financial fair play. I feel sure sponsorship for naming the Stadium from a Short owned company could get round this one. 

That is why i go to Oxford United these days and take an interest in Sunderland's fortunes from afar. Easier to stay sane.

With Best Wishes
Alan
Oxford

Dear ALS

The time has come for Ellis Short to take the initiative in the Sam saga.

There are some decent managers available, Moyes, Martinez for example. Sam should be told that yes, we want you to stay, but if you won't commit to us then you must go. He cannot rely on us as a fallback and leave us in the same situation as last year.

Line up a replacement for next week and tell the big man to choose his job!

Barrie Garbutt

Dear ALS

It was back in those far flung days, long before Stuart Hall was revealed as a pervert, and the BBC was an organisation with our best interests at heart. The days of It’s a Knockout now creepily idiosyncratic. The days of the long, entertaining and joyous road to Wembley on TV for a team lined up against the might of Leeds United. A truly David and Goliath encounter that no-one doubted the outcome. I too sat and watched more for the fun on display than any serious interest in the match. I sat giggling at the antics of the giant puppets occupied by the citizens from the respective finalists gave friendly and competitive battle.

After the fun it got serious as the kick off loomed. Interviews were made with the pundits of the day, the experts and the punters were all of the same frame of mind, how many were the invincible Leeds United going to win by.

Then there appeared on screen this man sat on the train, to me as a boy he looked quite elderly but was probably in his forties with his cloth cap and long overcoat he sat passively on his journey to watch his beloved team Sunderland FC. It may well have been his first time to the Capital, for me, I had never been nor had any inclination to until this frail-looking, humble man spoke when asked by the interviewer in a clipped and noticeably condescending accent who he thought would win in the final.

The man removed his cap, aware he was on camera and talking to people at home and leaned forward slightly and quietly and unassumingly replied. ‘My head tells me Leeds, but my heart says Sunderland.’ And that was that. I remarked to my dad (God rest him). ‘I’m supporting Sunderland dad.’ Good for you son he commented, most likely smiling at the naivety and innocence of the still very young.

But as we all know what happened on that extraordinary afternoon and the quite extraordinary scenes of the beautiful Bob Stoke, (God rest him) overjoyed and running across that pitch as if wings were on his feet to celebrate with a bunch of lads who with heart and courage seldom seen with footballers snatched victory for all the no-hopers in a world dominated by the mighty and they had been humbled and hope for the masses of ordinary people had been restored.

It has not been an easy journey supporting Sunderland especially in a place like Belfast. I catch glimpses of that fateful day in the army of Man United and Liverpool shirts and the same condescension when it comes to our encounters with them. Some things will never change, like my support for SAFC.

Laurence Todd

Dear ALS

Can I add a suggestion and a (pedantic) correction to Lee's letter? Fully agree that the atmosphere at SOL against Chelsea was right up there in the best atmospheres ever, and my watching now goes back over 50 years.

Suggestion, although it is an Elvis Presley song, it sounds much more impressive through the PA of a large stadium when it is the UB40 version that we used to use. Correction, the tile of the song is not Wise Men Say. It's "Can't Help Falling In Love With You."

Looking forward to a better season
Ian Thompson

Dear ALS

Having supported Sunderland for more years than I like to remember, I do find myself feeling really positive in my expectations for the following season(s) under Sam's tenure. Not since the reign of Peter Reid have I actually thought we may actually be fighting for honours as opposed to relegation in our future campaigns.

If we are honest, since Reid all the manager or coaches we have had have had only one remit which has been to attain or maintain our Premier League status. Having watched the team this season and the way Sam conducted our resistance to the drop in tactics, player inclusions and improvements in individual performances I think given this and a good summer recruitment program should see relegation fights as being a thing of the past.

The club has had everything in place for many years (Stadium , fan base, academy even now a wealthy chairman ) which should have had the club firmly established in the top half of the league, only poor choices in managers, directors of football and coaches have hampered the club. Let's hope that now we have a manager who knows the game from top to bottom and has a vision for future progress, we can build on his experience and create a dynasty.

I would like to think, if we can replicate the old Liverpool way of having a system maintained by a continual inside recruitment process of managers coaches ready to step in and replace, instead of the chop and change every 12 months system currently being used (usually bringing in people from outside the club). This I feel would if done correctly bring stability to club and hopefully long after I am gone the club may be positioned similar to Arsenal (the only club never relegated) where the only thought for any up and coming season is how can we win the league, what's relegation.

Thanks
Colin

Dear ALS

 1. That it might not be a good idea to tell everyone your manager will leave at the end of the season half way through the season (Man City)

 2. That Mourinho is not a very nice bloke (Chelsea) but at least Man U now have the manager they deserve and the best of luck

 3. That people whose surname begins with a K are pretty good at football and we should sign more of them (us)

 4. That Wilshere is seldom photographed without his tongue sticking out (Arsenal), but that hasn't stopped him being picked for the England squad, despite the fact that he's played less football than me this year  

 5. That the miracles we saw when Ipswich won the old First Division under Ramsey and Forest did the same under Clough are not impossible (Leicester)

 6. That it's a good idea to have someone on the board who knows a bit about football. Lawyers, advertising and marketing people, and accountants do not cut the mustard (ne coupe pas la moutarde) and you need someone who has at least tried a pair of boots on (us and others) 

 7. That aiming for the safety of 17th place every year will not end happily forever, although it seems ok just at the moment (us)

 8. That if your team comes second in the Premiership it's perfectly reasonable to start a campaign to get rid of your manager (Arsenal)

Dave
Oxford

Dear ALS

If Sunderland fans want a good hearted laugh about the rivalry with Newcastle they should take a look at the book Hovering Giants written by M Sebastian Thelwell, who I think is the same guy who got kicked off Newcastle websites some time back for making fun of the Mags.

In the story there is more than passing similarity between Doon United and the Mags and you can guess who neighbours Wonder Boys might resemble. It ends hilariously. It can currently be downloaded for free at:

https://itunes.apple.com/au/book/hovering-giants/id1070575945?mt=11

Your readers might like to know this.
Ian Smith
Avid Sunderland fan for life

Dear ALS

I've been meaning to email you for a while. I've been watching Sunderland for 30 years, through thick and thin and a lot more besides that. The atmosphere at the Chelsea game was one of the loudest, most emotional times during those 30 years.

After watching Liverpool's European nights on TV this season and even the latter part of Hibs celebration's on Saturday I think it's time we gave 'wise men say' a fuller rendition at the SOL. I mean it's fine with the chorus and the Sunderland chant after but I reckon even the 1st verse would give us an extra lift. We have a crowd capable of lifting our players to another level, why don't we have a song that really gives us an identity.

http://youtu.be/ZGRyOIISX-0, if the link I've just sent works it shows the less excitable Hibs fans at the Scottish FA cup final in full voice with every man, woman and child singing. Sounds fantastic I think you'll agree.

Let's get WMS sung in all its glory next season.
Cheers
Lee

Dear ALS

Martin Bain's appointment is a very interesting one. I have lived in Israel for the past decade and while I have never been able to force myself to really get into Israeli football, I have seen Macabbi Tel Aviv play a number of times, including when they demolished this year's champions Hapoel Beer Sheva 6-2 in the cup final last year.

They have a fairly well put together team which last year were heads and shoulders above the rest of the league, played well as a unit, are free scoring, and seemingly have their resources balanced and logically allocated across the positions on the pitch. I also was at the President's House to see him and them pick up Israel's version of the Fair Play Award last year. It's also worth noting that under his direction Maccabi Tel Aviv are sponsored by UNICEF, and do a lot of work in the community.

All of which points to a very well run club. I am not for a second going to compare Israeli football to the Premier League; those who remember the farcical Ronen Harazi episode under Reidy will take note... But I think we can take encouragement from bringing in a man who knows how to run a club with the right set of values for the club, for the fans, and for the city. It will be interesting if they make a move for Zahavi who seems to score for fun in the Israeli league and could well be an interesting addition to the squad. Either way, for Bain, after a few years basking in the Mediterranean sun of Tel Aviv... even for a Scot though... Wearside is gonna be a shock!

Wishing him all the best and Keep The Faith,
Jason
Modiin, Israel

Dear ALS,

Under Allardyce I'm hoping we can look forward to a better season, although I've been saying that each time we've escaped relegation with a run of form under previous managers and look what happens each new season. The key starting point for us is our pre season preparation since increasingly the players have been turning up for a new season like they've wined and dined nonstop and forgotten what their job is. The pointers are though that Allardyce has already brought in quality to the side, got existing players who weren't delivering looking like world beaters and a degree of organisation that wasn't there before.

But the main point of my mail is that assuming Allardyce does take us to a better place, who at the club is going to ensure any momentum we gain from Allardyce's tenure is maintained? His appointment was always a no brainer so I can't give our board any credit for appointing him, more why did it take them so long? The people in charge of the club now need to get in motion the means to delivering a sustainable football model while he's here as I'd like to think Allardyce will last longer than the average life expectancy of 1.3 years. My word of warning would be look at the stability he delivered at Bolton during his time there but clearly the Bolton owners just sat back and milked it without a consideration for the future. I can't credit our board for being any better, while managers come and go and we lurch from one crisis to another our board sit there and do what? I think their 'pin the donkeys tail' approach to appointing managers would eventually throw up a good one, but sadly my faith in their ability to consolidate on any stability Allardyce may bring is zero. We need more footballing people running our club, but until that happens, with a manager such as Allardyce my advice to the supporters would be make the most of it!

Phil In Leeds

Dear ALS

Fascinating reading your Charlie Hurley tribute. I was 14 at the beginning of 1961 and lived in Dunston, Newcastle territory. I had to get the train to Roker from Newcastle to watch our home games, one shilling and sixpence return on the train and one shilling and sixpence to get in the ground as a junior.

I was in the 58,000 crowd to see us beat Arsenal in the third round but when it came to the third round and the game was made all-ticket, I couldn't afford both the train fare and the admission in the same week. I decided to write to Alan Brown, the manager and explain my predicament and enclosed, rather hopefully, a postal order for one and six for a junior ticket. Two days later I received a short note along with my postal order from Alan Brown himself explaining that there were no junior tickets. I quickly managed to rustle up the extra one and six and again wrote to him with a postal order for three shillings. On the morning of the match I received my ticket for the Spurs match. I could hardly believe it.

The atmosphere going to the ground and in the ground was electric. Sixty two and a half thousand, I seem to remember. I can't remember much about the game but the draw was no disappointment, after all we were playing the best team in the country. Best match for me ever though the 4-1 against Chelsea ran it close.

All the best
Chris McGorrigan
Ulverston
Cumbria


Dear ALS

My previous post, a long time ago, criticised the impending appointment of Sam Allardyce as our new manager. I was wrong and I am happy to hold up my hand. This is our greatest escape ever in that it has been achieved in 28 games, a seemingly impossible task. But not only this, during the course of this achievement he has brought in some players who should ensure that our performances will continue to improve and offers hope that we shall not be in a relegation drama next season.

Could we compete for the Premiership title next season? Who knows after the achievements of Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur, giving the ”little” clubs hope for the future. However, I will be very happy if we make the top half of the league next season.

There are still many things to put right in and around our club which are a cause for concern:

Why did we continue to play Johnson tight up to the day he appeared in court on such serious charges? That was a great error of judgement which damaged our club and cost the Company Secretary her job. If she had not “carried the can” so swiftly, we could have had points deducted and have been relegated. I hope she has received a severance payment equivalent to her great sacrifice.

How did we sign a player who was about to be banned by FIFA and who must have either lied or withheld critical information. Somebody at the SOL was not doing their job.

Our support remains highly questionable. A mass walk-out at the first home game of the season indicates that we no longer have the quality of support for which we were famous.. We have “fair weather” support these days. When things are bad and the team needs maximum support, it is not given. When things are going well and the support is not so critical, the team receives it in abundance. Our official supporter’s club needs to do something about this.

Finally, I have a light-hearted suggestion that would have several benefits, including attaining Champions League entry by the end of next season. Glasgow Celtic are very keen to get into the Premier League in England. If we swap with them now, we should easily win the Scottish Premier Division next season and enter the Champions League. Away game travel will be shorter and therefore cheaper for our travelling support and our derby game will be against Heart of Midlothian. As Scottish Premier teams play each other four times per season, we would have four derbies. We should also do the double by winning the Scottish Cup at Hampden Park which is much bigger and much nearer than Wembley. All our circa 50’000 supporters would get tickets. It’s a win-win situation. Will somebody start a petition?

Grateful thanks to Mr. Short for a brilliant choice and to Mr. Alladyce for a brilliant job.

Westlondonmackem

Dear ALS

I have followed Sunderland since 1964, my 5th Birthday “party” watching the reserves at Roker. There have been some mighty highs and some terrible lows but (1973 aside) nothing compares to the last 5 days. The fans are magnificent and the atmosphere created in both matches beyond compare. I hate to think what would happen if we ever WON the Prem!

Thanks, Big Sam: thanks to the Lads (particularly the “K” club): thanks to all fans, even those who are sometimes a bit negative. For once, we CAN dream about the next season. It may not always be exciting but with Big Sam at the helm, we really should NOT be facing another battle at the bottom. After all, without the Mags gifting us vital points, we might not succeed next time.

Keep The Faith
Jon

Dear ALS

Not many letters between January and now. That's because everyone has had their breath held and any intervention might have broken the spell of the possibility of survival. We can't go on like this. It's just bad for the health.

But some good things have come out of it and here are a few of them;

1. At last we have decent successors to Charlie Hurley, Dave Watson and Benno (and Dickie Rooks!) in Kone and Kaboul after a succession of very shaky centre halves.

2. We have a good manager who knows his way about the division, so it's important not to get rid of him after 10 games next season. (E. Short take note).

3. Margaret Byrne has departed and it's a shame that it took such a trauma in the club to achieve it.

4. Newcastle have a decent ginger headed kid in their midfield who looks ok. I forget his name but it'll be a pity for him to have to play in the Championship (or Division 2 as I still call it). Perhaps he'd like to consider moving clubs. But where to?

And the bad;

1. Newcastle have gone down and that's 6 easy points in most seasons, but perhaps we're past the need for easy points now. But probably not! This is Sunderland after all.

Deep breath taken

Dave
Oxford

Dear ALS

We’re up and we’re staying up. Three or four magnificent performances have done the trick. Well done the lads, Well done, Big Sam. Bring on next season.

I can’t rejoice too much about the Mags going down. The north east needs big teams and rivalry. However, it’s nice to stick it to Fat Mike Ashley and the appalling Wonga logos. Neither should be welcome at any ground. Added to which, the Mags have been a good source of points over the years and have helped us stay up. Without the six pointers from the last few seasons and the four points from this season we might not have made the cut. In a way, we’ll miss them.

Quite agree with Kyle regarding the rubbishy Jack Colback. He’ll be with another set of barcodes soon, i.e. Grimsby Town.

Dave from Sheffield

Dear ALS

There really is no shortage of ways to start the celebration. In fact, I'm already absolutely pished. I could say today was a victory for the city of Sunderland. And as grandiose as that may sound, I'm from Glasgow, so I can’t say with any first-hand experience what it’s like. I've been celebrating since I stopped quivering with nerves. Sunderland as a city is passionate, loud, and very easy to fit into. The club has done very well to make the players and the fans follow this exact mould since the turn of the year, and it's turned us into one of the most tight knit teams in the league.

You may wonder why a young Glaswegian chose to be a Sunderland fan. Well, like every other Sunderland fan, it wasn't a choice. My dad is from Town End Farm and I've been brought up to understand why my blood cells are all red and white. In Glasgow there's the team that win everything, the other team that win everything, and the team that won't win anything, but won't go down any time soon. There's passion here, but nobody understands just how good today's win was. If I could. I’d shag today’s result and have its Premier League babies, which I would never let Newcastle babysit.

I fell into love with this club purely by bad luck, but they give me so many of my happiest days.

Just remember. We stayed up. The mags went down.

Fuck Jack Colback. Fuck the mags.

Ha’way the lad

Kyle

Dear ALS,

Subject: Terrific!

How good is it to support Sunderland? Saved! Well I take full credit.

Two letters from me; the first claiming I wished the season would end so as to end our misery, the second claiming it was over, we were done, because we failed to beat West Brom.

ALS duly published those letters and as a result the Football Gods, being like they are, decided to save Sunderland to make me look like a Pratt.

My plan worked a treat. I am happy to make the sacrifice of personal esteem and suffer the Pratt label for the lads.

See you next season in the Premier League!
PJ

Evening,

I was at the game on Saturday with my future stepson. Our journey started a little later than usual and we found both the a690, a19 and a1231 at almost a standstill. He was worried, hoping that he wouldn't miss his heroes running out on to the pitch for a vital game in our season. Fretting that we would miss kick off, more than happy to forego the obligatory burger to make sure that we'd be sat in time for kick off.

Fast forward to this evening. I'm sat in front of the tv, having been unable to get us tickets for the match, a bag of nerves. Take all of the recent Derby game nerves, put them on a roller coaster and it wouldn't compare to my stomach at half 7. The boy was completely relaxed. Totally at ease with what tonight meant.

Back to Saturday, we start well, pressing high up the pitch, making an accomplished Chelsea look hurried in possession. As we know, we ended the half a goal down, despite our best efforts. At half time he asked me 'David will we get relegated if we lose this?'. I simply replied 'We'll win the second half, don't worry'. As it trasnpired, I was right and mighty relieved to be so. The joy of that second half performance was something he won't have experienced since he started following Sunderland. For myself, it started back in the late '80's on a windy day at Roker Park. We won 4-3 that day against West Ham, Keiron Brady was star of the show. Since then I've been in love with the club. For me the club has been a constant source of any emotion you can name. Frustration by the bucket load, anger at times, apathy on occasion and unbridled joy sparingly. It's moulded me as an adult, I don't carried away any more.

Fast forward back to tonight and the full time whistle. One of the emotions I mention above was prevalent, not just for me, but for the boy. Unbridled joy. In 2 games he has gone from ambivalence to full-fledged passion. He was shouting the house down at our performance and survival. Leaping around the house the way he was reminded of me of the FA cup final run in the 90's, and the way I was. This club is infectious. Not always through brilliance but through graft and effort, bravery and stubbornness. It's these qualities that are lost on the younger generation of supporters. It's these qualities that will never die, and will always be part of success. Seeing a young lad buy into this shows that the club matters in the area, and hopefully it'll inspire the current generation to bigger and better things, whatever their vocation or skill set.

In summary, thank you Sunderland AFC for giving kids and adults alike an example of how to progress. Work hard, don't give up and mainly, support each other.

Here's to the next generation. Thank you, Sunderland.

Dear ALS

That's it, that's all I can sum it up as & It's the best feeling I can ever imagine. I sat in a pub in Cardiff, as the sole Sunderland fan, which meant every single sign, clap, scream, cheer and grunt of frustration was greeted with nothing but baffled looks by other users of this establishment. I sat with an Arsenal fan and a Bolton fan and as each goal went in and I leapt out of my chair, screaming the place down and generally going absolutely fucking apeshit, the Bolton fan would give me a loving pat on the back accompanied by a congratulatory clap whilst the Arsenal fan looked at me gone off and couldn't grasp what my celebrations were about.

He couldn't though could he, how could he? Sunderland are like no other football club in England. He only has cup finals, title challenges and champions league football to look forward too. He doesn't know what it's like to support Sunderland, or to have to endure a 650 mile round trip for every home game you manage to attend. He doesn't know what it's like to sit through a drubbing at the hands of Everton one week, having fucked the mags for the 6th time in a row only a few weeks before. He could never know what this is like, and for that I will forever pity him!

Sunderland have given me the most memorable moments of my life, happy and sad, my first game, my first relegation, my first promotion, my first Derby, the beachball, the cup games away at places like Peterborough and the greatest of great escapes under Poyet! Tonight though, tonight was something else. Tonight I wasn't nervous, I wasn't even a little bit nervous, tonight I knew we'd win. I just knew it, and it made it one of the most enjoyable games of football I've ever watched and I loved every fucking minute. I fucking love you Sunderland, I fucking love you. Nights like tonight make me realise why I'm all in, nothing will ever replicate this feeling and I wouldn't ever want to try. You'll do!

I think looking ahead to next season I'm excited for the derb.. Oh, wait.
Love from Luke - 25 and 364 days!
Happy Fucking Birthday!


Dear ALS

Having reviewed recent blogs I agree we may need 9 points to survive.

Norwich will surely get 6 from their last 2 games.

I'm more concerned about our neighbours who have a handy run in. Palace at Home and Villa away and Spurs on vacation at home. All with a restful week in between games.

We're getting clean sheets, which is encouraging but are shy of getting crucial goals in tight games. We conclude with 3 games in 8 days.

Touch wood our squad are in good heath and fit which may serve us well. If we stay up this will be the most Herculean effort of them all.

Keep the faith
Best
JJ Tipperary

Dear ALS

I've got fed up with people saying it’s all over, but the way the team is sweating and battling it is not all over.

From the keeper to Jermaine Defoe they are all putting in a shift and if we are relegated it will not be for want of endeavour.

Less doom and gloom from some and continued backing from the supporters could win the day.

Terry Reilly
Burgess Hill Sussex

Dear ALS

Sorry folks it's over. Not that it ever began this season. The West Brom game was the critical game for us

Now, Norwich and Sunderland's fixtures are similar. The best Sunderland can do is win two. The best Norwich can do is win two.

Unfortunately Norwich are 4 points ahead. It's over. Let it go.

Sorry, I know how this feels.

PJ

Dear ALS

Can anyone explain Sam Allardyce's logic of setting up for a point against Norwich on Saturday?

They are the most likely source of three points we have remaining and regardless of whether we get a draw or a loss we will be relegated. Even winning our difficult game in hand against Everton we will still be a point behind should be draw with the Canaries. Play for a nil nil and a Kaboul or Mannone error will undo us late on, we have better attacking assets, play two up front and give us a chance.

Stuart, Singapore

Dear ALS

As at Southampton, Big Sam has made substitutions against the Mags that in hindsight has cos another 2 points.

Why is N'doye anywhere near our football club? Replacing Khazri with that weak as piss waste of space Sam? Why?

Toivenan should have been the man to come on in place of Khazri.

As at Southampton we could all see Kitchoff was fucked. He should have been subbed 5 minutes before he actually was. Again it's bad tactics from Sam.

You can moan as much as you want Sam about conceding late goals buts its your substitutions that are costing us.

All in all still happy with a point
I think!
Eddy in Yeovil

Dear ALS

If I can take a crumb of comfort from not taking 3 points today, I know it was down a basic error. Yedlin's foul throw gave possession a away. Also at Southampton we couldn't defend our lead for 10 mins against 10 men.

But therein is the worry - basic stuff is costing us points. Yedlin's foul throw highlights a lack of concentration when it is absolutely needed - or if you want to talk about technique then he's getting paid too much as I don't find throw-ins too difficult.

If we had 3 points from all the leads we've surrendered this season we'd probably be safe.

Phil in Leeds

Dear ALS

Regardless of the result against the bar codes I think Mr Allardyce is doing a great job. I hope the person who replaces Margaret Byrne will have gonads the size of snooker balls.

Big Sam needs the full support of everyone, to get rid of the malaise which has infected the club for a long time, and give the boot to anyone who does not toe the line.

Terry Reilly
Burgess Hill
Sussex

Dear ALS

I wrote in a few days ago defending our CEO, albeit with the caveat that further information may come out to change my view. The email from Charles the lawyer setting out the bar that is relevant in such matters certainly left little room for any mistakes.

The fact that she didn't share all the information, (which seems to be the admission of a kiss) with the board, is just plain daft for such a qualified person. It seems she tried to help Johnson by introducing him to a solicitor and was rewarded by Johnson trying to blame the club for his continuing to play, despite his pleas of innocent.

That said Johnson is the guilty party here and Byrne has paid for an error of judgements that has cost her her job (for 9 years without much criticism in an industry renowned for it) and therefore the wolves will be happy but that's not right. I hope that she has a future career not destroyed in this way and thank her for the service to the club over 9 very difficult years.

For avoidance of doubt I do not know MB, have never met her and don't know anyone who has, it just seems harsh to me that she falls on the sword for one mistake. Let's see what happens when Man U, City , Arsenal or one of the other big clubs face similar decisions from one of the spoilt footballers of our generation.

Paul Ellison

Dear ALS

The statements this afternoon fall short of satisfying.

Byrne knew for nine months before the trial that Johnson was guilty, never mind what he was pleading, never mind whether he could get away with it, she knew he did it and she let the lassie suffer and us carry on supporting him, presumably like me other folks thought if he was playing the club must know he was innocent.

The victim, and to a much lesser extent us, have been betrayed.

I have to admire her for one thing though, for nine months she knew and told nobody, not sure I could have never mentioned it to anyone

Barry Conlin
Nottingham

Dear ALS

OK. We are at the beginning of four weeks of inactivity - with just one minor excursion in the middle - before resuming our inevitable journey towards Premier League survival. Being Sunderland, we will make it difficult but we will survive and I would like us, this year, to use this period of inactivity to try to make it easier.

No action allows us to focus on the talking going on around us and that talk worries me.
“We are in a mini-league of four clubs, three of which will go down.” (Just about everybody says this so it must be true.)
“We are amongst the favourites for relegation.” (Sam Allardyce says so. He should know.)

Hold on, currently we are top of that little league. Surely the favourites are the three teams below us. We only have to do as well as the others and we won't be relegated. Do slightly better and we will be totally safe (in other words...“It’s in our own hands.”).

If we spend four weeks thinking about our little mini league the jitters will grow. We will worry about how good Norwich really are and what would happen if Newcastle sacked their ‘manager’ and got a real one in. Keep thinking and Sunderland will be in trouble. The doubts will creep in and the difficulties will mount. We can’t keep clean sheets. Aston Villa could do a Leicester (OK, maybe not). Until we reach the inevitable... it is two from three to go down and one of those could easily be us.

The real problem is in this life is you get what you really expect. By ‘expect’ I mean what you feel inside, what you really believe, and not what you might hope for or wish for. We might look at Sunderland’s chances and expect a struggle but what would a Ferguson, a Clough or a Shankley expect in exactly the same circumstances? They were winners because they expected to win. They would expect their Sunderland, the same Sunderland as our Sunderland, to win the next nine matches. And they would. We, though, expect them to struggle.

Sunderland have struggled for so long, we all expect us to struggle. By us I mean everyone, the owner, the office staff, the manager, the players... the fans. We are top of the mini league but amongst the favourites for relegation. How typical a summing up of Sunderland by Sunderland is that?

You can always change what you expect. You can build expectations and higher expectations will bring better results.

What I want in these four weeks is for us is to do just that. We are top of that mini league. We have won that league. Now, forget it. We are now in another, better mini league with Swansea, Crystal Palace and Bournemouth. We are bottom of that league, currently eight points behind Swansea, but we are better than all three, we have a better heritage, a bigger and better stadium, more and better fans, a much better manager and a better squad of players.

From now on, our target is to catch first Swansea, then Palace, then Bournemouth. It means doing as well as them and better. It gives our manager and his players a new incentive and a chance to begin to show their real worth.

How? Re-read what I just wrote - You can always change what you expect and we have a better heritage, a bigger and better stadium, more and better fans, a much better manager and a better squad of players. Believe it.

Sam Allardyce is the perfect manager for Sunderland in terms of experience, grit and determination. If he believes we can catch Bournemouth, he can convince the players. Look at the organisation he has brought the existing squad. Look at the strength and the character of the players he has brought in, Kone, Kirchhoff, Eboue(?), Khazri. 

Kirchhoff for instance, could have been destroyed by his experience in his first game but he expects to do well on the football field. Spurs away was a bad day at the office, forget it and play football. None of the new players have joined to be fourth off bottom. They came here to succeed in the Premier League. Add Mannone, Kaboul, M’Vila, Defoe, Borini and anyone else you want to. They all have a bigger point to prove than just avoiding relegation. Give them one, catch Swansea, then...

So what would happen if we tried and we didn’t catch Swansea? We might end the season say 3 or 5 points behind them. We would be bottom of that league and I for one would be really disappointed. We would, of course, be comfortably well away from the relegation issue we had forgotten about nine games before, but I would be disappointed because my expectation wasn’t met.

Then again, what would happen if we don’t try and we then don’t win our current miserable little mini-league? How disappointed will we all be if we come second from top there?

Derek Thomas

Dear ALS

It is good that the club have taken decisive action with regard to the CEO.

Let's hope the next appointment brings someone to the role with integrity, a good knowledge of football and most of all someone who has strong feelings for the club and its traditions.

John Robson

Dear ALS

I am an American Sunderland fan and sometime contributor to ALS. I am also a veteran prosecutor who has spent his career investigating and prosecuting violent criminals, financial fraudsters, and corrupt public officials.

When I first became a prosecutor, I was given a simple directive: Do the right thing, always. In fact, much of the lengthy interview process to get the job had been a series of carefully calibrated hypothetical questions designed to test my judgment. Because an elected prosecutor cannot handle every case that arises, he or she must depend on the good judgment of the lawyers who work for him. Implicit in that simple directive was the trust my boss was placing in me to exercise my own good judgment on his behalf in every case.

Which brings me to the tempest that has erupted over the Adam Johnson conviction. If the rumours are true, Margaret Byrne was aware long before trial of evidence that, at the very least, suggested that Johnson had had inappropriate physical contact with the poor girl in question. If that is the case, Ms. Byrne has shown very poor judgment and betrayed the trust her employer put in her. She should resign immediately.

I understand that Ms. Byrne has a legal background herself, and that before coming to Sunderland she even spent time representing criminal defendants. So I suspect that her thinking when this story broke was that criminal defendants are innocent until proven guilty and that Johnson was thus entitled to continue playing, unless and until he was convicted in a court of law.

Wrong. The employment law does not set the same high bar to action that the criminal law does. At the point Ms. Byrne knew that Johnson had had inappropriate physical contact with the girl, she should have fired him, no matter the possible consequences to Sunderland's survival hopes.

Like everyone else reading and writing this, I am desperate for Big Sam and the lads to find a way to beat the drop. But some things are more important than football. If Ms. Byrne had these critical facts in hand, she failed to do the right thing. She should go.

Charles Linehan

Dear ALS

I like many others thought that this was a case of a wealthy footballer being caught in a honey trap.

We now find out that this is not the case and serious offences were committed. If Ellis Short/ Margaret Byrne did know he intended to plead guilty they have questions to answer.

Is it normal practise for the police to show an employer evidence before a trial; is it normal practise for a case with such overwhelming evidence to take such a long time to get to court?

Ellis Short/Margaret Byrne ought to clear the air and make an unequivocal statement to the fans and the media.

To throw Sam Allardyce in front of the cameras was an act of cowardice which is not expected from the owner or chief executive.

We need a full statement of facts now or a resignation.
Yours Sincerely
Terry Reilly
Burgess Hill West Sussex

Dear ALS

Living in Somerset I was lucky enough to get tickets for the Southampton game yesterday.

It's great to catch up with friends from back home and to see the permanent smiles and sense of optimism on the majority of our fans. First question was why was Defoe left out of the starting 11? The big lad up front looks as weak as piss and is not the player to keep us up this season.

Allardyce's team is so far removed from the Sunderland teams of recent years it gives me hope and a bit of pride in the performances we are seeing. Will this be enough to keep us up though?

After the game Allardyce blamed the team for defending too deep and not keeping the ball to run down the clock. Ok that makes sense.

But! Yes it's hindsight but why oh why did he take Kirkchoff off and bring O'Shea on? The manager has to hold his hands up and admit he dropped the changer by inviting Southampton to attack after that substitution. We were left with no outlet in midfield, no one to put pressure on the home defence.

So close and yet so far but surely Borini has done enough to warrant a start with Defoe in the starting 11.

So yes it was a kick in the balls to concede when we did but we do have the players and the manager to get us safe and keep us there.

Well, I hope we do. Do we?
Eddy in Yeovil

Dear ALS

I believe that Paul Ellison in his recent letter to you is utterly wrong. He conveniently ignores the statements from Durham Police which indicate that the club, in the form of its Chief Executive, knew what Johnson had done. They gave the club conclusive evidence of his grooming of a child but the club chose to ignore this, and the only conclusion I can make is that they hoped that the victim and her family would withdraw her case, as so often happens in such circumstances. As it happened the girl and her family were incredibly brave and took this matter to court, and the lowlife that is Johnson was convicted.

If Margaret Byrne, and anyone else at the football club who was made aware of the police's evidence, thought that they could brush this matter under the carpet then they were wrong.

If the CEO and the rest of the SAFC hierarchy are so convinced that they are right, then why don't they have the guts to come out and face the media, instead of sending out Sam Allardyce to do it for them? The statement they put out was perfunctory and evasive and nowhere near answers the questions that the national press keep asking.

The name of our club is being dragged through the mud on a daily basis but the strategy of those in charge seems to be to hope that it all blows over. This is totally unsatisfactory. Meanwhile, fans of the club, who have no responsibility for this mess, are tarred with the same brush by other fans and by the press. I don't know about other supporters, but I despise Adam Johnson for what he has done, and I hope that all of us would realise that SAFC had a duty of care to "one of our own" and failed miserably. Perhaps Ellis Short will get a grip and do something about it, but I'm not holding my breath.

Best wishes
Mike Painter

Dear ALS

The Club and our CEO finds themselves under attack from a number of sides over the handling of the recent court case. I write in defence of our CEO in the knowledge that further information releases could well prove me wrong. However all we know at present is that Johnson was arrested, then charged, pleaded not guilty until first day of the trial then was found guilty. The Club and specifically the CEO were made aware of the nature of the charges and may have been shown some evidence; however what that evidence was is not clear.

The Club had three options
1 Sack Johnson on either being arrested or charged
2 Suspend Johnson and not pick him for 12 months
3 Carry on playing him when selected until he changed his plea to guilty on two accounts

I don't think any of the Clubs detractors have suggested that the Club should have sacked Johnson on being arrested or charged. The Club probably received legal advice to the contrary and frankly in a country where innocent until proven guilty is the law of the land, it would simply be wrong. Imagine for a minute had the Club sacked Johnson and he had been found not guilty, the criticism and probably law suits that would be raining down on the Club now.

So for the detractors it seems that the only decision that the Club had to make was whether to suspend him from work or not. Stop again and ask how many of the Clubs detractors were screaming for a suspension before the guilty verdict? Unless I missed it, none. Again ask yourself would this have been fair, humane, equitable, or any other similar measure, If Johnson had been found not guilty. Yes I know he was found guilty, and a bloody good verdict it seems, however when the Club had to make the decision Johnsons legal counsel were advising him to plead not guilty. Are the detractors seriously suggesting that the Club should have, on the basis of the evidence that they had seen whatever that was, have effectively had a pre trial and decided whether he was likely to be guilty or innocent?

Of course the Club will have taken into account his value to the team and the fact that they would be paying him £3m to sit at home for 12 months. Sadly I guess if an apprentice went through a similar situation, I can't be confident that the Club would react in the same way. That does not however make the Club wrong in this case.

As I said at the start of this email further information may come out which would change my view, however until it does our CEO has my support in the way the matter was handled, and hope that the Club can move on and concentrate with the job in hand of making sure it's Norwich and Newcastle who are travelling to Burton Albion next year.

Paul Ellison

Dear ALS

I'm in total agreement with a message below by John Robson, why on earth is Sam Allardyce having to answer questions on national TV about the Johnson Case? A football manager has enough difficult moments in front of the cameras, regularly fielding questions about their own job security, covering for poor player performances and in our case, a string of managers answering questions about what fundamentally has been a poorly run club that should be addressed by a board member/owner.

I've lost track of how many times I've said our board members need to raise their heads above the parapet and show more accountability for decisions that are being made at the club and the Johnson case is another example of them going missing.

Phil in Leeds

Dear ALS

The Adam Johnson case does little for the reputation of our club. I am puzzled why Sam Allardyce has to present the case for the defence.

As I recall when the meeting took place between the club and Johnson he was manager of West Ham. I think it is time the chief executive who took part in the said meeting went in front of the media and explained the clubs position. Until she does, the stigma of the case remains and her position becomes untenable.

John Robson

Dear ALS

Yet again we find ourselves in the mire and so as in other similar seasons here is the Stars view on the matter.

Some situations are challenging. Almost anyone, faced with those circumstances, would feel daunted.

Others prove problematic because of what they remind us of. They press our buttons. They set off psychological triggers. They bring back memories of stressful experiences.

You should not worry too much about what is happening in your life now, even if some of it makes you feel uncomfortable.

See beyond what a situation looks like, recognise it for what it really is and relax.

All is well.
So the stars once again predict a good outcome. I hope.

Eddy in Yeovil

Dear ALS

Recently FA Chairman Greg Dyke was reported as saying that success for the England National Team was important to the success of the game and teams in the country. In order to improve the chances of success for the England team he was advocating the reduction of the Premier League from 20 teams to 18 to reduce the number of games played by the players in the England squad.

More recently the press has reported that eliminating replays from FA Cup ties and two leg League Cup Semi Finals is being considered for the same reason. 

For a club like Sunderland these measures would be detrimental.

Reducing the Premiership to 18 clubs would make it harder to gain promotion to and avoid relegation from the Premier League. Reducing the PL by two teams would mean that each team would play four games fewer, with reduction in gate revenue and games for fans to attend.

FA Cup replays are an integral part of our football culture and often lead to exciting and dramatic games. Our recent experience, and this season's two semi finals, show how much two legged League Cup semi finals create excitement and tension.

I don't believe there is any evidence to support the view that spectators are more likely to watch football at any level team due to the performance of the England team as seen on television. England's performance has never influenced my decision to watch Sunderland or not.

I think these proposals are elitist and favourable to the clubs to the clubs playing European football on a regular basis and detrimental to everyone else.

A much simpler way to reduce the demands made on England players, which would not affect the majority of fans in this country, is to re-organise the Champions League to reduce or eliminate the interminable group games and revert to a knock out stage much earlier. If we are to consider League Cup Semi-finals being single leg ties, then why are European knock games not made single leg too?

Rob Robinson

Dear ALS

I must congratulate Big Sam on his January signings.

He must be eating Special K for breakfast as three of his signings surnames all start with the letter K. If he owns a dog can I request that he feeds it Winalot.

Keep up the good work Sam and maybe, just maybe we can have a favourable end to the season.

Glen Royal
Solihull
West Midlands

Dear ALS

As a fanatic Sunderland fan of 21 years, I feel that I’m now at that stage in my supporter days where I can confidently compare the Sunderland we watch now, with the Sunderland teams of yesterday. In the last 10 years, who can honestly say that we have progressed to a level that the fans deserve? 

In recent times, large injections of money have been pumped into Premier League teams as a ‘route one’ pathway to success. Man City are probably the most notorious example; boasting a massive overall of their mid-table squad, and within a few years clinching the Premier League title. As seasons have passed us by, the ‘big boys’ have never been satisfied, only to splash more and more funds on their star-studded squads that dominated nearly every team outside of the top 5. However, in recent seasons a revolutionary era has came about. Leicester - who lead by example – are now inspiring teams like themselves to revolt against the dominance of finance from the top teams. Finally I can say that Sunderland seem to be catching onto this trend from our last three outings against Man City, Liverpool and Man Utd.

Saturday’s game was a great moment for the lads. It goes without saying that under Louis Van Gaal, Manchester United are a fragile mess. What made me ecstatic on Saturday afternoon, was that our team knew this. Man United were there for the taking; monotonously trying to play possession football across their backline to assert their dominance and let us know that we were in a game with ‘Manchester United’. We came out flying, the fighting spirit was there, and everyone could see that a missing ingredient from the past few years may be finally sparking in our playing: desire. Too many times as supporters have we witnessed our player's lack of belief and confidence in their own ability. After the last 3 games, how can I not pray that the tide is finally turning on Wearside?

Our new acquisitions were absolutely top draw. A correlating factor through many recent Sunderland teams is that we are never clinical enough when we are presented with ‘half chance’ opportunities. This is where I feel our fortunes are finally changing. Wahbi Khazri’s set pieces are hit with so much venom that I actually get excited when we’re awarded a corner now. How many times in the past can you honestly say that we’ve looked dangerous from corners? Not only does Khazri’s deliveries cause an immense amount of panic for the opposition, but the fact that we have an absolute unit in Kone clamming to get on the end of them really strikes up some excitement around the ground at any dead ball opportunities.

Let’s start in goal. Vito Mannone is a good keeper, let’s make no mistake about that. His shot stopping is great, and his athleticism is undeniably better than Pantilimon’s. However, I can’t help but feel that we have a better young lad sitting on the bench. For me, Mannone seems to be a bit quiet, and doesn’t ooze confidence around the ground. Pickford is from Washington. Sunderland football club pours through his veins. Ability and passion will be between the sticks on a Saturday. I can imagine him like a young Kaspar Schmeichel. Lots of tenacity, flair and exceptional distribution, but also loud and dominant from his box.

In terms of our overall performance, it was extremely encouraging. Van Aanholt is now fully submerged in excellent form. Alongside Khazri, our left flank is a weapon to fear for most teams! The Defence as a whole looks solid, and with Kaboul still to come back, we have solid means for rotation and competition in all areas. Unfortunately, I think Billy Jones may be out of the team for the rest of the season, granted that Yedlin stays fit. A right back signing would have cemented a great January transfer window if a deal had gone through. He’s put in a decent shift for the lad’s since he’s been here, but over the long haul, his natural ability is under a level which our team requires to progress to the next level. It has to be said that M’vila is our main architect, and with his recent comments about his desire to stay at the club if we secure Premier League status, we have to jump on this opportunity to build a team around such a gifted player. After a nervous debut, Kirchhoff has really won me over in the middle of the park. His physical presence and calm nature provides reassurance for the whole team. Great signing! (Hope he’s not out too long).

I just hope for the sake of all the fans that we really can beat the drop again this season. With a fantastic manager in charge, I am confident that we have what it takes. All we need now is a little bit of consistency and to actually dominate the teams around us. We have the ability, and hopefully now the self belief. Haway the lads!

Huw Smith

Dear ALS

If any player has a bad review on here please remember the vast majority of us fans are behind you.

The latest player to get criticised is Billy Jones. I hope Billy takes JOS as an example and shows his true worth. When JOS is finished he will take some replacing, I hope our supporters understand that.

By the way well done PVA another much maligned player. I've singled out these 3 and hope they've shown anyone else in the side that we are behind you.

Harry
Spennymoor
68 Years a Supporter

Dear ALS

I think a player's statue at the SOL is a nice idea. However, not many people under the age of 50 would have seen Charlie play, so don't you think it would be nice to include him in with a players statue, one that that could include for example Raich, Shackleton, Hurley, Monty, Philips and Ball. This would enable far more fans to be able to talk about the statue and the people on it. Some might say why Kevin Ball, as Sunderland supporters I don't think I need to explain!

Another person who really does deserve a statue and all fans can say thank you, is Bob Murray, and again I need not say why. He is so well thought of, that the FA put him in charge of the England training ground St George and the SOL has been the blue print for many new grounds after ours.

Yours faithfully
Carolyn Smith

Dear ALS

Wasn't it Stephen "Fatty" Taylor who said a couple of seasons ago that he thought no Sunderland player was good enough to get into the Newcastle team? Well now he is back in that "superb" team after injury I wonder if he still feels the same. Since Fatty's fatuous comments they have "improved" their squad by well over a nine-figure sum this season and I wouldn't give you tuppence for any of them - particularly the defenders. Taylor is looking especially inept. He was like a Pantomime dame on Saturday, his skirts flapping and his legs crossing with Costa, Pedro, Willian and then even Trarore having the Newcastle fans shouting "He's behind you" all the way through the game.

Sunderland on the other hand looked really sharp and solid, without their having had a fraction of the Mages expenditure being spent on the team. As always it is Quality and not Quantity that counts and Kashri, Kirchhoff and Kone look world class. I just hope we can keep them fit and injury free because it's definitely looking like a corner has been turned with Big Sam's six wins (now five wins) target just about feasible.

It was days like Saturday that (almost) make all the hardships worthwhile.

Cheers
Alan Fenwick

Dear ALS

I must admit to have been Patrick Van Arnholt's biggest critic earlier in the season but what a transformation over recent weeks.

A few months ago I went to a seminar at the SOL and when the receptionist asked why I was there I said "I am from Real Madrid and I am here to sign Patrick Van Arnholt." He replied "The white van will be here in ten minutes, just wait there!"

That just about summed him up but  his burst of goals and attacking play that  has lit up recent games was topped off with an excellent performance against the team that used to be Manchester United. He even looked good in defence so I will eat humble pie and applaud his effort. Most players would have just wilted under the weight of abuse and criticism but full marks to him for bouncing back.

Say it quietly but Sunderland seem to have bought well in the window, it's a long time since those words were in the same sentence so maybe another great escape is possible thanks to large Mr Allardyce.

John Robson

Dear ALS

I think we should just usurp Robbie Fowler’s nickname of ‘Mr Marmite’ for Fabio Borini. Like the yeast based spread I have a big soft spot for Borini. Ok, he hasn’t scored many goals but that’s because the poor bloke spends half of his time haring back to provide cover for Van Anholt. He’s a striker for God’s sake! How many of our other strikers do (or did) that much tracking back? To all of his critics I would say who else from the current squad would you have play there? Lens? Johnson? Do me a favour.

Sobs did indeed get it right in his Man City match report (as he often does). Borini always puts in a shift, that’s the least we can ask for and it isn’t always offered by the likes of say, Johnson, Lens or Tiovonen. To the Borini knockers I’d say be careful what you wish for. Who are you going to play in his place? The team which started the second half against City is probably the strongest we can field from our current squad. The case for the defence rests.

GDB
Harrogate


Dear ALS

Sob’s match report from last night correctly says that Borini was a willing worker whereas Lens was not.

True, but unfortunately we need more than that to survive and prosper in the Premier League. Borini is a waste of space and has produced almost nothing in terms of effectiveness/end product since his return to Sunderland earlier this season.  This is sad given how good and popular he was while on loan a couple of seasons ago, but Sam needs to replace him in the side with someone who can actually trouble defences and help Defoe create the space and chances to score.

Michael
London

Dear ALS

Well having just read numerous letters about the plight of yet another season fighting for survival, I could not resist in adding my own opinion to the mix. I have followed the lads for over 50 years now, first going when I was two and have seen the red and whites on 64 grounds up and down the country from my home in Leicester, having moved here when me dad was made redundant on the shipyards in the 60's.

Having just had to give up my season ticket last season to look after my old man who has Parkinson's and Dementia, I am an armchair supporter for the time being via Sky and BT Sport, rip off but only way to keep a track of the lads.

So what's wrong with Sunderland, now and over the years ever since Reidy departed?

1. Scouting and transfer policy. Big Sam's sorting that one for the good, now he has full control.

2. Bring on the kids. What's the point of having a great academy if you don't blood the youngsters, but Big Sam's sorting that one out too.

3. Making SOL a fortress again like it used to be. I don't think us supporters, as fantastic as we are help, arriving late, going early. Yet away from home we don't, so that's up to us, no matter how crap the traffic or how far you have to travel (in my case 360 miles for a home game) stay until the end no matter what!

4. We don't play tippy tappy football. Sam understands this, we want excitement, get the ball forward, high pressure and 100 % each and every game. Players that live, breath and die for the team, stand up Catts! Those that don't Sam will see through it and you will be on your bike.

5. Ellis, if you want a Rolls Royce don't buy a mini and dress it up and call it a Rolls you only get what you pay for! When you're long gone, and packed your own Rolls away us hardy souls, our sons and daughters and theirs will all be still stood on the terraces following and backing our love. SAFC.

So, in Sam, big mate of PR, we should trust, even if we go down, just like we did under Reidy, Sam's the man who can.

Keep the faith and you never know we could do a Leicester!

Mackemgaz
Leicester

Dear ALS

Just wanted to say that I thought Eddie's letter just about nailed things for me. It's us older lags who can see what the game has now spiralled into and how it will never again represent what it once proudly stood for.

The shocking reality to this scandalous state of affairs is that we continue to gather, like moths, at the SOL bulb, knowing full well (pun unintended) that we are being well and truly shafted both on and off the pitch. It defies logic but is beyond our control because we all suffer from the same collective addiction/madness.

When an addiction prevails someone will eventually exploit that weakness and get very rich out of it and that is precisely what has happened. Sure, we are mugs at SAFC and we know it but basically all football supporters are fair game for exploitation and betrayal by the 'movers and shakers' under this callous system of monumental greed and racy commercialism.

Being totally blinded by my undying love for SAFC is the ultimate folly I know but if we beat Man City on Tuesday night I won't give a toss about any of the above devilment. Nor will you, and that's the problem.

Pete, 'Down South

Hello all at ALS

Have been reading the letters page for a while now (as I always do) and can see that not many are coming through, supporters fed up maybe?

I was going to contribute earlier in the season but needed time to reflect on the tenure of Dick Advocaat and where do we go from there. I can only come to the conclusion that Dick quickly realised he could take the club no further, therefore got out before he was sacked. With his experience, winning mentality and football knowledge I was sure he would be the manager to take the club forward at last. When he left I just felt completely lost. Maybe I just got sick and tired of the never ending managerial merry-go-round.

I wasn't keen on Sam coming to the city but now realise that he was the best available at that time and I remain ever the optimist that he can keep us up. Staying in the Premiership is vital as with the obscene amount of money the Premier League will get from Sky and BT next season, to drop down a division will cause a massive drop in revenue and we may end up like Leeds, just another Championship club going nowhere.

We, the supporters, who, week in week out back the lads like nobody else can ever do deserve so much more. At the moment, for the first time ever as a Sunderland supporter (58 years now) I feel neglected and taken for granted, maybe with 45,000 + others. We are just like lambs flocking to the Stadium of Light ready for possible slaughter. It doesn't matter if the team is shite we still go week in week out hoping for the best.

The Football Association don't give a toss either. They have sold football to the Devil, Sky and BT which sickens me to the core. The club has no control over kick off times or even the day games are played. Early or ridiculously late kick off times down South beggars belief. Who cares about the supporters then?

I read about the Leeds Chairman who tried to stop Sky covering one of their recent games as it would impact on the attendance only to be threatened with some form of legal action by Sky, which forced Leeds to give in. It stinks and the FA continue to shit on us all from a great height. The people's game? You're having a laugh.

In a perverse way though, in times of trouble I just love SAFC more. It's just in my heart and it won't ever go away. I know it will always be like this, no matter what.

The good news is that we've made a few signings which I hope will improve matters (I would have liked us to have got Andros Townsend) and I'm cancelling my Sky TV contract.

Happy days
Take care all at ALS
Eddie the sheep
Wirral

Dear ALS

I decided to go a few miles to watch the U21's take on Man Utd at Leigh Sports Village ground last night, free entry, nice seats, good view and only spoiled by the green rugby league lines on the pitch.

The boys were up against a United side that included Adnan Januzaj, Will Keane and Andreas Pereira. I was impressed by the full backs especially the left back who kept tabs on Januzaj. Mandron was good upfront but needed more help from the centre midfield. Sunderland nearly equalised close to end but for the backside of a United player. A thoroughly entertaining match and Sunderland are still at the top of their league table.

Perhaps Sam should take another look at the U21's for some options for the first team, what about their back four to replace the present failing defence.

Michael (Jarrow lad)

Dear Fellow Mackems

When your back is against the wall, and you are staring into the abyss, but the chance to redeem the situation is to buy some talent that may well reverse the fortunes, what do you do?

Do you spend £12 million on a player who puts in a match winning performance and creates the two assists that lead to the winning goals, or do you spend £750k on a player who comes on a makes a complete arse of himself in the 20 odd minutes he had to make a first impression? It is simple, pay peanuts and you know what you will get.

So is Ellis Short serious about our situation? Does he believe we will pull a rabbit out of the hat again? Is he aware that next seasons TV money will create a bridge between those in or out of the PL that will become increasingly harder to cross?

I know that there will be the usual “Fair Play” excuse, but how can those lot up the road spend what they do, and the multiples of the salaries, and it's not a problem for them, but we seem to have to scrabble around finding potentials/has been’s/never where or will be's to try and survive. I do not get it and would love someone at the club to produce an idiots guide to our situation!

KTF

Dear ALS

Having attended both the Arsenal and Spurs games I am struck by the similarities. Score first then lose in typical 'melt-down' Sunderland style (remember Everton 6-2?)

Also, what on earth was the tactical justification for playing Danny Graham in a wide position? He's useless there. Can't tackle or track back. Doesn't get forward often enough. It's like having ten men. Why wasn't Borini on against Spurs or Fletcher? At least they carry a goal threat. Also, in both games the substitutions failed miserably. What do managers see in Rodwell? He's useless has no impact on the game and lacks a presence. Forget him. He's an expensive flop.

Whilst I applaud the Jordan Pickford introduction I can't help but feel it has distracted from the bigger picture of a team that lacks resilience and increasingly looks doomed.

Dare I suggest that Shelvey would have been the ideal buy? Think about it. Shelvey or Rodwell. Answers on the back of a cigarette packet as they used to say.

Maxi

Dear ALS

Daft question time. Why are we so clueless at throw ins?


Every time we get one no-one looks as though they want the ball. Or is it a cunning plan by Big Sam to waste a bit of time in each game? After all, whilst someone like Billy Jones is standing poised on the touchline looking futilely for someone to throw the ball to, it kills a few valuable seconds and the opposition can’t score if the ball is not in play can they? They say Sam is tactically very shrewd don’t they?

Confused (and depressed) of Harrogate

Dear ALS

In the United States the National Football League have, a salary cap, merchandise profits which are shared across the league and the lowest team gets the first pick of the college players the following season.

We on the other hand have four or five megabuck teams who can buy regardless of cost, can fill their substitute benches with superstars and can pay them £100,000 plus per week.

In a sane world we should tell these teams to f*** off and play elsewhere and invite teams like Hull, Middlesbrough, Brighton and others to take the place of the teams which with the help of Sky are killing the game of football.

Terry Reilly
Burgess Hill
Sussex

Dear ALS

Defoe for an England recall? I really can't see the point in this (from a Sunderland point of view).

Who does this benefit? Is JD really the future of England at his age? I think not. Surely, JD would be better not playing extra games (yes, he's still fit, but is in his 30's) but concentrating keeping injury free and keeping Sunderland out of the dreaded Championship.

Do most Sunderland fans really care about the fortunes of the England side? I doubt it! Rest when you can Jermain, and score as many as you can for the red and whites - that's all that's matters.

Dave from Bath

David

Understand entirely your views; however the finances of football these days don't allow you to drop down a division and find your level for a few years before dreaming again.

However, my main point was at Swansea last night, all the shite that we put up with was firmly put to one side in the second half and to a man and woman, we all knew why we keep the faith. At half time, 2-1 down, having two beers downstairs, as missed Defoe's first goal due to the traffic from Reading to Swansea (4 hours), was speaking to a young Mackem in his 70's who said he boarded the bus in Sunderland at 10am and got there at 7pm and by my estimate would get back to home at about 5am in the morning, but he said if we win will be all worthwhile.

Don't think that would be same if we were playing Brentford in the Championship?

Keep the faith and let's hang on to the top league as long as we can. Maybe Sam will get it right and actually get us mid table in a year or two.

Enjoy the good times, there ain't many
Kept the Faith
Mackem Paul

Dear ALS

As a lifelong Sunderland fan does it really matter if we were to be relegated at the end of the season? In recent seasons I have found myself becoming bored with football in the Premier League. Whether this is because of Sunderland's constant struggle to stay in there or other factors I'm not sure 

Players in the Premier League, in general, don't really care about the club, its heritage, the fans and just move on the football merry go round quite frequently when offered an increase in wages with not a lot of loyalty shown.

Supporting a club in my opinion is not about winning things, it's the area I'm from. In days gone by buses from the Co Durham mining villages would take supporters through to the old Roker Park and there was a connection between players and fans. Sadly this connection is dwindling as money and ego trips take over. People say you've got to be in the Premier League as that's where the money is, but that statement itself is a sad indictment of the way football has sadly gone.

I actually find myself jealous of Chesterfield fans or a Bury supporters, for them it seems so more simple and refreshing to support your local club. If we were to be relegated I will actually look forward to away trips to Sheff Wed, Huddersfield Preston and the like.

In fact one of the most enjoyable seasons in recent times was when we were in the old Third Division, going to places like Mansfield and Port Vale and taking over the ground. Some people may think I'm crazy for these opinions, but I'm really sick of the fake football being served up in the most hyped up league in the world.

David Fenwick 

Dear ALS

Am I missing something? Did not our manager not tell us we could expect some major signings in the January window?

So far we've signed a Bayern Munich reserve who appears to be injury prone and untested and now I see we are linked with N'Doye who was sold by Hull City and who has failed to score whilst he has been in Turkey.

I am desperately worried for our great club. Mr Short must realise that without major investment we are doomed. I worry about where he is taking us. We need to be in the Premier League next season or otherwise I believe we will be in the wilderness for years. Quincy please come back and help us out of this terrible predicament we are in. We need an owner who cares about the club. Thankfully we haven't got an Ashley but we must have some serious money pumped in to the club.

KTF
Phil From Bridgnorth

Dear ALS

If the reports about SAFC pulling the plug on the transfer of Lamine Kone from Lorient are true then our directors should hang their heads in shame.

Is this Ellis Short not wanting to spend any money again?. It seems we backed out after signing Jan from Munich for a knock down fee of less than 3 weeks wages for players like Wayne Rooney etc. The reports are not being denied by the club so it is probably true. How can we attract players if we treat people like this?

We will never get out of trouble if we try to do it on the cheap.

George Davis
South Wales

Dear ALS

The January transfer window has opened. Feeling kind of optimistic with out first signing I looked him up on Tinternet.

Here is a link that you may find of interest

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2410474-jan-kirchhoff-what-happened-to-bayern-munichs-schalke-loanee

Great!
Kind Regards
Dr Alan Blackburn

Dear ALS

Ellis Short dallied with the Director of Football model after consultations with others involved in the game.

In October, The Chronicle reported. "Few on Wearside will mourn the passing of the abortive director of football experiment. The reasoning behind Short’s decision to put the structure in place was sound enough, he wanted more continuity after growing tired of seeing successive managers arrive demanding wholesale changes to the squad. Unfortunately, there has been no continuity at all. In the two years since Sunderland implemented the system, however, they have gone through two directors of football, three managers and umpteen players have come and gone."

I wonder how costly this experiment was for Short and, more importantly, SAFC? I have lost count of the number of new arrivals at the club since De Fanti arrived. Did the sale of Wickham, Gardner, Sessegnon, Mignolet, Campbell, Bardsley, and other competent players pay for the dross we bought?

Michael (A Jarrow Lad)

Dear ALS

There's a slim chance of anything to cheer us at the end of the season. The same old failings remain: managers come and go, but the team doesn’t change much.

A porous defence and a toothless attack are characteristics deeply ingrained into the team these days. Soccer’s simple in principle: defenders stop the other team from scoring, attackers score goals. Just something Sunderland can’t do.

We might get something in the transfer window, but who would really want to play for us, apart from a fat pay packet? I’ve said for years that there’s something wrong in the culture at the club which needs to be addressed, or we’ll be doing a Leeds United, or a Portsmouth. This present team would struggle in the Championship, or Division 1. Bring on Doncaster Rovers! I just hope I’m being over pessimistic.

All the best,
Dave Frill
Sheffield

Dear ALS

It seems to me no matter what manager comes in the outcome will be the same. So we have to acknowledge that most of the players are not up to standard and probably most are Championship average standard apart from one or two maybe three.

The owner has to take the blame. He is the third richest man in the UK with revenue from big crowds and TV money. Where is his vision to build a great team, where is his desire to bring in players who are winners. Big Sam is on a hiding to nothing right from the start. He will probably get a few loan signings who will also lack the desire and passion to keep this great club up. We should be renamed Groundhog AFC. Same thing over and over again.

With Regards
Phil Marrineur

Happy New Year ALS,

Einstein said that insanity was ' 'doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results'.

Appointing a series of managers with a few months to pull off some sort of miracle at SAFC is flying in the face of the evidence provided by Wenger and Ferguson, even if we don't remember Nicholson, Shankley, Busby and other ancients. Except that each incoming short-term miracle worker has a more difficult task than his predecessor because he has to deal with the burden of a set of poorly selected recent arrivals not selected by him. Think Graham, Roberge, Bridcutt, Lens and Buckley for some recent examples. Instant success is not possible under these circumstances.

I'll give Sam until the end of February by which time he will have scrambled to attract some good and some not so good players to the squad. Will his successor like them all? Probably not. Will we avoid relegation? Probably not. We can't keep defying gravity, even Newton knew that. Oh, that's Bob Newton by the way (Hartlepool United in the 1970s) not Isaac.

Regards
Dave
Oxford

Dear ALS

Firstly a Happy New Year to everyone associated with "the lads" we require only one New Year wish to come true don't we?

I was interested in what Sam had to say about foreign managers and I have to say he makes an interesting point. The game is in some sort of crisis in the U.K when clubs, apparently immediately, think of a foreign coach to sort their problems. The problem will be difficult to resolve as the Premier League is only interested in how much money it can screw from the viewing public and the F.A. are perennially ineffectual. They always are following their abbreviated title by habitually doing FA whatever the crisis. After all it took the United States to confront FIFA and God bless America for it so what chance does the English game have of effecting meaningful change in this area?


Malcolm Pearson

Dear ALS Faithful

Well, let's hope 2016 is going to be better? 

But you know what they say about hope? (It breeds eternal misery)

The Players and Board Room Staff can stick your apologies where the sun doesn't shine. Sick of the copy and paste reviews and interviews from the "team" after the games, it's been the same since Bruce left, talking to a few of you last night on Twitter, all were in agreement: all we want is a performance and a team to be proud, not this embarrassing sack of shit we have now.

So many of us now dread each game because we know what is coming, we know what "level" of performance we will see from the so called "professionals".

The thing is, it is no longer embarrassing, it is just painful. There is no pride or passion in the team any more.

I think this year we will go down, let's be honest we have been dicing with this for a while now and in January we will sell a few assets for "funds", I fear that we won't strengthen correctly during this window, we need at least 4/5 in, mostly defenders, and possibly a winger to replace AJ (as we could lose him).

To the 45K there last night, bravo you all deserve some sort of medal from the Queen, well we all do.

People are saying that the team and season under Wilkinson was worse than this? Nah it's not, at least that team tried, they gave some kind of effort in each game.

Just remember guys," Things can only get better"
Trying to keep the Faith
Hannah Brown

Dear ALS

I think everyone is frustrated with where we continually find ourselves, but we’ve got to get the wheels back on the road and I think Sam’s the man to do it. But he needs however long it takes and I’m getting fed up with the likes of the people who sit behind me - they resemble the Clampett family, who’ve already started slagging him off.

We need to get something into perspective here. Allardyce is trying to save a club that has been incompetently managed at a grand scale and I’m not talking about Keane, Bruce, O’Neill, Di Canio, Poyet, Advocaat, Allardyce, etc, etc, it’s the Board that need to be the focus of our attention. They should be responsible for building a fabric that holds our club together, a vision, a methodology, direction, leadership, ownership, motivation, innovation, but what the f**k are they doing? Jack s**t.

We need people at board level who are more interested in building a sustainable football model that is less reliant on the manager and who are prepared to stand up and be counted for doing it rather than the ones we’ve got who quietly make a lot of money shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Phil in Leeds

Dear ALS

How do clubs not as big as Sunderland can do so well is a frustrating mystery?

Leicester (rock bottom a year ago), Saints (almost went bankrupt), Crystal palace, Watford. Even Bournemouth all look better than us. Here we are looking for the 4th Great Escape in a row. Something seems to happen to good players when they join Sunderland; desire and professionalism go out of the window. Recent managers have all said there is something wrong at this club.

Mr Short has to take some of the blame, I think, with some strange decisions. The appointment of di Canio was of course bizarre, but to allow him to create the mess that he did and sell our best attacking player to West Brom and then sack him three days later, that still makes me fume. I’m tired of hearing idiots on 5 Live make jokes about Sunderland, but you can’t really blame them. It looks like Sam will have to build from the Championship, or whatever it’s called next.

Just like Villa, our time is up.

Regards
Gordon Lilley
Ottawa

Dear ALS

We are a complete disgrace. We are constantly subject to increasing levels of humiliation by toothless and inept performances courtesy of too many over paid lethargic players. We have the worst reputation and record of any PL club.

The jellyneck players who are guilty of not giving 100% commitment and fight on the pitch each and every game do not deserve the support of us supporters nor our sympathies.

SAFC is on Skid Row, a short-sighted, hapless club lacking both ambition and quality.

This current squad is uninspired and has no belief in themselves. They know full well they are playing for a desperate club devoid of direction, fighting spirit and confidence.

Shearer rightly describes us as a soft touch, Big Sam said we were scared of our own shadows against Chelsea and then confessed we needed to show more steel yesterday at City. You know, even if you are a shite player, you can still make things difficult for the opposition by allowing them no time on the ball, you can keep on closing them down, snapping at their heels instead of falling off and giving them space and time to create and then punish you. You can run yourself into the ground and never give up. You can throw your body full on to get in a crucial block, instead of flinching sideways to avoid getting hurt (PVA) That at least would be something to applaud.

I used to be so proud to be a Sunderland fan from east London, proud to wear the colours and traipse around the country to give support to a club I love even if my emotions and reasoning for doing so was blinded by some unfathomable and obscure loyalty.

I'm no turncoat. I will still be there and I remain Sunderland til I die. You have to take the rough with the smooth, right? But my pride as a true fan has been severely battered and I don't like that. I want you players to be offended by my damning criticism, so go prove me wrong. I'm asking for every player to now fight like never before to save our club. Be prepared to give your absolute all on the pitch.

To every player - believe in yourself. Do not give up, ever. It is not too late to restore pride. Show fighting spirit against Liverpool, you can do it. Believe, believe, and believe, it's the only way.

Pete Sarfas
Southend

Dear ALS

Unfortunately it is now unacceptable.

Those giving faith to something that no longer matters should really turn around. Believe in family, friends and your God. I struggle with so much stuff and this has let me down. Nobody at SAFC knows who I am. You deserve nothing from me. Goodbye.

Stephen O'Flaherty

Dear ALS

Various TV pundits have once again raised the possibility of Ryan Shawcross playing for England. Maybe they should look at any available footage of the Sunderland v Stoke match for a couple of minutes from when Duncan Watmore came on.

Watmore ran to take up his position about a yard in front of Shawcross. Shawcross immediately stepped forward and, with both hands, pushed Watmore in the back. He did this a further two or three times, all before the match was restarted. Shawcross was clearly trying to illegally intimidate and bully the youngster.

Do we really want to condone this kind of "football" by letting this thug represent our country?

Bill Harris

Dear ALS

The press coverage of the Arsenal game was very comprehensive, what impressed me was the description of Sunderland as “a well drilled defence” and “an attack which is capable of scoring goals.”

Big Sam is definitely making an impression and I for one am very optimistic about the remainder of the season. If Mr Allardyce is allowed two or three quality signings in the January transfer window I believe that we will end up above the bottom three and survive.

Terry Reilly
Burgess Hill Sussex

Dear ALS

I'm on holiday and just read Big Sam's autobiography in two days. I liked it, whilst accepting he is going to accentuate the positive, if he can do like he did at West Ham i.e. get them up and consolidate, then I'm pretty sure we won't complain whether the ball has 20 passes or 3 before it goes in the other goal.

On the negatives he opens it with turning the Sunderland job down, and hasn't accepted the job by the end. He's got a bit of a dicky ticker and his Mrs wanted him to pack in at 55 as he promised, we all promise things that's 10 years away!

But hey he's won three out of 6, (including the extremely lucky ,was never a 3-0 , annual beating of the Scum)and should have had a point at West Brom, used to play for us, is mates with Reidy, so let's enjoy Sunday out of the relegation zone.

Mackem Paul

Dear ALS

With the continued decline of the player's performances (with the exception of one or two like Fletcher and M’Villa) we have to face facts that we have one of the poorest and unbalanced squads since the Wilkinson era. The only reason to analyse this further is to ensure we do not allow it to happen again, any other reason is now pointless, a bit like our recent run of form!

What Big Sam is doing is experimenting to try and see if there is any system he can employ, with the squad he has at his disposal, to make sure that we can at best stay in touch with 17th 16th and 15th placed teams so that when he goes to the January window he has a story to sell to any potential players who fancy a relegation battle and the glory that surely is there if we can ever get a semblance of stability and structure together! That is what I believe, to keep me motivated, but what I can’t believe or understand is that why we do not see more of our U21’s being introduced.

I know there is a big difference between the Premier League and the U21’s in terms of demand, physicality and skill levels, but please, someone tell me that the current young crop who are playing so well and getting plaudits for their performance, could not do a better job, or put in more effort than the current first team squad?

Watmore did not have a great game on Saturday, but is this a reflection on him or those around him? Is our current back four so much better than the Robson, Ledgers or Brady’s of this world? I played professional rugby and I do not believe that the argument based on putting pressure on young shoulders could harm or damage them, the only thing they will do is learn and progress, some at different speeds and levels than others, but one thing for sure, they will bring some passion and bite back and energy that looks lacking in the team we see week in week out.

I can’t see a positive future without really developing those who come through our ranks. We don’t have the budget or reputation to attract the types of players we need to get us out of the shit we are in, but if we gain a reputation as a place that develop, grows and bloods young talent then will survive and thrive.

We need to follow the lead of Swansea, and Southampton. Don’t tell me this is not the way we should go when the last five seasons live as painful reminders of the groundhog era that seems to go on and on and on!

Alex Campbell

Dear ALS,

The turning in point for Sunderland in my mind has been the sale of Darren Bent. Not my favourite player but he scored all our goals and we did win some matches.

This I feel was the turning point for both Sunderland and Bent. Both have gone steadily downhill since that date. We have been plagued by signings that have failed to produce.

This season may have gone unless Sam performs another miracle escape. I have confidence in him to sort us out and if we do survive it will be his greatest achievement. Let's give him our full support. We have nothing to lose now.

Peter
Somerset

Dear ALS

Another Saturday, another loss. What’s to be done? I think the recent managers can be exonerated for the state of the club. Whilst managers have exited Sunderland’s revolving door, the team has changed more slowly. Is there trouble in the dressing room? Is the club badly run? Are the players not up for it? Sam Allardyce, even though he knows the club, must wonder what he’s walked into. He is a modern manager, well up in Sports Science and so on, but all who follow Sunderland must know that there’s something wrong at the club which sacking managers has not cured.

Basically, football is a simple enough game, although the tactics are very complex. But when a team has the ball, it has to use it to score goals when it can. When opponents have the ball, it needs to be taken off them before they score. It’s probably nothing like as simple as that though.

As far as this season’s results go, it’s obvious that if there isn’t a remarkable turnaround, Sunderland will be struggling in the Championship next season. It seems to me that the players aren’t really up for it - Sam has remarked on their fragile states of mind. With their wages they have no right to be fragile. Then there have been poor signings and one wonders if any decently ambitious players would want to come to the SoL as things are. But somebody needs to take a close look at this club and find out why it’s so dysfunctional on the field. I think it goes beyond poor players and poor signings. If there really is trouble at t’ mill it needs to be identified and soon.

Dave from Sheffield

Dear ALS,

Allardyce is the one most of us wanted so I think we have to cut him some slack & trust he'll come good - the booing when Fletcher got replaced with Rodwell wasn't productive. It looks like he's experimenting with players, but it concerns me that he's used Lens/Larsson very sparingly & in my view he needs to be using every asset at his disposal to get us out of our annual survival battle. Once we're safe he's more than welcome to fall out with players that have bad attitudes but in the meantime he needs to utilise all his man management skills to get everyone pulling together. More of a concern to me is our general approach to the last 2 home games - I thought we'd see much more energy from the team & more pressing but it's exactly the opposite. I had such high hopes that things may be turning after that 1st half against West Ham.

For me the challenge he has like all managers before him is the players ability/attitudes - like turning Stephen Fletcher into a proper centre forward - he's slow, lightweight, hasn't got a right foot, earns a fortune & was powder puff against Fonte/Van Dyk and it was no sunrise we spent all day in our own half - conceding so much possession in your own half is asking a lot of your defence & in our case it usually leads to the inevitable. If Allardyce plans to play the way he's doing he needs a much better outlet. At one point didn't we have Fletcher/Johnson up front? Probably the slowest partnership in the Prem! When you're trying to break out of your own half? My advice to Allardyce would be play Borini as a number 9, you just have to look at how he played Kompany/DiMichaelis in the Cap1 Final for his goal.

Phil In Leeds

Dear ALS

Quietest letters page for years.

Resigned dignified distinctive inevitability for the Drop maybe.

Dr Jekyll =

Dear ALS

My name is Lee Barry Clattermolus, commander of the red and white army of the north. General of the felix Black Cat legions, and loyal servant to our true leader... the Sunderland fans.

Slayer of treacherous ginger haired thieving Magpies and I shall have my vengeance in this Derby match and the next.

Veni, vidi, vici

Dear ALS,

I was driving from Dublin to Cork for the early kick off reminiscing about fond memories of G Force scoring v same opponents in the 1990 play offs and then celebrating 6 in a row at Cork's Jazz festival.

Of course while Sunday's result was magnificent and all the more incredible considering what happened in the first 44 minutes, I do hope we don't do our traditional week on week off stuff after Derby matches.

Dear Sam, just pick 14 guys who are committed to running their hearts out for the Everton match.

All players should be recovered to put in a decent shift v Southampton

Best
JJ Tipperary

Dear ALS

I am currently writing a pub quiz for a bar in France. Perhaps you can help me decide which category the following question should go into: General Knowledge, How Many?, History or Sport.


Q. Out of the last 6 matches between Sunderland and Newcastle, how many have Sunderland won?
A. 6
Thank you in advance for your help

Chris Pearson, Le Mans

Dear ALS,

So we have indeed appointed one of the “failures” listed in my last letter as our new manager. Well, I wish him the very best and do hope that he will keep us in the Premier League.

But right now, it appears to me that we have followed the same old recipe. Somebody who, hopefully will keep us up for the next two years. And then?

There is a lack of ambition at our club. A manager who will win us the Premiership or take us into the top four and into Europe or even the top half of the table? No. Instead we go for someone who may just keep us up if we are lucky, keeping in mind that even if we win the next two games, we will likely still be in a relegation spot. No joy again for us this season then.

I hope that I am proven completely wrong. But I am not holding my breath.

Westlondonmackem

Dear ALS

I see we're trying to become the most popular Premier League team in Africa, according to the BBC website. I think we should try for being the most popular team in Sunderland first and worry about Africa later.


But perhaps it's too early to judge. Let's give Sam his 30 games in charge and have another look then. In the meantime, come on RCA.

Dave
Oxford

Dear ALS

Go on Sam

Make part of my dream come true, bring SuperKev in as your no 2. 

Clive
North Yorkshire

Dear ALS

Last week I wrote that I had enough and it was finito.

Sorry, but I lied. What do you expect after 70 years of ups and downs? It's like a drug.

I've watched some of the greatest footballers the world has ever witnessed, Shack, Charlie,Cannonball Fleming, Greavesie, Moore, Eusebio, Mitchell, Maplin, Bingham, Mulhall, Baxter, little Ernie Taylor, Nicky( best header of a ball I ever saw) Lofthouse, a whole Brazil team, Gerd Muller, and yet I will still go down to watch our under 21's.

I must be mad, but, I still want our team to be the best, well, hope is eternal.

To this end I have decide it was time to give our new Supremo a helping hand, by spelling out what he's in for.

I watched him play for us many years ago, and though one couldn't call him spectacular, he was an honest solid dependable defender, - oh boy how we could use someone like that right now.

Here's my contribution, and all I hope is that it helps him to turn this club around

Dear Mr Allardyce

Welcome, welcome, welcome to the best opportunity you will ever have to become either a legend with his own statue outside a great football ground or to dig yourself a hole to oblivion.

The dice have been cast - obviously red ones with white spots - and now the hard bit starts.

First and foremost I think it would be wise for you to have a few surreptitious words with the last three or four poor souls who helped to polish the seat you are now occupying, Paolo being the most honest of all. Far too honest for his own good especially considering the fact that the press vultures were tearing bits out of him before he'd even set foot in the door. And I'm sure you are wise and old enough to ignore some of the ridiculous lies that were emanating from discontents about him.

He notably identified a number of rogue elements among the staff/team he inherited and was planning to rid the club of these individuals. Unfortunately they appear to have had more pull with the clubs autocratic leaders and they did to Paolo what Brutus did to Caesar, - so beware the ides of any month and don't turn your back on them.

Not so very long ago, after a particularly horrendous showing on the field by our "team" Mr Advocaat appeared at a press conference and decided that he couldn't justify what we had all witnessed and he told the truth, all of which was confirmed by modern stats.

One individual had failed to beat their defence, not even once, and as the main provider of crosses he failed to supply even one single pass to his own teammates He was substituted at half time. Others' inadequacies were also highlighted. The truth again. But, and here is the relevant part, every passionate Sunderland supporter knew that Mr Advocaat's days as a manager were numbered when a press report was leaked by this toxic clique saying that they were "miffed" that these criticisms had been aired on national TV and papers.

Miffed? Miffed? They should have been crawling on their hands and knees over broken glass begging for forgiveness for the crap they had given us on that day.

I obviously don't know how much you have seen of our "teams". I use apostrophes because collective responsibility doesn't seem to have filtered through to their thinking, so they are not a team yet, but the basic elements are there, as long as we can stop these inmates from running the asylum, and allowing managers and coaches to get on with their job.

What we need and unfortunately don't have in abundance are individuals with some moral fibre, who are passionate about football, who are not going to sit on their backsides week after week, saying 'ta very much for all this lovely lolly. They know it all and nothing you or I can say will alter their self deluded arrogance. Cross them at your peril and they will drag you down given half a chance. Your only strategy is to insist on having the Sunderland hierarchy back you all the way, no matter what the cost. This clique needs to be isolated, sidelined and unceremoniously booted out.

The good news however is the fact that hidden in this club are some potentially excellent players who are crying out for some strong leadership, and a chance to show what they can do, without their efforts being undermined by the lazy incompetence of a small number of their teammates.

I hope you have surrounded yourself with some good coaches because in my opinion that is where there will have to be some major changes.

I hope you don't share the same philosophy as Malcolm McDonald. I had a stand-up argument with him some time ago about coaching modern day footballers. It is my contention that too many footballers let themselves down in not knuckling down to learning the simple basic requirements needed to be a good footballer, like learning how to kick a ball, how to pass a ball, how to trap a ball, how to tackle properly.

Malcolm maintained that these people were full professional footballers and that he couldn't possibly insult them by suggesting they couldn't handle the basics. Poppycock, round dangly objects and rubbish. Cloughie did it every week and so did the great Alan Brown.

The lot you have inherited are not properly fit and some of them( including the clique who sabotaged Paolo) even hold the same ideas as Malcolm. They know it all and firmly believe that you can't teach them how to play football.

Today's footballers need to be sharp of mind and foot, and if you are not fully 100% fit you'll be late in the tackle, you'll fail to line up your foot with the ball, and send it skywards, pass the ball too short or too long. Fitness of mind and fitness of body are inseparable. Get fit practice, practice, practice and when it comes to decision making, you stand a good chance of it being right.

I don't know how many of this year's Sunderland games you have seen, but I've seen them all, and the evidence is there for all to see. Not one of them has enough puff to carry them even through 45 mins let alone 90, hence goals conceded in the last few minutes of each half.

They must be put through their paces till they can last at least 90 minutes, if not 120 minutes in case of extra time! This exercise however must not be single paced, it must be interspersed with 10, 20 and 30 yard high speed dashes, carried out properly, nothing half-hearted. They won't like it, but I feel it is absolutely essential.

Gym work is another area where changes may be necessary. Too many think that lugging around large weights will turn them into supermen. It won't. What it does is slow you down. Unless it's tempered with lighter speed work all they'll achieve is slowing their whole body down and making it liable to break down when you eventually do have to accelerate suddenly. Tendons hamstrings pulled muscles. So by all means do some heavy bar work (preferably upper body) but always finish off with lighter weights at speed. Ultra high speed work on exercise bike with minimum friction will get your legs into the habit of speed.

Ah the magic word - habit. That's what we need, a winning habit.

How do we develop a habit, any habit? By doing things again and again and again until we get it right and eventually when we have to do it in earnest our body will respond automatically. This applies to passing short or long, shooting at goal, tackling, you name it, it's there.

I watched you when you played for us in defence, and know you are savvy enough to be able to eliminate some of the criminal mistakes being made by some of our defenders( although some of these are down to lack of full fitness).

On far too many occasions they are going into the tackle aiming for the ball. Uh,uh. No. Today's game is faster now than when I use to play in the late 50's, and if you are not 100% fit you will end up late, behind the ball chopping someone's legs and being punished. Aim in front of the ball. The attacker may now trip over you , but at least the chances of crippling him will be reduced and the appearance of a yellow card will have been lessened.

The above is but a start, but turn the team around and you just might be able to sort out some of the hangers-on occupying the management seats. That, my friend, is a gargantuan task, so, best of luck

Your eternal passionate Sunderland fan

Jan

Dear ALS

I had a dream last night that I woke up to check the Echo app on my phone, with delirium I read the happy news that Niall Quinn had returned as Director of Football and immediately convinced Mr Short to re appoint Peter Reid, with Kevin Phillips as his number two.

A dream indeed, but how good would it be to have three people who actually cared about the club and its supporters running things? Ah well... back to sleep, and hope someone at the club wakes up.

On a positive note to the players, they have no reason to lack confidence when they can play like they did in the first half on Saturday, maybe they need a leader who doesn't spend every interview telling the press that they are not good enough, think Mr A's ego may have just got in the way a little.

Clive
North Yorkshire

Dear ALS

The more I think about who Sunderland should bring in as manager, now that he's free I think the club should go out of their way to hire Brendan Rodgers and stick with him. If he'd ever come that is. I used to poke fun at Rodgers actually because he seemed to have some David Brent tendencies in how he presents himself, but in recent season he really won me over with a consistent philosophy of attractive football that can win games.

To be honest I'd probably even stick with him through a relegation because the philosophy he has is that consistent about how the team should play. He seems up to the task of building a club, not just a team and that's exactly what we need.

Liverpool were utterly foolish to let him go, with the right mix of players he could've won titles with them, came very close with Suarez around. We need that sort of philosophy of winning with style, we had it under Poyet at his best and as much as I think Big Sam might bring the stability we need, we already have an issue of fans leaving early, so just imagine how much worse that might get with a long ball merchant like Allardyce in charge.

J Gannon, Ontario, Canada

Dear ALS

Aaargh. That is it. Finito, done. I have had it...

I listened with deep suspicion when our penny-pinching money-grabbing spineless, cowardly leader told the world that he thought our Dutch temporary manager was the bee’s knees, and would do anything to keep him at our beloved club. He even promised he would deliver a substantial treasure chest for him to bring in the quality players we all knew were needed

Hah!!!!!! Uriah Heep in a Stetson hat. The lying chiseling so and so. How do I know this?

Mijnheer Richard told us all last week when he let it slip - on purpose- that he was reduced to accepting whatever happened to be available, for as little as possible. So much for bringing in quality.

However, let’s be honest, going down to Blackpool and bringing back a few donkeys would have been an improvement on some of the dross on our books!

Our Texas equivalent of Scrooge maintains that he has been dipping into his pockets to subsidise our club!

Who does he think he’s kidding? It doesn’t take an international mathematical genius to work out the budgets since he stepped over the threshold. FA money, TV fortunes, gate money, merchandise money, sponsorship money, player sales (each one to the detriment of the team) plus a few more bits and bobs from various other resources.

I, with my A-level maths from 1958 have worked it out, and believe me , what we have spent is just enough to feed a small troupe of monkeys, and certainly not what is needed to maintain an adequate Premier league team.

With all the money that’s stuffed into his back pocket, he must be sitting eight feet tall in his director’s chair.

Of course this is just my feeling based on what is globally available.

To quote an American saying “The buck stops here”.

Or to put it another way, after the utter complete shambles we have all had to put up with manager after manager, the verdict is unanimous.

Mr ES, You are in over your head, you don’t know what you are doing, you are taking bad advice.

Jan Drago

Dear ALS

It must be obvious to all of us that it cannot be the fault of the seemingly endless parade of managers we have had recently that we are still at the bottom of the table. There must be a more fundamental problem with the club which means that it wouldn't matter whether the next manager was Pep Guardiola or Ancelotti or whoever the club would still be fighting relegation.

The 'Director of Football' model is a failure and must be abandoned. The Chairman is a failure and must step back (he can't go, obviously, as he is the owner). I am sure that Margaret Byrne is wonderful, but it would probably make sense to replace her with someone who has spent their life immersed in football.

I think the best thing Mr Short can is to go down on his knees and beg Niall Quinn to return as Chairman straight away and that Niall should decide who should be the next manager. Personally I would prefer Harry Redknapp to any of the other names being bandied about. He wrote a lot of sense about the problems of Sunderland and Newcastle in a Sunday paper last week and, love him or hate him, he was a successful manager and always seemed to make good signings, especially of strikers.

Here's hoping for a change for the better.

Alan Haile

Dear ALS and fellow Mackems

I do not often agree with Gary Neville, and didn’t like him as a player always looked like a school sneak to me, but never have I agreed more with him than when listening to his views on our squad of players.

He spoke like a man that not only knew what is actually going on inside our club first hand and let's face it he is mates with a few of our players, but as a fan who despaired with the behavior of his fellow professionals and the impression it created.

It is time sharpen the axe only this time it is the players who must go. With all the money at stake next season, as Chairman, Mr. Short has to clear out the rotten core in our team and not leave it to the next manager. I believe this has been the trouble over the last 4 seasons starting with Brucey. I am convinced that any new manager in is up against a clique that are governing and inhibiting the managers efforts. 5 managers now down and there are still 5 or 6 players milking the club unaffected. Well in my view get rid of them and pay them off it may be the best use of money made in an effort to remain in the PL or to start next season off in the Championship!

Alex

Dear ALS

Liverpool are looking upwards at Klopp and Ancelotti as their new manager. Why aren’t we? They can only take one manager, so we should at least be going for the other one. If there is any ambition at our club.

But no, we are looking at:

PEARSON – another Houdini manager who escapes relegation at the last second. But we have already had four of them and it’s not a recipe for long term success.

DYCHE – a Championship manager. Newcastle’s got one of them and look where they are.

MOYES – not doing at all well in a relegation battle in La Liga. We’ll need subtitles on MOTD to understand him, unless he takes English lessons from Gustavo Poyet.

ALLARDYCE – A kick-and-rush fan, look where West Ham are since they sacked him.

Surely we deserve better than this? But just a moment. Was it not our fans who walked out during this season’s first home match? Perhaps the above list of failures is indeed what we deserve.

Westlondonmackem

Dear ALS

Everything I read says we’re all craving some stability now and desperately need survival in the top flight.

So it really pains me to say this, but maybe “Big” Sam is the answer. At 60 years of age he has the right experience behind him and sufficient good years ahead of him. Sunderland needs a big personality, and the club needs someone who will make his point with some force and stamp his authority on the whole team (on and off the pitch).

And can you imagine how he’d feel about the chance to win the upcoming derby match. Pumped up wouldn’t begin to cover it. Just think of that big fat smug grin on MotD if we beat the Mags (again) with a new manager. That’d sell a few ALS t-shirts!

Finally, give Dick Advocaat credit – he realised he’d made a mistake by staying on, and he’s jumped without taking the club to the financial cleaners. Let’s celebrate what he achieved and stop navel gazing. Leave stuff like that to them across the river and support our team.

Ha’way the lads
The Dunelmian
(exiled darn Sarf

Dear ALS

Who is next through the Ellis Short revolving door? Will he finally get it right after making Sunderland the laughing stock of football? I somehow doubt it. He has got to bring in someone to totally sort out the shambles. Surely Congleton must follow Dick out of the revolving door and what about the other directors surely we need to start again from scratch.

I am not Big Sam's number one fan  but I would give him a 5 year contract to sort the club from top to bottom and groom and appoint his successor after two  or three years and stay on as Director of football. Will it happen?

I would not bet one of Ellis Shorts green backs on it. Whoever it is has a huge challenge. So to whoever it is good luck and god bless.

John Robson
 
Dear ALS

I understand that the libel laws probably means that the allusions by national and local journalists about something rotten within the club being the cause of Sunderland’s never-ending malaise must remain hints rather than naming the culprits.

What we do know is that Short himself has admitted errors of judgment, there is a chief executive who, arguably, doesn’t know how to run a football club and that the Director of Football model doesn’t work either because of sheer incompetence or Short’s financial shackles. But these seem contributory factors rather than the core problem. We’ve also had plenty of hints about a player Cabral and drinking clique: is this the real problem? If it is, then appoint a manager with a clear remit from you to sort it out Mr Short. Then back him.

No player - or group of players - is bigger than the club. If sackings mean big contractual financial losses, then please take the hit, Mr Short: the club’s reputation is close to shot so, again, please let’s see some drastic action.

Ian McNeill

Dear ALS

What a nightmare!

We HAD a football legend at the top of our club and we let him go! MASSIVE mistake. He made decisions based upon the players, the supporters and this football club. I feel the direction at the moment is based upon short (excuse the pun) term objectives (a bit like the majority of American businesses) and irrational decision making. FFS make a plan and build a team of people to pull it together. Are you listening Ellis??

Regards
Garry Elliott

Dear ALS

So we're not top at the end of September as I predicted, but almost bottom, just propped up by our chums up the road. And yet again without a manager, but still holding onto the slow and error strewn centre of defence that was clearly a problem three seasons ago. The academy still doesn't provide much material for the first team and yet again we're left with the legacy of various managers who will undoubtedly not suit the incoming manager and yet will hang about for some time. In teams the removal of a major player, such as the manager, is likely to result in a worsening of performance, at least for a time, and especially if some of the players have specifically committed to the person just removed. We're currently 6 points off safety given the terrible goal difference, and 6 points is tough to recover.

Does anyone left at the club think this is a sensible way to proceed? I hope not because it isn't. Will the new manager get a better deal, more money or an easier ride? I very much doubt it. If those in charge keep doing the same thing over and over again I suspect the problem is with them and not necessarily with those that they remove on a regular basis (except for Di Canio of course). They're certainly not seeing anything good coming out of it as they lurch from crisis to crisis.

Anyway when we drop down a division, which we will deserve to do, and start playing Wolves, Leeds and Blackburn perhaps we'll realise that dropping down is easy to do and getting back up isn't so easy. Take a look at Coventry and Portsmouth, remember them.

Remember the good times under Alan Brown, Bob Stokoe or Peter Reid. It takes time to make teams work, not a few games. I know American business methods demand instant results but that's not compatible with team building, especially without the right level of resource being put in. As a friend of mine from New Zealand used to say about another subject 'This smells like a horse's arse'. And it does.

Dave
Oxford

Dear ALS

Is it Time to let Dick go back to Holland to look after his tulips?

Stories are beginning to circulate that Dick has little respect in the Sunderland dressing room. One source revealed that he barely speaks to the players, there is no variety in training, mainly just 5-a-side and is generally disliked by all the players that aren’t PVA and Lens. He apparently changed the formation for Norwich on the Friday morning before the game, with absolutely no tactical or positional coaching for the new system before the game.

A separate source reckons that when Gooch was brought on against Exeter he merely shouted to his assistant to "Get the American on" and never even spoke to the young lad making his debut either to offer a word of encouragement or to tell him what he expected from him.

With a 12 month contract long can he survive?

John Robson

Dear ALS,

Spirit is to the material on a ratio of three to one. A motto most football managers can't quite grasp and explains to an extent the theory of new management bounce.

The fact is the NE is failing to produce enough young talent and what little has been produced has, more often than not, left early in their careers. Meaning we will always have to rely on Journeymen, that is an unfortunate fact of life, unless we can suddenly start spending big again. Ultimately, we need to recruit players who have the ability and spirit to play at a level, or at worse, at least have the spirit to run for 90 minutes.

Since the DoF model has come along, our signings have generally been picked up on a random basis based on availability, opposed to the usual short term managerial panic buying, to fill a squad slot or replace a first team player. Neither of which, consider the spirit, as well as the material. So if we have to stick with the DoF model for recruitment, I would suggest another voice should be inserted into the process, a broader role club ambassador, with a day to day role of facing the fans and trying to restore some identity back into the club at the same time as having a veto over signings, where he feels the choice been made is not in the best interests of the club.

I can’t think anyone who cares for Sunderland sitting in a room with the DoF and Manager and asked to vet the signings of both Matthews and Jones, which was a very odd pair to sign for the same position, re-signed Brown and picked up Kaboul, without the obvious negatives outweighing the need to simply fill squad places. A Club ambassador I would hope would ask both men to go out of the room and come back with better options even if it meant going into the lower leagues and take a punt.

On our current predicament, it’s impossible to pick XI players with the ability and spirit and/or spirit alone, to make a decent side when you only have one decent defender and no proven full backs. It’s fair to say Yedlin should get a start, but it’s a punt to say the least and I would put O’Shea on, trying to give him some cover. Agree with the idea of punting on Rodwell if fit, at centre half and move Kaboul to left back to give Rodwell some extra cover. The midfield three of grafters and play very much on the counter, Preferring Graham over Fletcher up front for spirit. With Watmore and Lens to exploit opposing defences tired legs.

Borini, Graham, Defoe
Cats, M'Vila, Larsson
Kaboul, Rodwell, O’Shea, Yedlin
Pantilmon.

S Douglas

Dear ALS

Do Sunderland have a Sports Psychologist on their books? If they do he’s clearly got a Newcastle tattoo on his chest. Honestly, a few years ago I thought a club getting a psychologist was laughable. It’s football, you get on the pitch and you do your job. After all it is just a game and it’s not life or death.

However, seeing how our players are acting on the pitch combined with the inability to keep working after conceding a goal it is clear that the coaching and tactics aren’t the main problem. This entire team have completely lost it mentally and it may be impossible to recover with enough time to start getting the results we need.

But ignoring it won’t make it go away. I appreciate Dick is no amateur but he seems to be avoiding making any kind of adjustment. Surely seven games is long enough to know that the current system is not working. He hasn’t changed the formation, which every fan seems aware is leaving our centre backs woefully exposed and I still don’t know what style of play this team is supposed to have. Are we slow and methodical? Looking to hit teams on the break? We’re certainly not a passing team as we cannot keep the ball for more than 10 seconds.

I really don’t think the squad’s ability is the problem. On paper not one of them is a bad player in my opinion. Yes Kaboul has made some mistakes in the past but given the length of his career at a top 10 club it is unusual that he is making so many in a short period of time. O’Shea’s legs are not what they once were so we cannot ask him to play every week but his experience (along with Wes Brown) should be invaluable to the club. And until the last few games, we were scoring each week so it felt like we didn’t have a huge problem in the attacking department.

My solution? Get a sports psychologist. If that doesn’t show signs of helping in the short term then call up more U21 players into the team. Watmore has already shown that he’ll try harder than all the first team combined. Even if they don’t improve the quality of the team, they’ll certainly improve the attitude. And to be frank, that’s what needs improving the most.

I like the squad we have when compared to the last three or four seasons. I can only think it’s entirely a psychological issue that we have at the moment. If we beat West Ham next week then we’ll immediately see an improvement. If we lose then I think all the players and most of the fans will know that the season is over before it even began. Maybe the Newcastle game might do what it’s managed to do for the last two years but it’s hard to be optimistic, even when I consider that Newcastle should be in a worse position than we are.

Tony Russell (@TonyRoo)

Dear ALS

Well, this is a déjà vu – vu – vu…..vu?!

We all knew this was going to happen so I guess so at least it's not a shock, and to be fair we have had it coming the last two years and I actually got in my head last season that we would be looking at games at MK Dons, Bristol etc this season, so it's not even bad for my blood pressure this time round, but, if (as looks very highly likely) we go down, let’s do 3 things, go with a fight and also go with a plan!

Firstly I would (and you may think I am mental) ask Dick to extend his contract by at least 1 more year (not that he is that mental) to help with our longer term vision. If, as is highly expected, he leaves after the Mags game, and is replaced by Allardyce we will just keep going along the same road, perennial mugs buying rubbish and scraping by while we all cling on for what seems like the worst fair ride in Christendom.

Secondly, I would task Lee Congerton to trawl the leagues in this country for prospects to fill our academy to build a “pipeline” of talent for the future. I have said this before, we are not a fashionable club and will only continue to attract deadbeats and desperados using us as a spring board or as a private Bank so let's take control of the situation rather than as is the norm, react surprisingly to the fact that no-one worth their salt will join us while we are as we are. We aren’t able to sustain this approach anymore and Short’s money would be better invested in bringing in young talent with something to prove and a sense of loyalty to a club who give them their chance.

This season should now be dedicated to building the longer term plan, starting with developing a squad that will hold their own in the Championship next season and not go down thinking they have a divine right for automatic promotion, while we build a style, culture and approach that is not based on panic!

Thirdly, Ellis, get some knee pads on and crawl from the US to Dublin and beg Quinny to come back to us in some capacity to oversea the re-haul our beloved club!

Alex Campbell

Dear ALS

Is it just me or is Lens a lazy so and so? And why did Van Aanholt shamefully turn his back on Mata for the third goal? That says a lot. How bad do our players want to fight for this club and its long suffering supporters? How bad? Forget losing at Old Trafford, our mostly inept performance did not differ too remarkably from previous visits there save the 1-0 win two seasons ago. Against Spurs we showed signs that with a more intense level of desire and application we could pose a threat and go on to actually win a game of football. However, that impetus was soon lost a week later on the south coast.
 
 Is our confidence so fragile that we can rarely recover after conceding a goal? Are the players psychologically pre-determining a negative outcome before they even step onto the field of play? Lack of belief, lack of self esteem, lack of real desire combined with a lack of skill and ability at the highest level has brought about a mind-set that breeds apathy on the pitch and low expectation in general. A domino effect from the top to bottom.  Perennial strugglers as we are now dubbed.
 
Everywhere we see exciting teams with blistering pace, Norwich, Leicester, even Bournemouth but when we attack it is rarely above first gear. That needs to quickly change. I now see the West Ham game as nothing short of monumental for SAFC, perhaps a better term might be titanic because if those selected do not go out onto that pitch like men possessed ready to die for the club then defeat could consign us to the same murky depths that awaited that once eminent vessel and which remains rusting into oblivion.
 
Pete 'Down South'

Dear ALS

Expensively Assembled Team Built on a Raft of American Debt 3.

Paupers of the Premiership owned by a Texas Billionaire who left his wallet at home.

It was a sunny day by the Salford Quays not often those words appear in the same sentence. I took my place amongst Manchester United's prawn sandwich brigade to view the latest calamitous chapter of a season which is quickly spinning out of control. I have got to say in that section there was no atmosphere, little appreciation of football and a lot of tourists. The only time any one opened there mouths was to stuff food in it or pour drink down there gullets.

This was a far cry from my first visit to Old Trafford in 1975 in the old second division when 60000 supporters shouted themselves horse in a terrific game which we eventually lost 2/1 after leading.

Were we in for a treat today, I have got to say no. This is not a great Manchester United team to compare with Old Red Noses best but they were far too good for us.

I was a little surprised Yedlin did not get a game following his excellent debut on Tuesday night but the team looked reasonably set up. There was on this occasion no lack of effort by the team and we were probably edging it till the two disastrous goals either side of half time did for us. Kaboul again was at the heart of the problem with his poor decision making and whoever signed him should take a good look at himself.

Adam Johnson whose head is obviously shredded by the ongoing court case was a liability and a pale shadow of the player we know he can be and was rightfully hooked at half time. As someone who is not PVA'S biggest fan I thought he had one of his better games and unusually could not pin any of the goals on him. The team lacks quality through poor buying and under investment and I hold the Texas Billionaire totally responsible for this. The club is a shambles.

The only upside was the fans, the support from the travelling army was again world class.

John Robson

Dear ALS

We all agree that our full backs can't defend properly. They don't stop crosses and they regularly get caught out of position which pulls our centre halves all over the place. So what options do we have? So far Dick hasn't been able to coach our full backs to defend any better and it's three months until we can sign anyone else.

The most obvious answer seems to be that we have to protect our full backs more and play to their strengths going forward. This could turn our weakness into an actual strength. To do this we either play 3-5-2, which would be a relatively untried formation for the entire team, or we use a system they can all adapt to quickly but we change some of the personnel. A 4-4-2 with Borini on the left and Larsson on the right would make us much more solid on the flanks. We all agree that Borini works hard and tracks back. And whatever you think of Larsson he's hard working too as that's why he won player of the year. Neither player will give us the flair on the wings of Johnson or Lens but it would allow our full backs to play to their strengths and bomb forward without worrying about leaving space behind. This change would give us a solid bank of two fours to counter attack from with any combination of Defoe, Lens, Toivenen, Fletcher and Johnson as the two up front. From what I've seen so far none of these five players enjoy tracking back so at least we'd have eight men behind them to give them a platform to attack from. I know it may not be pretty but we need to stop the rot somehow.

At the moment we seem lost and desperately short of confidence. Fragile is the word I've heard regularly on the match commentary and you can see that in the players body language particularly in the last three games. If a new manager came in now he would almost certainly start by re-organising the team to defend first and attack second. Just like Dick did when he arrived. Dick needs to do this again himself before someone else comes in and does the same thing. Ellis must already be looking at the derby game coming up and thinking déjà vu. At the moment Dick seems determined to stick to 4-3-3 despite our players obvious deficiencies in that formation. It reminds me of the saying that insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different outcome. Maybe our team drives all of our managers crazy eventually. They're certainly wearing me down.

David

Dear ALS,

I just posted this on the Guardian Football website I looked through the comments and there were few from our lot so I posted just to show we can.

"I've said it before, but I feel the accumulated trauma of perennial relegation fights has sapped the club of its fight and spirit. The long suffering fans are almost past caring, and perhaps the players never did. This season's end will see us make the drop. It's simply not the same for other clubs whichever they are, however "big", or artificially enriched they may be. The North East is different and the support for the teams is of a different order so relegation is so much more a blow to the whole region. It's sad, I'm sad, it's my region."

M. Pearson

Dear ALS

While some sore heads will rue last night’s endeavours
and make Wednesdays vow that they won't get so leathered
Fans shout at Dick to bring on Lee Cattermole
Because The Lads are already 4-0 down and deep in a hole
Yet another reminder to the state of things

What of the fan who watches the Mackems play
With further despair brought on by yet another match day
To look so inept with Old Trafford up next
Fans on the pitch, the club is hexed

The ref blows the whistle, he’s done us all a favour
We cling on to the hope that Dick is the saviour
City in second gear take us apart
A good debut by Yedlin, at least he looks quite smart

The football fans plight is that wherever we play
The outcome is predetermined; we give it away
What Dick got from Gus is what Paolo passed on
Bruce left it to O’Neill who is now long gone

So I'm making you aware of the state of things
A little introduction to the state of things
I'm aching to sing about the start of new things
But this is how it is at Sunderland; it’s the state of things

And late in the game when Toivenan scores,
The best we can do is quiet polite applause
Catts off the bench; some heart and some fight
but this team’s gonna kill you Dick if they keep playing this s**te

So once more I'm making you all aware of the state of things
A further reminder of  the state of things
You can see for yourselves; preseason was the start of things
The team doesn’t know how to win; that's the state of things

There’s no longer any point complaining about the state of things
Because Ellis is in charge of the state of things
And as such it’s no longer for me possible to believe in the start of things
Because I am a fan and I already know enough about the state of things


Chris Cummings

Hi ALS

Getting a bit sick of players, manager and even you guys feeding us a constant diatribe every day about how shit we are.

Please tell us something we don't know!

In my experience fuelling the negative never works and only fills people's heads with more and more despair and misery which we could well do without.

Why don't SAFC employ a good psychologist to get inside the heads of the players and manager with positive thoughts instead, it's called reverse psychology and it usually works in other walks of life and you never know it might just do the trick.

Either way can we please lay off all the negative shit for a while, yes we haven't won a league game yet and we are bottom but so what someone has to be bottom and at the moment it is us.

We never start well anyway so why are we all that surprised? Such is life being a Sunderland fan.

Best Regards & good luck tonight...revenge a dish best served cold as they say!

The eternal optimist

Tom Ward

Dear ALS

What has happened to the conveyor belt of talented young footballers born and bred in the north east? The academies at Sunderland/Newcastle don’t work, all they do is churn out young lads destined to end up at Gateshead/Blyth. What do they do to them?

Why can Everton/Southampton/Middlesbrough get it right yet we struggle to get one lad every 3-4 years that makes it into the 1st team? It’s the same with well-established players that sign for Sunderland they seem to take huge backward steps and then we get rid of them. You need a few local lads in the team to show the foreigners what it means to play for Sunderland and we don’t have any. Who on earth wanted to sign Kaboul and Coates? Gomez, Billy Jones etc…We should take the SAFC sign down and put the Butlins Holiday camp sign up for overpaid tosspots that want to take it easy for a few years.

Regards,
Mark Liddle

Dear ALS

Did we buy Borini as a replacement for Wickham? Presumably not as, decent though Borini is, he and Defoe are both quite small whereas Wickham was on his day a big muscular presence who offered something different.  So we basically sold Wickham and did not replace him, seeing as neither Fletcher or Graham are rated too highly by the management.

So having scraped to safety last season, look at it closely and we have fewer options up-front this season than last. Ridiculous, it is a shambles from top to bottom. We deserve to go down and we will.

Michael Landau

Dear ALS

To be sung to the tune of the state of things by Reverend and the Makers

While some sore heads will rue last night’s endeavours
And make Sundays vow that they won't get so leathered
Fans shout at Kaboul to foul number 7
The ref got a red card out its foul number 11
A little introduction to the state of things

What of the fan who watches the Mackems play
With the constant despair brought on by each match day
To lack skill, show little interest except for a few
What is it the supporter is expected to do

The club claim they have spent money, oh do me a favour
No longer the fans see Ellis Short as the saviour

Back from Bournemouth, what more can we do
Broken hearts and heads “the Lads” haven’t a clue

The football fans plight is that when we are at home
The performance is as futile as bald men fighting for a comb
Dick gets from Gus what Paolo gave him
Bruce left it to O’Neill who couldn’t find a win

I'm making you aware of the state of things
A little introduction to the state of things
I'm aching to sing about the start of new things
But this is how it is at Sunderland; it’s the state of things

And then there's the chance, were turning the tide
But the ref’s blown his whistle, he’s ruled it offside
Catts unused on the subs bench; it’s all going wrong
This team’s gonna kill you we can’t raise a song

I'm making you aware of the state of things
A little introduction to the state of things
I'm aching to sing about the start of new things
But the team is run by fools that's the state of things

I'm telling you straight about the state of things
Relegation is the state of things
It cuts me wide open the state of things
I am just a fan but you already know about the state of things

By Chris Cummings

Dear ALS

I just want to get this over and done with now.

The month of May cannot come quickly enough.

Sad as,
PJ

Dear ALS

"You're nothing special we lose every week"

This was the cry of the 1100 fans who endured a 700 mile round trip to Bournemouth to witness another low in our long history. Younis Kaboul who said that he would not come to Sunderland if there was an earthquake gave another totally inept performance culminating in a red card to extinguish any slight hopes of getting a point against the mighty Bournemouth. While Pantilimon is an excellent shot stopper his distribution is so poor it is beyond belief and contributed with Kaboul's half hearted effort to concede the first goal. Jermaine Defoe has started the season like someone who does not want to be here and I feel his £60,000 a year personal assistant could probably have done better than him to day.

I really could not understand the team set up with the languid lazy Gomez in central midfield, until he appeared last week against Spurs I had forgotten he was our player or how poor he usually is. I was reminded today. Our main tactic was to return the ball to Pantilimon from all areas of the pitch for him to launch it anywhere, usually out of play or to a Bournemouth player.

The back four to a man were inept, the midfield with the exception of M'Villa were poor and created very little and only Borini offered any effort and fight up front.

Bournemouth by comparison were a proper team worked hard for each other and their second goal was absolutely stunning.

We could be the first team in history to be relegated in September, if not mathematically certainly spiritually.

John Robson

Dear ALS,

What is the world coming to when you see the team sheet, see John O'Shea's name missing and instantly think "oh bother!"? The man is shocking! He's slow, can't really pass very well, likes an own goal or two and seems to make countless other defensive mistakes that you're taught not to do at school. With all that said, without him we're ruined! When we signed Kaboul, I thought we'd done a tidy bit of business, despite 'earthquake-gate', and when he's been alongside O'Shea that still seems the case, but without him he's woeful! He's an experienced centre half, a France international if I'm not mistaken(?) and without an old(er) man next to him he falls apart.

That brings us neatly on to Sebastian Coates. Did we really sign him on the back of four good games? He's appalling! He's not a defender, he's barely even a footballer, he should be checking boilers or building a wall on a site or something. With him in the team, and especially without our talismanic Irish captain fantastic, we're knackered. Like grade A, might as well go for a nap because you're going to hurt otherwise, knackered. It's September, and already I'm thinking "we need a new centre half!"

Should be said that I'm a huge fan of Wes Brown, not only is he beautiful, he was an outstanding defender when he stayed fit. It is, in this writer's own opinion, fairly evident that his legs have gone. I like how we've kept him around the club, he can be a massive help to the younger lads at the club, but I think bringing him back into the fold could be more detrimental to our cause. I can't see Dick sticking with Coates, however, so you never know! It's maybe worth looking at which players still don't have a club in the same way we did with Réveillère, and possibly bringing someone in to help shore up the defence now.

I've slated our defence a fair bit today, but the rest of the team are just as bad, really. I hate being a football fan.

Jamie Chapman

Dear ALS

Next season, with billions of pounds on the table, the chairmen of the Premiership clubs need only agree to cancel relegation and promotion and they will be guaranteed a fortune at the end of every season forever, whichever club they own.

Furthermore, they will be able to increase their profits by closing the stadia. No fans means no costs for stewards, for police, for printing tickets and programmes, for the upkeep of seating, catering facilities and the staffing of turnstiles, ticket offices etc. etc.

Every game live on TV spread over Friday through Monday will be a bonus for the fans. They can watch at the pub or at home, they can sit or stand to do this, for which they crave, gone the considerable expense of travelling to away games. No more worrying about relegation.

The parking problems and inconvenience for residents nearby banished to history.

Everybody a winner?

Utopia?

Westlondonmackem

G'day again,

I wrote in a month or so back decrying our then lack of action in the transfer window.

Now that it's over I feel I should say that I'm pretty happy with the signing of Lens, M'Vila, Toivonen and Borini and to a lesser extent Kaboul and Coates. I really wish we'd brought in a younger centre half and was very disappointed we weren't in for Johnny Evans. As far as I am concerned we should regard PVA as a winger and get a full back in, preferably two, as Jones doesn't seem to be up to it either. Maybe next time.

It would have been nice to see a few departures, Bridcutt, Buckley, Fletcher, Graham but with the wages they are on I suspect they'll sit tight till the end of their contracts when they'll be able to walk into somewhere else on a free and get better wages at their new club as a result or arriving on a free.

I expect us to now stay up and maybe even reach the level of boring mid table, though I suspect our games will rarely be boring this season, I can see us scoring quite a lot of goals and also conceding quite a lot. If that proves to be correct it will be a significant step up from the last few seasons.

But the major question that needs to fully occupy the minds of Ellis S and Lee C (and maybe Dick A) is who is going to replace him for next season to hopefully build on what we might achieve this season.

Cheers
Bob T

Dear ALS

Given the clear defensive weakness of our full backs, can we bring back the dependable if unspectacular Anthony Reveillere.

Cheers
Doug

Dear ALS

The Black Cats have signed for a fee.
Seb. Coates             2 million pounds.
Younes Kaboul        3 million pounds.
Deduct 9 million for connor Whickam which leaves a net spend of 6 million pounds.
Adam Matthews     2 million pounds.
Jeremaine Lens.      8 million pounds.

Manchester City have signed for a fee.
Nicolas Otamendi   32 million pounds.
Fabian Delph.           8 million pounds. Deduct £150,000 for Jordy Hiwula which leaves a net spend of just under 156 million pounds.
Patrick Roberts       12 million pounds.
Raheem Sterling     49 million Pounds.
Kevin De bruyne     55 million pounds.

I am not aware of the complexities of F.F.P. but if the above figures show Man. City are within the rules, The Black Cats close to.

Falling foul of the rules then the whole system stinks and I am sure could be challenged successfully in any court of law.

I do think Mr Short is thinking short term (no pun intended) with Dick Advocaat and the long suffering faithful being short changed (pun intended).

Please bring back to the board someone with a footballing background and a heartfelt love of S.A.F.C.

Terry Reilly
Burgess Hill Sussex

Dear ALS

Looking at the match on Saturday we saw some real positives. Closing down the opposition involving the entire team, organised defence, running off the ball in midfield, quick decisive passing and genuine effort.
 
The issue for me is that momentum is stopped as the "target" man cannot hold the ball up long enough to get the likes of Rodwell and M'villa into the attacks. Rodwell is clearly at his best joining in on the attack from midfield. Since he arrived at SAFC he has never had this type of play. He needs to be up the field facing the opposition's goal. Please find someone who can hold the ball up when our defence needs an "easy" out ball. I always remember Eric Gates and Niall Quinn as the best I have seen at this type of role. Look how many goals were scored from there "lay-offs"! The forward that can hold the ball up allows the game to be played higher up the field and with more players involved. Need I say more? Please Mr SAFC Transfer man get someone for this role. Defoe will be a happy bunny too!
 
I would love the opportunity to ask Cattermole why he gets booked taking a player out from behind, when the guy is facing his own goal and just outside his own penalty area. We had then under pressure our players were all "up the field" and he gives a free kick and relieves all the pressure. I am a fan of Catts but sometimes I cannot believe how naïve he is.

Regards
Garry Elliott

Dear ALS

We are the best of fans, we are the worst of fans… what the Dickens do we think we are achieving?

The team began this season pathetically, their performances were embarrassing (to put it mildly), the results until Saturday have been both deserved and devastating and Sunderland fans all over the world have been rightly furious. We were royally let down. No doubt about that.

In spite of all this, almost every fan has called for total support in the stadium in a concerted effort to roar on our team to greater efforts, even victory. And so we should! And against Swansea the support was magnificent, even after we went a goal down. It made a difference.

But, just as footballers’ actions, or even alleged actions, outside the stadium (Wickham, Fletcher, Johnson), attracts adverse media attention which, in turn, reflects badly on our club, so do our own actions. Imagine you are a talented footballer, with great potential, seeking a move to a Premiership club. Your agent, and you, look around for a suitable club to join and Sunderland comes under scrutiny. You come across a fan base vociferous in its criticism of all things to do with the club, the team, the manager, the board and the owner. Fans who openly predict that this season we are sure to be relegated. Would you be eager to join Sunderland?

We are right to be angry, we have every right to criticise each and every one of the above but we should be doing it in a degree of privacy, in pubs, clubs, our own homes even, and we can (and probably should), vent our displeasure directly to those concerned but we should not be airing our grievances to the media for exaggeration, ridicule and a total aura of negativity to be brought to the attention of would-be transfer targets. What on earth does that achieve when we are desperate to attract new and better players to our club? It is just as important to show support and solidarity outside the ground as it is inside the ground. All our criticisms and accusations should be kept ‘in house’ for now, we should not be airing our dirty washing in public; at least until after the transfer window closes.

It would be a ‘far, far better thing to do’ than we are doing at present and it could help to make the SOL a ‘far, far better place than we have ever known’! (But don’t hold your breath!)

Soleil de Terre

Dear ALS

The letter from Alex setting out the agenda for the Board meeting falls into the category of 'funny but true'.

Corporate identity, slick promotions team, Community action etc, etc. Louise Taylor writing in the Guardian newspaper strikes a similar note. The 'caring Club', I'm all for it. The latest initiative, the 'sensory room where people with autistic 'overload' issues can watch the match is an excellent gesture.

The point is however, that it's all about on the pitch. Without a team which competes and wins its fair share of games, what is the point? The club may be well meaning but are missing the fundamental point that football is about the 90 minutes on a Saturday. Everything else follows from that. I could go about the Congerton approach to signing players but that that has been well rehearsed already. The Swansea game saw the well paid under performing players at last putting a shift in. Why do we have to suffer the indignity of public humiliation before they do what they are paid to do?

Maxi

Dear ALS

I’ve no argument with any of the comments about not enough investment, criticism of Ellis Short, criticism of Lee Congerton and the players that have been brought in, they all have a part to play. But surely we’ve got to look at the fact that we were humiliated by Leicester and Norwich and does anyone out there really believe we needed big signings, or our squad was too weak to get at least four points from those two games?

We haven’t brought in one of the most experienced mangers around to teach players how to put one foot in front of the other or remind them how hard they need to be working - my 80 year old mother could point that out, and that’s no criticism of Advocaat because a manager should expect a bare minimum of what we saw against Swansea. OK, Swansea was a positive step but are we going to see a consistent level of commitment like that for the rest of the season? I very much doubt it.

It's clear to me that it's just as much who we get rid of as who we sign, because I believe we have a number of bad eggs in the squad, they’ve already exercised ‘player power’ to get rid of Di Canio and a friend of mine made a good point saying the club shouldn’t have just stopped with Di Canio, but started moving those players out who were most vocal. We’ve had too many embarrassing performances under different managers - the common denominator is the players and I would say it's the longer serving ones we need to start clearing out.

Phil in Leeds

Dear ALS

Yes - Dick has never managed a team that has been relegated and this record will be maintained as he will not be managing Sunderland at the end of the 2015-16 season the way things are going.

A bad start, a weak squad, key players not really on form and the price of footballers going utterly daft (Bristol City want pay £9 million for Andre Gray. Who?).

Mr Short needs to support Dick and get some quality into the squad. Not easy, as we are odds-on for relegation with the bookies and the transfer window is soon to close. So what is to be done? Well, old Shortface has a simple solution, give the manager enough games to "hang himself" then sack the useless bastard and deflect all the blame on to him. But Dick is not a useless manager, he is an experienced manager and knows how to run a football team and given enough funds could make a decent job of it. His impact last season was epic by any standards.

Unfortunately for Dick, the football world is full of experienced managers and I think a new one will be coming Sunderland's way in less than 20 games. My money is on Sam Allardyce who is probably sunning himself in the Caribbean as we speak, "recharging his batteries" as they say, ready to take on his latest challenge.

So come on Short; back Dick Advocaat with some serious funds and give him a chance to show the fans last season was not a fluke or even sell the club to someone who wants to see Sunderland become the club that the fans deserve.

All the best
Itsonlyf**kingaugust

Dear ALS

So yes I'm a SAFC fan, I have supported us through all the good times and bad times. Lots of good times, up and down during the '60s. The crazy Man U replay at Roker.

I remember us beating all the big boys in '73. Stokoe nearly doing it after losing Tueart, Watson and Horswill. Towers getting his England cap. Clarke nearly as good as Watson! The mediocre times. Every year. Apart from the youth policy paying off. Rowell, Elliott and Arnott.

Then the Peter Reid years, the nearly men again. Then the biggest transformation! After we lost in the play off after Mickey's miss, we were unbelievable. It is incredible to think how good we were. However we certainly have never been closer to becoming what we should be based on our support.

Then more wilderness years. Up down etc, no money. Consortium, nearly worked, we get rid of Sir Niall, Ellis Short, a manager per season. Directors of football. Buying very average footballers, all on massive wages.

So I think De Canio has a point, Keano said exactly the same. The Sky money this season is obscene.

We are fodder at the moment. Big Dick was wooed by Short and he, Short, has been to date shown as an Indian giver!

We've had months to get our squad sorted, so now we are two weeks into hell and Dick doesn't know the system we should play. Until that is, he knows who we have coming in in 11 days time!

Intrinsic, problems, the buck stops with you Ellis, sort it out, how are you such a successful billionaire and can't see the structure you have is incompetent.

KTF
Les Swain

Dear ALS

Our chairman and his supporters can hum and hah about wasted money of the past, but he was the one signing the cheques and I would question whether all the players we have signed under his reign were mistakes. Because it was Short who seemed to be the driving force to sell Henderson/Bent/Gyan for big money and remove the spine of a decent side.

Short appears to have graduated from driving for sales, up to O'Neill, to now making the purchase decisions through his subordinates. His and his subordinates have been disastrous for the squad and the result is a squad that on paper "looks" better and healthier, than say the dark days of the end of the Keane and Bruce reign. The club commercially is a lot more slick and consultant like and that is the only area he has made progress, however it’s also become more corporate and insular. The packaged club would look good to sell now, except the squad is actually crap and the continued season ending attritional fights, are devaluing the club year on year.

The biggest indictment of Short was the DI Fanti fiasco, which was entirely his affair and the club repeated the trick the following summer, highlighted by the farcical situation we have with Alvarez. So there not mistakes at all, but decisions been made in defiance of footballing realities. I get the impression the root cause of our crap transfer policy, is it’s been ran for an "Equity Investor" by "deal-makers". So the emphasis, is on appearing to be ever so clever and on top of things, with deals been as financially complex as possible, but turn out to be millstones around the clubs finances at a later date.

Our continued survival is not a miracle. It can be traced back to Martin O'Neill, who passed along a method of defending properly, that the professionals at the club kept as their comfort blanket under pressure. So when the fancy money ball signings, flashy formations and different styles of play had failed, we had something to fall back on. The club deep in the mire was happy to listen to the dressing room then. Unfortunately, because of those battles we have zero ability to attack teams. So every summer we then have a full rethink by the manager on how to get forward. Coming back for pre-season, without any real talents signed, must be doubly demotivating for our players, who can expect lots of effort which is completely pointless, then back on them to pull the club out of the mire. The obvious has already been pointed out by others, about this season running out of luck.

We need energy going forward and a stubborn unit who will protect their half of the pitch, as if they own that piece of land. Flashy formations are fine, if you have flashy players to exploit the gaps, but we haven't got them. I would suggest if there is any money to spend, do it on lower league younger players with bags of energy and confidence and on a decent full back, as we don't have a single fullback at the club. Billy Jones is arguably a centre half and PVA a winger. In the meantime, with Matthews the nearest to one available he would be my choice, I would also go old school and simply play 4-4-2, but with wingers who can tuck in to stop us getting overrun and also lend the fullbacks a bit of cover. But increase the chances of having a bit of width, in the right areas in the opposing half of the field and two proven Goal scorers to worry the opposition defences. Here is a basic eleven that might give Swansea half a game:

Defoe, Fletcher
Jens, Cats, M'Vila, Larsson
O'Shea, Coates, Kaboul, Matthews
Pantilmon.

Thanks,
Steven

Dear ALS

There are echoes throughout the supporters of this club of the same belligerent behaviour currently on show from our underachieving, overpaid crop of players.

Moaning about the fact that the team is rubbish shows just as much contempt for the club as the players show on the pitch every week. Yes, they are a weak team which has not had the investment crucially needed to progress in this league. Yes, there is a disturbing lack of quality throughout the side. Yes, there is a distinct lack of direction from the owners and management team but ask yourself this... which young, skilled, talented professional footballer would even want to consider plying their trade on Wearside?

If you look at all the other teams in this league, Sunderland must be the least attractive proposition for any young gun. So therein lies the problem, it's not that the club are not in the market for players, of course they are, it's just that no one wants to come here. That is, essentially why we are where we are, with a group of overpaid second rate footballers who have had to be lured with the promise of high wages. That's the only reason they are here, no one else wants them.

We are a desperate outfit who have to settle for bottom of the barrel outcasts. The writing has been on the wall for a good few years now and I cannot believe that people have not seen it coming. We have for far too long been concentrating on the image of the club instead of nurturing the team - without a good team you have nothing, nothing at all. We are now facing the reality of neglect, of ignoring young talent (did West Ham just blood a sixteen year old?) and just basically being a cock!

What is needed from the supporters now is a revolution in bringing the perpetrators of this mess to their knees and bow to pressure from the people who really care about the club. If this were France, there would be a ring of protesters surrounding the ground demanding that their voices are heard. Not just moaning, that's as pathetic as the rest of the club. The one thing that has kept this club afloat is its supporters, so unlike the team, let's show some strength in unity, get together and demand changes to this club and get it back into some state of order. Let's face it, we have and always have known what's best for the club, it is just astounding that no one ever listens to us.

Marcus Hammond

Dear ALS

Just thought I'd give you the heads up about some unwanted driftwood at my local Roots Hall where Southend Utd are looking to move on 3 of their aging cloggers at a forty quid a pop, but if SAFC get in quick we can snap up all three for a ton.

I know it's a hefty amount but even so maybe Ellis could be tempted by this 'value for money offer'. If we really pushed hard I reckon we could get their tea lady on loan too.
 
Sounds to me like a deal right up our street.
 
Ever felt like you've been done-up like a kipper?
 
Pete
All washed-up in Southend-On-Bloody Sea

Dear ALS

I read a lot of letters here calling for Short to buy a "big signing" to sort out the problem at SAFC. I think this is short sighted.

Lee Congerton, like all Directors of football, seems to buy players similar way to purchasing some cast off rubbish on Ebay or Gumtree. The purchased item is either not what you wanted or is clapped out.

The Director Of Football and his head of coaching don't seem interested in finding good young talent in the lower divisions, or finding them and developing them through the youth system. I often think of some wonderful players I saw play over the years who came through the old scouting route: Kevin Philips (Watford), Colin Todd (signed as a youth), Jim Montgomery (signed as a youth), Gary Rowell (signed as a youth), Len Ashurst (joined at 18), Michael Gray (signed as a youth).

I had a look at Congerton and Steve Houston's (Head of Scouting) backgrounds. They have been together since their Chelsea days and were responsible for following signings (I've included the number of times they played for Chelsea): Ryan Bertrand (28 app. in 9 years); Gael Kakuta (6); Jeffrey Bruma (4); Scott Sinclair (5) and Fabio Borini (4).

Kukata's signing resulted in Chelsea being banned from buying players for two years as a result of "tapping up". The ban was later overturned. They both got the sack with Vilas Boas.

The following quote from the Sunderland Echo about Houston says it all! "Houston comes from a consultancy, rather than footballing background, yet has been at the forefront of the data analysis systems which are forming an increasing part of modern scouting."

In other words he hasn't got a clue what makes a good footballer but knows how to write a spreadsheet.

If we can't buy, or can't compete with other clubs to buy skilful players, then let's find youngsters and use them instead of wasting them in the under 21s and under 18's. What we don't need is a Director of football and a scout who can do data analysis!

Aelfrid

Dear ALS

Having witnessed Saturday's shambles I am now at a crossroads. Do I blindly carry on as normal getting more and more frustrated, fed up and hurt or do I let go. What happens between now and September 1st will make my mind up. I attended my first home match in 1974 a 1 0 home win over Fulham having moved to Doncaster in 1971 from Norley Avenue Sunderland. My first away game was a 4 1 win at York in November 1975. I have watched plenty of ups and downs since then and always come back. My Father is 80 next year and lives in York; he has renewed his season ticket but is recovering from cancer so never made Saturday. My son (Brendan) is 10 and Sunderland mad, my daughter Jody is also. But this season is a step to far.

Outside the Premier Concourse on Saturday was like passing a car showroom in Marbella, full of Overfinch Range Rovers, top of the range Mercs and Porches no doubt belonging to young men masquerading as footballers. The performance on the pitch was absolutely awful. They should be thoroughly ashamed. These footballers, along with the chairman and board have no connections with Sunderland. It is another job or an investment. Short hasn't spent nothing on this club.

They are all untouchable. I miss having Martin Smith, David Rush, Paul Atkinson plying their trade. They may have not been that good footballers but they were accessible, gave interviews to ALS and actually seemed as though they gave a damn. On my way back home on Saturday two Hartlepool fans got on at York who were travelling back to Nottingham via Grantham. They were telling me about having a bit of craic with the York keeper who used to play at Pools, about players having to attempt to play for a living and about a kind of togetherness and the players who give interviews to "Monkey Business" there fanzine.

These two went Carlisle last day dressed up, go to a lot of home games. It sounded fun. So here I am at 48 years of age wondering what to do. Those players won't have woken up Sunday feeling like me, utterly pissed off. As for fans going early Saturday I don't blame them. My mate lives in Billingham it is the first time he has left a game early in 46 years. He has had same seat at SOL since opening game and he is considering options to. This club could do a Forest or a Leeds. With the Mags ready to buy another £13m player and Boro bidding £14m for Rhodes we are being put to shame.

It isn't just me at this crossroads, Sunderland AFC are too.

Dave McKeever
Doncaster

Dear ALS,

Having had a few days to gain my composure and read what other fans had to say, I’m ready to throw my opinion in the ring.

There is so much wrong with our beloved football club that it’s difficult to argue with anyone’s comments so far.

Is it all down to the board? Sure they haven’t spent a lot of money but honestly what level of quality can we expect to bring to the north east? Newcastle have a stronger reputation and will be more likely to grab a good £10+ million player. Regardless, all the players in our starting XI this season have premier league experience.

Southampton, Swansea and now Bournemouth prove that the determination that gets you through League One and the Championship can compete with the big boys. So although a lot of fans are shouting for big investment, any £15 million signing will quickly adapt to his new environment and realise he still gets paid when his team gets beaten easily at home by a newly promoted side. It’s not about talent, it’s all about mentality.

After the Norwich defeat Advocaat stated that he had seen the problems of abject defending and lazy play in preseason and had ‘hoped’ it would improve. This is the first damning evidence of a lack of effort, enthusiasm, and respect to fans from our manager. He had half a dozen games before Leicester and another week to try and fix it after that. No progress, no improvement, absolutely nothing from 3 months of preparation. If the coaching staff don’t care, why should the players?

There is a deep dissonance between the actions of the board the coaching staff and the players. The 8-0 spelled it all out. The players were clueless and couldn’t handle conceding a goal, let alone seven more. The coaching staff were shocked as clearly the players weren’t doing what they were told. And the board sold the whole team out when they offered a refund. It feels like no sections of the club are communicating with each other.

As for completely crumbling after conceding, if you can’t keep playing after going a goal down early then you’re in breach of contract as far as I’m concerned.

Watmore proved that enthusiasm counts for something. In 30 seconds of coming on he got the crowd making more noise than the whole team achieved in the first half. That’s what the fans want; any sign that a player wants to play and will work hard the second that whistle blows. We are used to losing so it must be made clear that the fans didn’t walk out in the first half because the team was 2-0 down. It was the embarrassment of having to watch these players do nothing, a total lack of enthusiasm and respect from the pitch bled into the stands and the only option for a lot fans was to walk out.

Watmore, Mavrias and others have been languishing in the reserves for at least a season. Why not give them a go in the first team? If we lose again then it’s not a problem because we would have definitely lost anyway with the current line-up. But I can guarantee the fans would have more the cheer about and see more effort in the players than they’ve seen in the last 12 months.

My theory is a few older players are happy to just turn up, collect their wages and put the minimum amount of effort. This attitude must leak from the ‘senior’ players into the rest of the squad. If that’s the problem then the manager has to punish the lack of effort and drop them from the squad. If it is as bad as it seems, they should be fining wages.

And for crying out loud, stop giving Cattermole the captain's armband! I rate him very highly but we saw a few years ago when he's the captain he absolutely cannot handle the responsibility. Let him concentrate on what he does best, making life a nightmare for opposition midfielders.

@TonyRoo

Dear ALS

At almost 60 years of age and 55 years of supporting, following and loving SAFC today I finally divorce the club that I was proud to call my club, my team. No matter how many relegations or bad times we went through together we got through the rough and always felt we were pulling together.

The straw which has finally broke the camel's back and also my heart is a man we all know as Ellis Short. He has no love for 'us', those of 'us' who have travelled miles and given our love, our support and our hard earned cash down the years.

Mr Short had finally shown he has no passion, no loyalty, and no support for 'our' club and he is happy to sit back and do nothing while 'our' club sinks into the abyss and oblivion.

My love for the players who don't deserve or earn the right to wear 'our' proud shirt has died and they are a disgrace to themselves and 'us'

Until we have an owner who cares and players who make us proud just with their fight and effort I can no longer put myself through the heart break of seeing 'our' club destroyed.

The degree nisi is announced today the absolute is in the post.

A saddened and heartbroken Eddie in Yeovil

Dear ALS

My second letter in two days, why stop at re- signing Kieran Richardson, judging by recent results we could bring back Len Ashurst, Stefan Schwartz, Kevin Philips, Niall Quinn and a host of others who would do a better job than the spineless bunch on show in the last two matches.

In my local pub in Burgess Hill I am offered the deepest sympathy for being a Sunderland supporter. What they cannot understand is how a massively supported club, with a magnificent ground, with training facilities to match has become a laughing stock.

A few years ago when Sunderland lost they would take the p**s and give me a hard time, now I get sympathy and they tell me that the team must surely improve.

Something is rotten and the rot needs to be eradicated now or SAFC is heading for oblivion. What on earth is going on?.

Terry Reilly
Burgess Hill West Sussex.

Dear ALS

No doubt I am going to get shot down in flames on this one but here goes:

I don't blame the owner.
I don't blame the manager.
To an extent I don't blame the players (well not all of them).
I blame the rest of the management associated with the club.

Let me explain. When Dick came in last season he needed to bodge a sinking ship as best he could and guide it into safe harbour. Now, with a new season upon us, I think he has genuinely tried to install a new system and way of playing for the season ahead. Unfortunately for him he is used to working with quality players and the difficulties involved in trying to get his ideas through the thick heads of the players at the Sunderland has probably come as something of a surprise.

When I played junior school kids football we had a big lad who was great at winning the ball at centre half. Trouble was once he had the ball he panicked and just stood there giving the other team plenty of time to steal the ball back off him. The teacher running the team tried and tried to get him to simply pass the ball a few yards to our nearest player with no success. In the end, in desperation, he just told him when he got the ball to lump it as far as he could into touch (rugby style) - problem solved. Might be an extreme example but perhaps you get my point.

Why do we have the squad we have? Primarily, in my view, because the owner has been let down by those around him. I had little time for Steve Bruce from day one and was glad when he went together with his sack of excuses but when he left there was a basic squad of players. I, like everyone else, was delighted when Martin O'Neil came on board but when he left the squad was threadbare. Was all that his fault, no it was not but he was certainly partially to blame. The problems, in my view, all go back to that point.

Is the owner over cautious on player spending? Well yes he is. Is he overly committed to FFP when all around him just duck the rules? Guilty as charged but at the time Martin O'Neil left the squad needed massive investment. Since then the owner has been guilty of a number of errors, DeFanti, Poyet and (in my view) Congerton but to be fair he is a financial man, not a football man. He needs strong people around him (not yes men) who understand the business and understand football (Margaret Byrne anyone?)and that has been sadly lacking. Of course, the owner is ultimately responsible for his decisions but I would bet he has sought advice before making those decisions and, if so, that advice has been way off the mark.

It is interesting that Dick Advocaat has never criticised the owner. Licking up to the boss you may think but I don't believe that. Why should Dick care, he has made his money, served his time, he can just walk away. I therefore believe money is there for the right players, but Lee Congerton has not been able to bring them in. Again, to be fair it cannot be easy as many of the best players prefer the bright lights of London or the clique of the North West clubs but that is what Congerton gets paid for and in my view he has failed miserably.

Call me naive but I would have thought Congerton job was to talk to the manager about what positions are a priority then work away in the background identifying a list of maybe three possibles for each position so that when the transfer market opens everything is ready to go. So let's look at this transfer window, Coates was an obvious one and Kaboul and Matthews were probably Congerton picks (nothing inspiring there) Lens was obviously identified by Advocaat and probably M'Villa also and he was instrumental in bringing both on board. So what has Congerton been doing exactly?

Last season our big buy was Jack Rodwell. Reading between the lines of various Poyet comments I would guess that, although he was prepared to rubber stamp the purchase, Rodwell was a Congerton pick rather than someone Poyet identified.

Based on what has happened since we all know Rodwell was an inspired choice and great value for money - not!

Is it the players fault? Well, some of them should genuinely be ashamed of themselves and should never wear the shirt again. However, the rest I believe genuinely try, it is just they are not very good. Is there a way out of this mess? Call me an optimist if you like but if Congerton can get his finger out in the next couple of weeks (a big ask) and if Dick (as I am sure he can) comes to realise that he needs to bring his tactics down to the level of his players then yes but it is going to be a bumpy ride - nothing new there!

In the meantime I suggest the owner needs to take a long hard look at those around him.

Phil

Dear ALS

Firstly – thank you Wise Men Say podcast for last night's edition – brilliant and I felt like this morning’s dog walk was even more therapeutic than normal. You sum up exactly how I feel, so for anyone out there cop it on as it is class and will cheer you up!

To the next point, and with no intention of appearing patronising – As Ellis Short is clearly not a Football man, but a business man I would like to try and transfer a thought process away from the one us fans think along to one a very successful business man may do as clearly thinking like a football fan is scrambling my brain and getting me nowhere fast?

Before he bought this club, he did his due diligence, and he will know that the biggest asset here is the support base – us mugs who turn up week in week out home and away, to follow the team (I can’t summon the words “Lads” to describe this lot at the moment). Granted he has been sympathetic to the local trends and kept prices reasonable and open to all, and he has also ploughed a fair amount of money into this business. mostly ill advised, but at what point does he look around and assess the return on his investment?

For three seasons now we have seen poor decisions made on and off the field. Signings both in the playing staff, and on the board, not to mention those of a questionable mental state (we must be an equal opportunities club!!). If these players were a stock, he would have sold them ages ago, not continued to invest in them and back them. He is clever than that. So, and this is where I go off at a tangent and speculate...

We are either in a situation where he is happy with his ROI and not questioning the on-pitch results as his original plan is on track, and therefore does not feel the need to invest more to ensure his balance sheet looks right, and bases his decisions the fact that for 3 seasons now we have managed to survive and keep his cash flow positive, so why change this model now? Milk the proverbial cash cow!

Or he is desperately looking to find a way out behind the scenes, another reason why he would offer platitudes to us, his manager and it would also appear some players who may have signed contract extensions on the premise that he is going to invest further and make this a team to be reckoned with and if he is a good business man, he must surely be thinking along these lines!

Either way, we as his biggest asset and in some respects “shareholders” and custodians of this Great Club, should be given the right to know what plan or strategy is in place. We are putting our hard earned cash in to this club and at the moment getting zero value for money, unless that is of course you are a sado-masochist. When we know what the plan is and what we can expect back, we can then make the decision to either get behind the team or not turn up and those who tell us can then judge us accordingly.

And finally – I was imagining the Agenda at the next SAFC Board Meeting might look like this:

  • Summer holiday updates
  • Commercial Overview
  • Sponsorship Review
  • Investment in Africa summary
  • Ticket and Kit sales
  • Fan Zone Update
  • Er…..
  • That’s it
  • No there is something
  • oh yes
  • AOB
    • Football team performance
    • Squad signings

 

KTF
Alex

 

Hi ALS

It seems incredulous that some people can still think Mr Short has been good for our club, Michael Gray's analysis about last weekend is absolutely spot on

After 7 years as owner he has well and truly dragged us into the gutter, whether it be down to his bad judgement, lack of football knowledge, or some other reason matters not, he is solely responsible for the mess we are in right now.

During the past 5 years up to the end of last season he has pursued a strategy of selling our better players and replacing them with cheaper lesser quality ones under the guise that we have to do this to meet the financial fair play rules. If you look at the spending on players since he took over in 2008 it is approx. £132 million and we have sold players for £90 million so our net spend over 7 years has been a paltry £42million which averages out at £7million per season.

Short is completely out of his depth as our owner and cannot be trusted, this season he promised big spending to lure Dick back and so far, net of Connor Wickham proceeds, we have spent bugger all, Short himself has knowingly created the shambles we now find ourselves in.

If this guy continues as our owner for much longer we will disappear into oblivion and he will sail off into the sunset to go and asset strip (wreck) some other poor unsuspecting companies with his Kildare Partners who are after all just asset strippers, buying up ailing companies and restructuring  them so they can sell off bits that make profit, which is exactly what he has done to us.

Faithless, Hopeless and in need of some real Charity...

Tom

Dear ALS

I'm about over this now.

We cannot blame the Manager. We've had more managers than most clubs but the results are the same.

We've added and subtracted from the squad and the results are the same.

Ellis Short is the problem. He just isn't a football thinking owner. His view is if season tickets are selling fans are happy, when he should be thinking 'how can I get this club into the top ten.' 

I knew the summer would be consumed with the re-appointment of Dick Advocaat and little else. That achieved fans would be happy and buy season tickets. Job done in Short's book.

A football thinking owner would have been thinking about player succession planning not signing last season's popular temporary manager on another short term temporary basis, whom in all honesty would have preferred to retire. The pursuit and appointment of Dick Advocaat only just shows the limited short term thinking and lack of footballing ambition Ellis Short brings to the club.

Don't get me wrong Dick Advocaat is a terrific manager, but so was Martin O'Neill and little good that will do Advocaat under a Sunderland owned by short term-ism Short.

Football people know if you don't keep moving forward in the premier league you're down and out. Five seasons now treading water.

There is no one or two new player fix that will work season long with this squad; it's plagued with short term motivated impulse.

Sorry, no happy ending here. Long slow strangulated death predicted.

After 42 years of following the fortunes of Sunderland AFC, I'm not sure I can watch this season play out to the inevitable relegation.

Best Regards
PJ

Dear ALS

Conor Wickham, in his home debut for Crystal Palace yesterday, showed great movement to dart in front of his marker at the front post and smash a shot unluckily against the Arsenal woodwork. While he had some decent moments for us, I don’t recall him ever making such a dynamic, intelligent and penetrating run during his time at the SOL.

Somehow this to me sums up and demonstrates what is wrong with Sunderland and how deep-rooted & chronic is the malaise.

Best wishes
Michael

Dear ALS.

For the last three seasons S.A.F.C. have narrowly escaped relegation. The players who struggled over this period are still on the payroll.

John O’Shea, Wes Brown, Lee Cattermole, Seb Larsson, Adam Johnson are regulars in the struggle and have been rewarded with new contracts.

A clear out of the old guard and an injection of youth with pace would be a good start. Jones and PVA do seem to be out of their depth and conceding goals is inviting relegation.

If and when we sign quality players with a mixture of the likes of Watmore and Beadling, this would be a good time to get rid of the deadwood who regard SAFC as a pre-retirement home.

Terry Reilly
Burgess Hill
West Sussex

Dear ALS

Here we are at the beginning of another season of struggle and everyone is beginning to panic already. I believe that early season is the best time to panic if the result is an improvement in the way we play. DA is certainly not the problem so we need to look at the DOF who does not appear up to the job. The Chief Executive must also shoulder a good portion of the blame.

Ellis Short needs to bite the bullet as regards signings or we will be consigned to history as far as the Premier League is concerned. There is a culture in this club led by senior players who are more content to plan their drinking bouts than perform on the one day of the week when they are asked. Duncan Watmore showed more fight in the few minutes he was on the field than the rest of the team combined. We should look to promote other youngsters such as Beadling who will at least show fight. It was apparent on Saturday that players were not tackling and standing off Norwich and making a poor team look like Barcelona. Kaboul is out of condition and it shows. He and Coates have no idea of how to play together. Clattermole is his usual useless self, slow in the tackle and giving the ball away in dangerous positions. PVA was a nightmare and does not know how to defend. Billy Jones was caught out of position constantly. M'Vila impressed with his touches and it is his first game anyway. Larsson was poor with his free kicks but busy on the pitch. Lens was nothing special. Fletcher is a waste of time and Defoe does not get the service. Graham will never be a striker. Pantilimon could be faulted for two of the goals.

In short (no pun intended) we are in trouble.

Richard Beck

Dear ALS,

It's Groundhog Day, again. After 2 games we are the only club with zero points except Bournemouth who have only played one so far. 

It seems to me that, in the past few years, nothing has changed except the names of the various managers who have arrived, failed and gone. The best of those was undoubtedly Steve Bruce who, despite his faults, took the club up to a new level and was very unfortunate with events beyond his control. It was Bruce who brought Darren Bent to the club and followed that by getting Asamoah Gyan and Danny Welbeck to the SOL as well. At that point we were on the verge of breaking into the very top part of the League but then Bent decided to take the money at Villa, then Welbeck's loan ended and Gyan decided to take the Arab millions and Henderson decided Liverpool was the place to be, and it all fell apart.

The came O'Neill and for a while the garden appeared to be rosy again but he was not the same manager without John Robertson at his side and, once again, it didn't last.

Dick Advocaat appeared an inspired choice last season but he now is working without his long time assistant - I really think this is significant, think Clough without Taylor.

The only ray of hope I can see is Duncan Watmore. I think it is scandalous that he has reached 21 and only just has had his first run out in the Premier League. Maybe that is part of the problem at the club, not pushing youngsters through but rather buying mediocre 'established' players from elsewhere. For the next match the name Watmore has to the first one on the team sheet, otherwise there is no hope.  

What I find really depressing is when the name of Borini crops up. He could have become a Sunderland player last season, but he didn't want to know. Forget him, he would be a complete waste of money.

Yours, keeping the faith as ever

Alan Haile

Dear ALS,

As a young season ticket holder, I am now getting accustomed to the constant cycle of pre-season optimism being quite rapidly quashed by overwhelming disappointment, due to the unprofessionalism of our players. As it doesn't seem to matter who manages our club, as the same always happens.

Di Canio didn't get a lot right at the club. Not a lot at all. But he did correctly point out that there was something fundamentally wrong with Sunderland AFC. Managers come and go. Players do to, but for the last few seasons in the Premier League nothing has ever changed.

There are many question marks over the reasons behind this. However, personally I believe that the main problem is the transfers that are brought into the club. Look at this summer, for example. We have spent, not including Lens or M'Vila, a total of £7million on 3 incomings, one of which being a loan. Just over an average on £2million on each acquisition.

Now, in order to improve and push on, you need to buy a higher quality of player. So, can you honestly say that Younes Kaboul is of a much higher standard than JOS? I wouldn't really say so. Is Adam Matthews a vast improvement on Billy Jones? No, not really.

How do our management expect us to improve when we keep on buying the same 'Sunderland standard' players? Then, when we do spend 'big' on a player, we do so on a Jack Rodwell or Steven Fletcher, who we can't really say were fully worth their £10m and £12m price tags. This is made even more frustrating when you see teams around us spending similar amounts on the likes of Shaqiri to Stoke, or Rondon to West Brom.

So yes, there are huge problems with the attitude and professionalism of the playing staff. And yes, we do need A LOT more investment if we really are going to stand a chance this season. But we need to spend the money wisely, and not in the sloppy manner that has got us into this mess.
Regards,

Sean Brown

Dear ALS

Having just read your Lines From London report which included the dodgy beam back, I felt that I had to write to inject what I hope is a little humour in these turgid times. Away on my summer holidays in the Costa del Crime for the past two weeks, I needed to visit the Linkers' chain including a decent bar called portside in Puerto Banus which covers every Premiership game every weekend.

The games are beamed to about 10 TVs around the bar and just before kick off there is a massive but friendly reshuffling of seats as various fans sit next to their game to form their own away end. Good positioning in that the our game was on the main bar, with Spurs Stoke on the right and then at the end of the bar the Scum. Very little action for about 10 minutes and then suddenly the Sunderland and Scum game TVs flick into what can only be described as pretty bad and serious pornography. It takes the bar about 10 minutes to set all the TVs up and therefore the same time to change them. The place was in uproar as most of the occupants were dads and their kids getting away from the Mrs for the afternoon. Shouts of "look away son" didn't seem to work as the place is multi screen, and one dad pulled his hat off and pulled it over his son's eyes.

There was a lot of shuffling of kids out of the door until the very under pressure manager managed first of all to get the said entertainment off the TVs and after several brief cameos of the howls from Eastern Europe, the match resumed.

The rest is history in that we quickly conceded three pathetic goals and the concourse started to empty. The highlight however was the comment from the Sunderland away end in the pub at 3-0 to the under pressure manager "how mate, any chance if getting those birds back on the screen?"

Paul Ellison

Dear ALS,

Will Sunderland win a match this season? Looking at the other Premiership teams, it’s hard to point to any of them and say with conviction that Sunderland will beat any of them at home. What can be said about the players? Perhaps that Sunderland have more unprofessional, though grossly overpaid players than any other team. More than half the team are rubbish and I doubt if many would attract much of a fee even from ambitious Division 1 teams.

The fact is that Sunderland, I can’t even bring myself to call them ‘the lads’, as a team are selling their fans short and Mr. Short is also short selling soccer to the fans. How about letting the fans pay what they think the team was worth as they leave the ground after the match? It’s time that the idlers in the squad were publicly identified (well, I suppose we all know who they are) and a campaign held to shame those who aren’t fit to wear the shirt though I’d certainly excuse Pantilimon from any blame. If we think there are ownership problems at Sid James’s Park with Fat Freddie, we ought to be looking at ourselves, too. The fact is that two clubs from the north east, each with a long, proud history, are being wrecked by greedy/useless owners who know and care little about the game and aren’t willing to spend money or even impose any kind of discipline on the players.

Sunderland don’t even have anybody who even pretends to frighten the opposition. I played rugby in my sporting life (long past) and remember playing in one dismal game where a spectator yelled out, ‘come on you b******s, let’s have a bit of blood and snot!’ Rugby Union was a strictly amateur game, too. Let’s have some honest effort at the SoL and, in the nicest possible way, a bit of blood and snot to go with it.

I first saw Sunderland play Sheffield United in the late 1940s and the team was still largely the team which had won the cup before the war minus, sadly, Raich Carter who had just gone to Derby Co. Now that ageing team could still play a bit and won 4 - 2

Dave from Sheffield

Dear ALS

I have followed SAFC for over 40 years and have never felt so deflated 2 games into a season.

I turned up to today's game, not expecting much, but never expected to see a team that looked as though they had never met each other and hadn't been shown how to pass a football.

Nobody seems to talk, nobody wants to run and none of them give a shit about us supporters who turn up with blind faith season after season.

The whole club is in a unbelievable mess and it is going to take a long time to sort it out.

What kind of player is going to sign for a club where they know the manager is leaving at the end of the season (if not before}.

If it means we have to be relegated, which looks a certainty with this shower of shite anyway, then so be it.

Then we can get rid of all the greedy bastards and start again with some young hungry players (one of which we saw today} who in 10 minutes on the pitch showed more effort than the rest of the team put together.

Every year this club tries our patience and it breaks my heart to say that mine is finally beginning to run out.

Big AL

Dear ALS,

What a depressing start to the season! All the hope and optimism that had been aroused when the tulips were sent to Amsterdam has been dissipated by two mediocre first half performances against sides that even the pundits had predicted us picking up points against.

Not wanting to watch Match of the Day and see how stylishly other teams had begun the season, I switched over to Sky last night, and found they were showed a reply of the ’06 cricket cup final. That was another day when things were pretty depressing for Sunderland, with an early season record of played five, lost five.

It gets worse when you recall the teams that had beaten us; Coventry, Birmingham, Plymouth, Southend and Bury. However the news on the back pages that day concerned the imminent arrival of Roy Keane, and we were taken from an initial win against West Brom on August Bank Holiday to being crowned champions on May Bank Holiday.

Somehow, a run in the top flight has been achieved that is now second only to that record-breaking initial run which ended in 1958. However, there is a big doubt whether progress has really been made and we seem as far away as ever from establishing ourselves securely in the Premier League.

This is highlighted by looking at some of our rivals in that ’06-’07 season. West Brom (4th), Southampton(6th),Stoke (8th) and, Crystal Palace (12th) have all progressed better than us over the intervening years, while even Norwich (16th) and Leicester (19th) look like they will too, along with Swansea who were languishing in League One in 2007.

Having secured Premier League status, the challenge for Roy Keane and his successors has been to invest in the playing squad, and although things did start brightly with the addition of Gordon, Richardson and Jones in 2007, it has to be said that the quality of purchases has steadily gone down in the following summers.

A lot of business needs to be done before the end of this month if we are to see a team that it able to compete at this level taking the field for Sunderland.

With much sadness

Paul Nicholl

Dear ALS

I understand perfectly the issues with Short not giving managers the backing they need regarding transfers, and that his decision to stick with a DoF after De Fanti baffles some, but surely some of the blame has to go elsewhere as well. 

At the end of last season despite him keeping us up, you had to question whether we should have moved on from Advocaat; we had a narrow win against an appalling mag side (they were one of the worst teams I've seen at the SoL, apart from our current one), a hugely lucky win against an Everton team with nothing to play for, and despite a half decent performance, the same can be said of the result against Southampton. Other than that we got beat off West Ham and battered off Palace. 

Too many people think their work on football manager qualifies them to speak like one but as as someone on Twitter pointed out last week 3 in midfield against the Leicester 5 was going to leave us completely overrun and then his tactics against Norwich were questionable to say the least. If I remember rightly playing long ball to Fletcher was the same thing that angered many when O'Neil did it and when Bruce did it with Bendtner. There was not a single chance I can remember yesterday up until I left on 82 minutes. Even the teams during the 15 and 19 point seasons at least had a go. The team yesterday, despite preseason looked worse than under Poyet and like a bunch of strangers.

Briefly addressing Congerton, his transfers have been appalling. Yes he's got a low budget but other clubs have brought in good value for money (Swansea - Andre Ayew for free, Leicester - Robert Huth for £3 million to name just two).

I have no answers either and I too am sick of watching my team disintegrate and thousands walk out, but maybe pinning everything on Short is wrong and the blame lies with all concerned including Shorts advisers. Previous manager mishaps with transfers (Bruce and O'Neil) has left us unstable financially and you've got to ask what would happen if we now splash out £20+ million, get a few injuries and still get relegated? 

Daniel Williamson

Dear ALS

Ellis Short has a very descriptive name it describes exactly what the club has become during his watch.

Short on investment in the right players to take the club forward.
Short on judgement when selecting directors of football and managers.
Short on sense when selecting the people who run the club.
Short on raising the profile of the club by never speaking to the fans or the media.
This has produced a team which is
Short on talent.
Short on effort
Short on basic skills
Short on organisation
Short on teamwork
Short on willpower.

The number of players who make an effort in the last few weeks of the season and get contracts they don't deserve then revert to type is rife at the club, Larsson, Cattermole, Coates and Whickham to name just four. In two games this season the back four has been pathetic and that's being kind. Van Arnholt stands supreme as the worst defender in the Premier League, he cannot tackle, he turns his back when making a challenge, is never in position and makes no effort to get back when he loses the ball which is pretty often. Apart from having no first touch, everything else in his game is fine. He is an easy target for every team in the premier league and needs replacing immediately.

If you take the "or" out of Mr Short's name and replace it with an "i" you get the word that describes what the team currently is.

There is two weeks to make a major overhaul of the team in the transfer market failure to do so will result in relegation as this is without doubt the worst team in the league.

John Robson

Dear ALS

While it probably can’t be denied that Paulo Di Canio is slightly off his head, his recent comments about what’s wrong at Sunderland AFC may well be wise words indeed. When Ellis Short appeared on the scene we had the unpredictable, but respected Royston Keane as manager and the brilliant and much loved Lord Niall as chairman and the feeling around the SoL was good. People quite rightly thought that if we could get through that first season following promotion then having Keano and Quinny at the club might make the place attractive to transfer targets and that SAFC could start taking its first steps up the Premier League ladder.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason or reasons, within no time at all Keano was out and Lord Niall was pushed towards the exit door. As soon as that door shut behind The Big Man Sunderland became a club that players didn’t seem arsed about playing for, despite the best support in the land. For several years fans have been upset and annoyed that we haven’t made any marquee signings, but footballers aren’t as daft as you think they might be. They will speak to people and find out that there is something fundamentally wrong at the core of the club, as PDC has pointed out, so we end up with second best or even third or fourth best.

I would love to be proved wrong, but as far as I can see, unless there are major changes in the structure of our club, then we will remain as relegation fodder for time immemorial. As the Stranglers once put it, Something Better Change.

Dave

Hi ALS

In our universal critique of players and performances last Saturday we need to take off the rose tinted glasses when it comes to fair and honest appraisals of who did what on the pitch.

We all know Saturday's game was a shambles and yet most people seem to want to lay the blame at the door of our abject defensive performance, and three people seem to be getting all the blame namely PVA, Kaboul, and Jones, yes they all had poor games but were not the root cause of our capitulation.

Saturday saw Captain Cattermole take centre stage and after all the fine words and posturing about him being by far our best player his performance was truly diabolical, in my view this was the root cause of our total capitulation. Clearly Advocaat realised his mistake by taking him off after 30 minutes but by this time the damage was already beyond repair, in the brief time he was on the pitch he did nothing but run around like a headless chicken. He never made one useful tackle and then gave away a needless penalty, a truly abject performance. To compound matters Dick then gave the armband to Adam Johnson which was an unbelievably stupid thing to do, either Larsson or Pantilimon should have been given it.

What bemuses me and many other fans is that Cattermole is beyond reproach by both the manager and the press, and in that I include ALS who have bigged him up so much his head will explode soon, yes he's probably one of our better performers of late but so are Larsson, O'Shea and Pantilimon, but they hardly ever get a mention.

Not one article I have read has mentioned his piss poor performance, we all seem content to delude ourselves that it was all down to PVA, Kabul, and Jones and yes they were poor and I am not condoning their mistakes, but Cattermole was worse.

As captain you are expected to lead by example but nothing could be further from the truth last Saturday, if Advocaat can't quickly sort out a first choice captain who is reliable, can lead by example, has a cool clear head, and has the respect of others, then we have no chance of ever galvanising the team into a winning unit.

Personally I would make Pantilimon or Larsson captain but then wtf do I know I'm only a fan who watches us play utter drivel every week, all I know is that we can buy all the players we want but without some proper leadership on the pitch it will make little difference.

Tom

Dear ALS

After another dismal performance we need to be signing some young, quick and hungry players to complement the old, slow and satisfied players that we already have in our team. Jonny Evans would be a good start in defence and then Charlie Austin up front and a creative centre midfield player with a bit of presence.

It’s not big Dick's fault that the team are not good enough but our billionaire chairman’s and he needs to dig deep and get some cash spent on quality not quantity. The fans deserve a decent team who will fight for every point and not give up as soon as things start to go wrong.

Jake the Snake

Dear ALS

"Never in the history of SAFC has so much been owed by so few players to so many fans".

I think this about sums up how us fans feel after the horror show at the KP stadium on Saturday.

But what else do we really expect from an a club that seems intent on making less and less investment in better players as each season passes by.

The only difference this time is that our expectations were actually a tad higher than normal, and rightly so, given the fact Short had managed to persuade Dick to reverse his decision and stay on, lured back with the alleged promise of a generous transfer kitty, although still waiting for that to materialise!

Actions do speak louder than words though, and I am sure that most of us fans are pretty underwhelmed by the players that have been acquired so far, hopefully by the end of this transfer window that will have changed, otherwise I foresee us remaining in deep doo dah.

Also think that whilst selling Wickham was perfectly justifiable from a financial point of view, it sends out a very negative message to fans that we do not believe in youngsters any more.

The manner of Saturday's defeat was alarming and very reminiscent of the drubbing we suffered last year away against the Saints, tactics all wrong and abject performances from players who we know can do a lot better.

Having said that us fans are a forgiving lot and hopefully that was a one off and lessons will be learned, so we can rebound with two home wins.

Keep the faith
Rich

Dear ALS

Well if we thought last year's defending was bad, yesterday's was on a different level. Coates and Kaboul are just awful, no pace, poor decision making, as my dad said he could defend better than that and he is 80.

I hate to say it but this season has a sense of inevitably about it, I don't like saying that after one game but I am tired of Cattermole, Rodwell, Larsson, there is nothing there to scare teams.

Personally I would like some of the young lads to be given a chance, now is the time. Still trying to keep the faith but it is getting bloody hard.

Paul
Alton

Dear ALS

Yes it was disappointing yesterday, yes some of the defending was shambolic and yes I know it feels like here we go again, but Leicester may not be the relegation unit they were.

We are not going to be in the top few in the league - so if we want to have less boring draws this year, we'll win some and lose some.

We drew with Leicester away last year and drew with Norwich at home last time we played them.

A win next week [yes I know that's an "if"] and we've turned two draws into a loss and a win.  

Let's wait for the evening before we criticise the day

Barry Conlin

Dear ALS,

Dick Advocaat’s sad little post-match e-mail says it all. Sunderland were a team without defensive organisation or ideas for most of the match, although they eventually scored a couple of good goals.

Watching on MOTD was painful and Alan Shearer’s post match summary made painful listening, especially as he was right. Sunderland’s defence was clueless in the first half and Pantlimon must wonder what he’s let himself in for this season. I noticed in both The Times and The Guardian that several commentators are tipping us for relegation. This season has an ominous feel to it already.

Dave from Sheffield=

Dear ALS

The Dick Advocaat post match verdict e-mail I receive (below) is a reflection of what (or what we've not) been doing pre-season. I agree with his comments, but let's not stop with the players - if we're going to talk about mistakes, sharpness and speed, what about our pre-season transfer activity?

We've been slow to bring in players and the failure of the Leroy Fer deal, who had a medical history, has delayed the strengthening of our squad - not a good example to set to the players on pre season preparation? On the pitch the same defensive frailties down the flanks that cost us in too many games last season were all too evident (again) and Cattermole was back to making mistakes in key areas of the pitch. To pull him off after 30 mins suggests he shouldn't have been on the pitch to start with - let alone be made captain - has he been enjoying his summer break a little too much? Apart from Jermaine Lens, the starting lineup or the way we played has not changed to any extend that gives me confidence for the coming season and I imagine we'll be bringing in players up to the close of the window, by which over 10% of our season will have gone while we're busy dropping vital points against teams like Leicester. What we saw yesterday I hope is not a pre-cursor to more of the embarrassment and unprofessionalism that we saw against Villa/QPR/Palace/Hull last season. Everyone at the club needs to have a good look at themselves.

Phil in Leeds

Advocaat's verdict word for word. "It was very disappointing, but Leicester were the better side, especially in the first half. They took their chances and made the most of the possession that they had. We were caught out and made mistakes that a team shouldn’t be making at this level. We have to learn from this. I thought we looked a little more organised in the second half with [Steven] Fletcher up front. There was no sharpness and the speed of the game was very slow, when the other team had the ball they were much quicker. If you’re looking for positives, it’s that both strikers scored a goal. I’m extremely disappointed for the fans, they came down to back us in their numbers and that was not a great performance for them. Thanks for your support."

Dear ALS

I have just got back from Leicester. Can someone tell me what season, it is? I am just trying to work out if I went back in time or something.

I could have sworn I just saw a repeat performance from last season, or was it the season before, or even the one before that?

We seem to be strong in the keeper department, but I guess at least we have a few weeks to try and find a defence, midfield and if possible some pace, passion and pride?

Only 37 more games to go!!

KTF
Alex Campbell

Dear ALS

Nobody should really be surprised by the one sided defeat at Leicester. While the club has Short as Chairman and Congleton as Director of Football nothing will change. Short won't spend and Congleton will pick up scraps. Advocatt said we needed six quality signings, apart from Lens and maybe M'Villa we are way short.

So here we go again. Same old shite. Short no better than that Dickhead up the road. He hides behind FFP when no other team gives a fuck, look at Hull and QPR. Can anybody really see Januzai coming because I can't? They haven't spent anything this summer with Wickham going for a reported 9 million and getting 3 million for a add on clause on Gyan. Know it is early doors but can anybody see two or three quality players coming in because I can't.

Short happy to run club on a shoestring. Same old, same old.

Dave McKeever
Doncaster

Dear ALS,

At the end of last season I was so excited by the escape that I headed down to my local T shirt shop and had one produced to my own design. It contained the slogan 'I Love Dick' on the front and a bottle of egg-nog on the back. As a result and to avoid confusion I can only recommend that a more sensible approach would be to go to the ALS website and select one of their more sober and well thought-out shirts.

However forget all that. The new season is here and I haven't felt so optimistic since the de Fanti/di Canio combo signed 13 players pre season, some of whom went on to play for the first team. I anticipated then that we'd be top by the end of September, although my hopes unravelled pretty quickly, especially at Crystal Palace. This time I have similar ambitions and with more justification I think.

First of all, this time we have a very experienced manager and not a trainee still learning his trade. As he showed last season Dick works to bring out the best in each player, invokes a strong team culture and is a realist, not a theorist.

Next the fixtures set us up for a good start. If we can't get 10 points from Leicester, Norwich, Swansea and Villa, a list which contains 3 of the weakest teams in the division, then I'm a Dutchman. Although I don't like the look of December, apart from Christmas of course.

Finally, the players we've signed or are about to sign, look to be experienced and talented and fill some of last season's obvious gaps, for example the lack of pace in the middle of the defence. Personally I think it's a shame Wickham has gone as I'm sure he'll come good somewhere and we need something more from Rodwell than we've seen.

Here we go,

Dave....
Oxford

PS 2nd hand T shirt for sale, best offer secures.

Dear ALS,

I'm feeling a little more optimistic about this season and the type of players we are being linked with as well as the business we have done with Connor Wickham (best of luck Palace!). The players who are looking like a done deal, namely Fer and M'vila, I think will give our midfield some much needed presence, then a potential acquisition of Januzai would be a masterstroke if we can pull that deal off. With a midfield capable of delivering more support, we may be surprised what our forwards can deliver.

My principle concern however remains our longer term plan. I have previously written in voicing my concerns over how Advocaat/Congerton sit down and sell a three year deal to a player when Advocaat has only signed up for a year and while Matthews/Coates have signed up, I only view Lens as a player that will make a difference. Advocaat 'demanded six signings' back in May and for me that still leaves 5 still to go and here we are chasing around for loan deals with the first game of the season a few days away - doesn't surprise me. But back to the longer term plan - with Fer, M'vila and Januzai all proposed loans, potentially come next May Advocaat and more than half of his 'six signings' will have gone and regardless of what we achieve we will be right back to square one, with nothing of substance to underpin this season and take us forward. We need to be either working on Advocaat to get him to commit to a longer term deal before the January transfer window (I think we'll have the same challenges attracting players then) or we've paid Allardyce a sweetener to sit tight?

In the meantime suggest we re-brand from the Black Cats to the Borrowers?

Phil in Leeds

Dear ALS,

I have to confess to not having heard of most of the pre-season signings.

Are these new players so anonymous? What about giving Milton Nunez another try?

Dave from Sheffield

Dear ALS,
 
We have exceptional fans!

 
I have often read about how much the fans mean to SAFC and the team's performance. However I rarely see the players acknowledge this. They get beat and play poorly and the manager and some of the more vociferous players come out and say the fans were brilliant. 
 
Well show the fans some appreciation. Try to bond with the fans. I was at Donny and they trudged off, heads down and embarrassed, maybe Seb turned a clapped a couple of times and that was it. 
 
If we are so important the players should be thankful. How about some sort of campaign to raise this issue with the players and staff. A bonded SOL would be unbelievable.

Regards

Garry Elliott

Dear ALS,

It is said that Wickham is a man that divides opinion, never has a truer word been said. For right now, I'm struggling to think whether this a good bit of business or not.

Sure, if we get back what we paid for him, perhaps even more, it's a cracking deal for someone who tries hard but appears to have about the same ability as a blind giraffe with one leg when it comes to scoring goals regularly. That said, I believe he is already better than both Fletcher and Graham, and we know the lad has potential to be even better; the worry now is that we'll be lumbered with the aforementioned pair as back up should Defoe and the new guy get injured.

That, to me, is a terrifying proposition. Many are celebrating the fact that we're appear to be losing a player probably more suited to TOWIE, and like I've said if we make even £1 profit it'll be a great day, but this is also cause for concern in my eyes. He will need replacing, and fast! I'd even go so far as to suggest a permanent signing of a striker and a youngster on a premier league loan. If we can't do that, we run the risk of having serious egg on our faces once the silly haired playboy finally realises his potential, scores goals, plays for England and beds a super model while we languish down the bottom. Again.

J.

Dear ALS

I wish it worked out for him, looked a promising prospect when he arrived, and after his mini goal scoring rout during "The Great Escape" we were all sure (including myself) that the goals next season could come from him, he'd be the biggest threat.

Unfortunately it hasn't worked out for him, but this deal is good for both teams and Wickham himself, because at Palace he'll have better service: Cabaye, Zaha and Bolasie, which is better than what we can offer. Knowing us: he'll probably score a hat-trick past us and have his best season.

James Golightly

Dear ALS

As a lifelong Sunderland supporter and one who moved down to Donny 70 years ago, I often went to watch Doncaster Rovers as a lad. Donny’s Belle Vue ground was a simple if idiosyncratic place - not quite like Roker Park! I couldn’t have spent my life following two more frustrating teams.

About 20 years ago the then owner of Doncaster Rovers wanted to get rid of Belle Vue, even though it seemed he didn’t have any other ground in mind. It didn’t sell, so - brainwave: why not torch the main stand and get the insurance? Splendid idea. So the owner, who’s name escapes me, hired an ex-SAS man to set fire to the stand. The hired man turned up with an oily rag and a box of matches, lit the rag, dropped it through the slots beneath the seating and cleared off. Then DISASTER: the rag failed to set the stand alight and the hired hand left his mobile behind him. Easy peasy for the police who on seeing a thin skein of smoke coming from the stand soon found Mr Idiot through his phone. Prison sentences all round.

Then it came out that the dodgy owner had also had a scam going with racehorses. It seemed a brilliant idea to get a pretty quick white horse which could win races, dye it brown and send it down the course as an unknown with long odds attached to it. Alas, the heroic Rovers owner didn’t bank on it raining that day and when the brown dye began to wash off revealing a paler hue beneath, suspicions were raised. As for the wunderkind owner. Not something he ever liked to talk about.

Dave from Sheffield

G'day from down under,

Well just over a week to go to the new season and I can't say that I'm looking forward to it with any great relish at this stage.

I thought when Dick returned things were going to move ahead with about 50 million quid's worth of signings, not what we've had, accepting there is still time for some marquee signings as they call them down here.

What I don't understand is how we cannot afford to pay players under the financial fair play regulations (as we supposedly have to get rid of some players before we can sign any more) whereas some other clubs seem to be able to spend at will on both transfer fees and presumably wages. I know we don't have either the numbers of fans nor the do they contribute the amount that Man U s fans do but we shouldn't be the paupers we seem to be. Are we the only ones playing by the rules?

Puzzled of Eleebana (Bob Todd)

Dear ALS and fellow Mackems

I have to say that for me, so far, there has been very little to get excited about this window and I certainly wasn’t expecting to be saying to myself that the best signing this window was still that of Dick Advocat!

I am ignorant on the quality and form/records of a couple of our “marquee” signings ( I use that term, because I do not see us spending much more, or getting any “names”, in this window now ) so to be too critical on them would be pathetic of me, but the bare fact is that it looks like we are going to be stuck with the squad that struggled – actually at times didn’t even manage to struggle... more sort of laid down and gave up, so desperately in 14/15’s season.

I hope Dick is reminding the Lads that although it is a new season, last season will not be forgotten by many of us for years to come, and that we must thrive, not just survive. To this end, I do not want to see the over cautious and slow style we stuck to for so long. Let's use the first 8 games to make a statement of intent, to play with a pace and ferocity that ignites the SOL and brings back a voice to the best fans in the PL,  we need to play like a newly promoted side, not one that managed to hang on by the fingertips... again!!

Alex

Please, Mr/or Mrs/Miss/Ms ALS,

Use what little influence you may, or may not have, to try to get a re-think on the switch of the Spurs game to the Sunday of the Great North Run (GNR), & at 1.30, not 4pm, if it's not too late.

Talk about 'shooting yourself in the foot'.

Every time we get fans on board we seem to seek to alienate them (reference the Hull, QPR, Villa & Palace home performances, last season!).

Like it, or loathe it, the GNR has become a regional institution, of which we should be proud.
But, why give the otherwise regular match-going fans, who may be participating, or just watching, the dilemma, 'Match or GNR?', with all the accompanying potential travel difficulties if they choose either. 

Surely, someone in club circles recalls that by far the lowest attendance of recent Premier League seasons, Stoke at home, 3 - 4 years ago, (pleasing 4 - 1 win, I believe!), which fell on GNR day, despite move to 3pm kick-off, attracted by far the lowest attendance for a PL game at SoL in recent seasons, 31.000-ish, I think.

Ha'way ALS, use what little clout you may have to urge club hierarchy to seek a re-think, if it's not too late!

Cheers,
'Harry', from Houghton (who'll be at the match, come what may).

Dear ALS

Some disturbing talk today about Sunderland running out of money already and needing to trim the wage bill before we can move on.

I think we need at least a couple more players (Dembele, Townsend, Johnny Evans would fit the bill, I dream) and additionally I would like to see him swap at least one if not a couple of our under-performing strikers. I can't think that a winger and a couple of full backs are going to make all the difference.

Is this because of the Fair Play rules or is it just Ellis Short trying to emulate Mike Ashley and do club ownership on a shoe string?

What on earth does a Director of Football do? If churning the team i.e. getting rid of deadwood and injecting new blood is his measure of success then I don't think Congerton is very good at all.

I will keep the faith but I'm getting nervous.
Alan Fenwick

Hi ALS,

I think something must have happened!

Have I been asleep for a decade are we now a team that pushes for Europe every year, gets to cup finals and have the best players in the world queuing up to play for us?

Nothe reality is we are a team that has just escaped relegation the last 3 years by the skin of our teeth.

It does not matter if we have 50 million or not, it’s getting players to come is the issue So will people get real when it comes to the players we get in, and support everyone who pulls on the Red and White.

Remember everyone Dick is no fool!!!

Kevin Hope
Harrogate

Dear ALS

I write this after reading the appalling news that we are likely to sign Younis Kabul from Spurs this must be one of the most terrible signings we have made whilst being a Premier League club.

I feel so sorry for Dick who was lured back with the promise of quality signings. We have signed Lens who looks good but the others are rejects from clubs we should be competing with not taking rejects from them. If this is the best Lee Congerton can do he should have the decency to resign. Of course hope I am wrong but this has the hallmark of another depressing season.

Regards
John (Consett)

Dear ALS

Notice your roundup headline today is that something good has happened - well I think that something very bad might be going to happen. Kaboul having a medical? What a donkey! We haven't forgotten his opinion of our club and I hope he will be reminded of that. Mr Vergini suddenly seems quite a good option.

Keep smiling, the ladies are doing great at least, all the best to you.

Chris Moffatt

Dear ALS

I just wanted to wish ex player Asamoah Gyan all the best for his move to China. I hope it will help him in his aim of progressing his career and winning trophies.

Some cynics would say that the Chinese league is not the best in the world and it’s a bit ‘out on a limb’ - he’s a long way from home too. Still, I’m sure the reported wages of over £200,000 a week may help comfort him if he gets lonely.

Sooty the Black Cat

Dear ALS

Is it me? Am I living in a time warp?

Everywhere I read about transfers proposed and transfers going through. Man City have £100 million to spend. Ramos to United for £30 million, possibly. QPR rejecting £12 million for Austin. Liverpool buying anything on two legs. Even Villa bidding £9 million for somebody.

Then there’s Sunderland. Sunderland have £ 50 million to spend. Dick wants 5 or 6 quality player to improve the squad. We are linked with this player and that player and it all sounds good.

Then the time warp. We sign Coates for £2 million and Mitchell for… £2 million.

At this rate we will be able to buy not 5 but 25 new players.

Somehow we are better than the rest out there who are working in terms of a going rate of £8 to £12 million for players who are available and not fancied by the top six clubs. We are building Dick’s quality team in units of £2 million.

Oh dear.

Tell me I’m wrong.

Congerton, show me a sign. Yes a sign. Sign a player other teams are interested in. Money isn’t everything but in a competitive market if the rest see £10 million as a benchmark of quality you have to go with the market.

Derek Thomas

Hi ALS

They can play as an exciting brand of cricket as they like but the summer is still boring without the lads ruining most weekends!

Summer wish lists – I reckon we all have one! Mine would be along the lines of the below without any prices or in any order

Victor Moses: needs a perm move and why not – pace, power and the odd goal – everything we are lacking plus Premier League experience

Arron Lennon: as above and again brings in the pace factor we sadly lack and needs a club – just means dealing with Levy.

Seb Coates: in January if you'd said he be in the team at the end of the season I would have laughed, but that guy who played at the Gunners is my first choice centre half!

Jonny Evans: not sure he is in LVG plans for the season and I would rather spend money on him than a Dutch fella from Celtic. Probably no chance of getting him.

Charlie Austen: could be a gamble as could be any one season wonder but 17 goals is still some going for a striker from a team who went down.

Dembelle: not a chance but is better than we have and can open up a defence or two

Jon Flanagan from Liverpool: a solid pacey right back with Prem experience which has him above Byram for me. Although I would rather sign Byram than another loan deal going nowhere in Jenkinson.

No doubt several on the list will get lambasted but some of you may agree.

Either way in DA we trust and I hope his hit list starts coming to fruition soon.

Daren Hands

Dear ALS

While I take the appointment of Advocaat as a positive, I’ve a few observations that we should consider before putting the rose tinted glasses on.

  • He had his sights set on the Belgium job, but settled for us instead
  • He’s only agreed to a 1 year contract, what impact will that have attracting players?
  • What is the working agreement with the club in terms of time he will spend in Sunderland? I recall speculation about how much time Martin O’Neill was spending away from the club

Should our start to the season stutter, then the above points will all gain more focus. We needed a manager to come in to build some solid foundations/continuity at the club & I don’t think Advocaat can do that in a year, but who knows what’s going to happen? Hoping for the best.

Phil in Leeds

Dear ALS

I see Shteeve has been appointed manager of NUFC.

They're just copying us except one manager has a ridiculous Dutch accent and the other is Dick Advocaat!

Regards
Phil Wilson

Dear ALS,

Can we now assume that Ellis Short has given in to Dirk Advocaat’s demands for a better quality squad next season?

Can we also assume that at the end of next season Carlo Ancelotti will be installed as our next manager instead of his side-kick who, interestingly, has ended up in the lower leagues?

One can but hope that Mr. Short’s ambitions will finally match those of our supporters.

It is a massive relief that we have not gone after that character who, in the season just ended, magnificently steered his club from first to eighth in the Championship in no time at all, nor that “ee-by-gumm” chap from east London.

Westlondonmackem

Dear ALS,

What wonderful news that Dick is staying after all.

He reminded us that he’s 68, but if you’re fit and well that’s no age. Somebody told me that the best year of one’s life is the 72nd. I found that to be the case, though the subsequent 8 haven’t been too hot. So, there’s something to look forward to next season, then. Of the other potential managers mentioned, Stan Allardyce and Steve McLaren have tootled round the block a few times without ever achieving much and the most recent half dozen at the SoL have flattered to deceive, although I fancy the purse strings have been kept tight. Let’s hope Dick gets to sign some really good players - there have been too many expensive flops of late. Now might Borini, one of the better on loaners be persuaded to come to the SoL? Let’s hope he can sign some really good players rather than what my father, a Murton lad, used to call “done men.”

Dave from Sheffield

Dear ALS

I would like to suggest that the buzz’ and ‘feel good factor’ generated by Dick’s second coming (sorry about that...) is equivalent to that exhibited after a derby win. You couldn’t pay him a bigger compliment than that. Personally speaking I am as happy as a dog with two Advocaats.

Over the years I’ve seen lots of diametrically opposed opinions voiced on this site but it will be interesting to see if there are any negative responses to Dick’s re-appointment. It has been mentioned that his popularity is on a level with Saint Niall’s but even the latter copped criticism from some quarters. I would just suggest that if there are any dissenters out there you keep your heads below the parapet for a while and don a tin helmet when you think it’s safe to voice your views because you could get metaphorically lynched by the  ground swell of other opinion. I would also suggest you think about life supporting SAFC under any of the alternatives.

Furthermore, whilst it is still early days it will also be interesting to learn from the club if the announcement has had any immediate positive effect on Season Card sales?

So let's stiffen the sinews and all hold ourselves erect for the start of the new season.

Sooty the Black Cat

Dear ALS

The Big Picture

The confirmation that Dick Advocaat will be staying on for a full season is certainly a welcome one. Anyone would struggle to find a fan not happy with this appointment and we should all be very excited to see what happens in the next 12 months.

So what happens now? It’s no secret that Dick wants quality players. It has been reported that the reason he hesitated in signing was due to a desire to retire from club management along with his wife’s preference that he do so. What may also be a factor is that he requested a particularly high transfer kitty, or a promise of four or five quality signings and Sunderland were unable to give him a confident yes. These last few days may have pushed Sunderland to realise that big investment is needed once again and that a manager of Dick’s reputation should not be passed up.

We’ve had seasons of big spending before, relatively speaking, but this has always resulted in nearly a full squad to be gelled and the quality limited to only a couple of players at best. This time, although the squad is weak in places, we will have an experienced manager seeking only to strengthen individual positions and I wouldn’t expect any panic buys this time around. I’m also looking forward to seeing a team built around the few shining lights we do have, Cattermole and Larsson spring to mind.

So what happens after the first season? Dick only has a one year contract after all. If we have improved, we should be looking for 10th place to consider the season a successful one. Any higher and it will signal a magnificent achievement. If that happens, Dick will likely retire but will be handing over a stronger squad with a stronger reputation to a new manager. This replacement will also be better than we have come to expect thanks to the heads that an appointment like Advocaat will turn.

If we end the season in another relegation scrap then I still believe we will have strengthened our position in the league and the next manager to come in will be a higher level than we are used to.

Some may consider Advocaat another short-term decision to help steady the boat and paper over cracks. I disagree. Dick is an impressive appointment for a club at our current level, and we do have a bad reputation right now. In 12 months we may not have climbed into the top 10, but I expect the club as a whole will have earned a lot more respect. And that’s necessary if we are to see real progress in the next few years.

Tony Russell
@TonyRoo

Dear ALS

You know when you're in the middle of building a tower of cards? You've got, like, 2 left to finish off the top? Any sudden breeze and all the hard work that got you here, will come crashing down? So you take a breath, trust your nerves and hope that this last move won't fuck everything up...

I'm feeling something not too dissimilar. I'm obviously thrilled Big Dick has pulled his U-Turn and is ready to see a full term in front of a packed Stadium of Light next season. For once, I feel assured in a manager appointment, resting easy that experience, knowledge, passion, sense and intelligence will be present in the dug out home and away. It's the business side of the game that I think all Sunderland fans will be a wee bit wary of...

Dick recommended 6 or 7 big name signings. He spoke of 'quality' over 'quantity'. He implied to push forward would require serious, serious funding. He sympathised with our plight, making it clear our squad is seriously lacking in cover. And he wished us well for the year ahead...

Well, now we've got him back. Well done to Short, Congerton (Byrne?!) and our negotiators for getting target #1 - I just hope his requests will be met and his directions for success are taken seriously. Otherwise, I fear if we stick to the same old 'bums on seats' Bosman signings, unproven loanees, and one questionable extravagant splash out deal we'll be left frustrated. Frustrated knowing we are close to setting up the 16/17 season on the front foot after success for a year in an already much loved boss.

Listen to him, trust in him, build with him.

Hope Mr Short sees his house of cards standing tall... We're close to getting a solid structure here.

Ha'Way!!
Now let's get a decent Dick chant together....
FTM
Mark

 Dear ALS
 
(To the tune of Cushy Butterfield)
 
He's a big cat
He's a bonny cat
And he likes the wear
And his name is dick the Black Cat
And I'm glad he is here.
 
From Mackem Stan

Dear ALS,

Congratulations to Dirk Advocaat upon achieving what he promised us, despite his mathematical incompetence, or is it dyslexia?

Before the Stoke game he said we needed 6 points for survival and tonight, after meantime collecting 8 points, we still weren’t safe. But we’ve got the 9th point at The Emirates. 9 points is, of course, 6 points upside down. So he was correct. Somehow…..

Now I’m rushing off to recover in a convalescent home before the other 50’000 fans get there…..

Halleluiah!
Westlondonmackem

Dear ALS

I am absolutely delighted that Dick Advocaat has agreed to be our manager for the next season.

I said at the time of his appointment that it was a perfect scenario to have him for the last 8 games, after which we could all take a view on whether he deserved to be kept on. I think that only his age (and hey he is just the same age as me, so plenty of life in him yet) was putting any doubt in people's minds. His performance was exemplary. So, now we have another perfect scenario where the worries about his age and ability to cope with the challenges of life in the Premier League are answered, while at the same time we have a year of management by a real heavyweight in the game of football. So, plenty of time to set us on the right track as well as help us find a younger longer term candidate. Well done Ellis Short you are a bloody genius man. And to think that it was only March when we were being forced to watch that incompetent twerp Poyet.

KTF
Alan Fenwick

Dear ALS,

In my view last season was the least enjoyable ever.

Having watched the destructive tackle on his Dad from the Fulwell End which finished his playing career I am puzzled that son Nigel not in the frame for manager. He is Sunderland born, was an outstanding England international, learnt this managerial trade at Burton Albion, left Steve McLaren with a cracking team of youngsters at Derby County and gave the Sheffield United supporters some joyful cup runs.

He knows the football passion of the northeast and would be my first choice to get the Sunderland club back on its feet.

Syd Harris
Norwich

Dear ALS

As a new season in the Premiership comes around I am prepared again to be ashamed and embarrassed at every home game. No not by the players, but by our fans. They will happily sing "Sunderland till I Die", "We love you Sunderland" etc but can they be bothered to give just 90 minutes of their precious time once a fortnight to support the Lads? No they cannot.

Why do so many of our so called supporters leave the ground before the end of the game?

OK they may shave a few minutes off the journey home or get to the bar first. Let's look at the cost of this.

It de-motivates the team at a crucial stage of the game.

It stops us giving the Lads the ovation they deserve at the end of the game, win, lose or draw.

It diminishes our great club in the eyes of the millions who watch Sky, BT Sports or Match of the Day.

It impedes the view and enjoyment of the real fans who do want to stay till the end.

So for the new season can I ask those fans who are watching their watches and see the 82nd or 83rd minute come around and start to leave their seats just to stop and think. Can they not just give this great club that they have the honour to support just a few more minutes.

As for any fans that boo our team no matter what is going on on the pitch perhaps they would feel more at home supporting a club a few miles up the road.

Mike
Harrogate

Hello ALS

If things go wrong next season we can always try to get Advocaat back again for the last nine games. Perhaps we need a permanent deal for this arrangement.

All the best
Harry Barnes

Dear ALS

Following another season of flirting with relegation I as ever am relieved we did not lose our Premiership status although am still a little wary of the over celebrations of simply surviving. This group of players are the same group who have diced with relegation for numerous years. It seems as though this group are only willing to perform for the final ten leagues of the season, alongside the derbies. Therefore following Napoleon's departure. I believe it's time to highlight some of the key Issues relating to individual players. Before getting over heated when reading this, this is simply just my own opinion, feel free to share your own.

Pantilimon: made a good account of himself throughout the season justifies his place and his wages

Vito Manone: steady back up keeper (with Jordan Pickford emerging is it necessary to have a suposed reasonably high earner on the payroll - should we invest in youth properly?

Billy Jones: Hasn't tore up many trees although has done everything asked of him so far - due to us not being able to spend a unlimited amount of money should we waste money and wages on a full back?

Patrick Van Aahnolt: personally I think he has been one of our better players this season (doesn't take much) impressive first full season in the premier league - justifying his place and wages

Anthony Revierre: never lets the team down, he is 35 and has a load of experience and nouse - now depending on his wages and due to the current lack of defensive options signing him on a seasons contract as backup full back

Wes Brown: reportedly on large wages pushing 50k, The Rolls Royce has finally only has 1 gear which is no good and cannot justify its wages. On his day one of the best I've seen at SOL. Letting him go is a positive move for Sunderland.

John O'Shea: like Brown reportedly was pushing 50k before signing his contract extension. I personally have never believed he was a good choice for captain, the word steady use to roughly sum him up before the past two seasons. I am sick of seeing the 34 year old clap his hands a few times once sunderland concede a goal instead of picking someone out and telling them they are not doing their job properly (half the time this is impossible as it is normally a long ball he can't win or losing possession by simply lumping). It was extremely evident in the games where Lee Cattermole was not sat in front protecting him (like he has done for two seasons) how exposed, slow and weak he really is. The worrying factor is a new manager will come and have little time to assess the squad and as captain he won't want to upset him therefore John O'shea will no doubt sadly see out the remainder of his new contract with SAFC. Does not justify his selection or wages.

Coates: Has had a mixed spell with Sunderland although the last ten games have proven there is something there. Although i would based my decision around the fee and his wages.

Roberge: Offload ASAP played well against Fulham at home 2 years ago, even though he may have been at fault for their goal haven't seen him since.

Lee Cattermole: I do think he isn't that bad of a player but does need fine tuning (maintains his current form throughout a season, with a few less yellow cards) and some support around him would be useful, I feel that having such a player as John O'shea behind him limits how far forward he allows himself to go. Justifies his wages and selection

Seb Larsson: Same as Cattermole (also very soon to be 30 - how long will his great engine run for which let's be honest is his greatest attribute)

Rodwell: Make or break time really -  £10 million investment in know doubt large wages. Has showed very little apart from some community appearances. Although the Chelsea game was like an exhibition game he did get on the ball and drive forward a few times which is the only real thing of note apart from his headed goal he has done this season. I would keep for this year - as I doubt whether anybody would pay anywhere near £10 million currently for him.

Jordi Gomez: Slow as a cart horse, can pick a good pass. He showed glimpses of his passing ability but a little bit more pace in the team would be necessary for him to portray more of his passing range. I would keep as cover if possible depending on his wages. - also 30 year old.

Liam Bridcutt: the only good game I have seen him play was when we beat Newcastle 3-0 at St James Park. Ever since then he could be Jeff Whitley's step brother. Get rid if possible

Adam Johnson: hopefully he'll be available come the new season, obviously he's one of our best attacking threats. Since the storm clouds have risen he has played very well at times, in particular as a impact sub. No doubt he is also one of the biggest earners and needs to justify a starting position for the money he is being paid.

Duncan Whatmore: Give the lad a chance, without lumbering him with responsibility for the whole teams success or failure.

George Honeyman: same as Whatmore.

Ricky Alverez: Hoping he is not returning to wearside and especially not for 9 million reported today - who is setting up these pre arranged deals is it Congerton or Byrne? Whoever it is its embarrassing!

Will Buckley: When he first signed I remember watching him against Man Utd and he was a great outlet for the team, quick and strong, not the greatest on the ball granted, useful for a counter attacking side. With either Honeyman or Whatmore waiting in the wings (fingers crossed one of which will come good). He may be moved on although I would personally like to see him stay and have a full pre season with us as long as it doesn't come as a detriment to the two young boys development. I believe he is the only player along with Van Aanholt and Whatmore that look quick and his sale would not generate much money.

Emanuele Giaccherini: the little man seems to love a injury. I presume he is on a decent old salary being a current/former Italian international. I would also like to see him fit for a full season - although another 30 year old - how much time should we give him? Looks to be talented having remembered his performance against man city last season and his supply to Wickham.

Mavrias: no idea what he's like tbh a few pre season games here or there - forgettable.

Steven Fletcher: does he care? No doubt a technically good footballer, doesn't seem to work as hard as he did at Wolves, possibly to busy collecting sports cars. Like Connor Wickham below seems more concerned about placing their hair correctly than their own performance. 12 million spent on him and know doubt on a decent wedge judging by his cars. Is he quick or strong enough to be Sunderland's forward more importantly does he want it enough. It has to be said when playing for Scotland he seems a lot more confident could that be down to having pace from Anya on the left or the shrewdness of Naismith behind neither attributes many Sunderland players are blessed with. Sell either him graham depending on the fee and wages.

Connor Wickham: The Ivan Drago pretty boy whilst he's off on his Holidays with Titus Bramble. Let's think about Connor. Personally I would have loved us to have signed Kevin Davies under Martin O'Neill for six months to guide the lazy self loathing footballer a little (before you all jump on this I know Davies was limited but he made the most of his six foot frame). Davies like Connor Wickham got a big money move when he was young, like CW Davies thought he was already good enough without using his physical stature. Until Davies flopped at Blackburn and was too old to play for the fabled England Under 21's. Btw I know Wickham could be better than Davies ever was, the fact is he doesn't make the most of what he has. Davies may have shown the lazy 6ft 4 monster it's ok to stand up and be counted, knock a few full backs and Centre halfs around. Anything but posing and flicking your hair. Only Dick Advocaat was able to get a decent shift out of Connor Wickham.
I would keep him and if he manages to pull his fingers out of all his endorsement deals and his arse then he would be my focal point of the team.

Jermaine Defoe: our biggest earner 32 year old a natural goal scorer who has lost his explosive pace. If we were good enough to keep the ball in and around the opponents box for long periods of time he would be that fox in a box that we have wanted since Darren judas Bent departed, but are we really that team or that good? The other big draw back with Defoe is - as Harry the whealer dealer has always said jermaine requires a partner which means continuing with 4-3-3 with Defoe on the left or the right who has very little pace left or playing 4-4-2 but are our centre midfielders good enough to do that when players like Milner and Yaya Toure struggle? I like having a natural goal scorer at sunderland and I think he'll stay I just don't know where he fits in?

Danny Graham: the grafter! Unsurprising one of the biggest earners - this being the issue we could not sell him anywhere for any fee. Try's hard is a reasonably clever football - just has no pace. At Swansea they had pace around him to make up for his lack in De Guzman, Routledge, Sinclair and Dyer. What does this Sunderland's team lack PACE! I like him although we need players to complement him, Fletcher or Wickham.

Overall the squad is rather poor and the lack of defenders is obvious as is the lack of pace and creativity within the side all three of which must be remedied ASAP.

Also below are some reasonable transfer targets considering our stature and budget, not that we currently have a manager to sign anyone atm.

Patrick Bamford
Alex Mowatt / Will Hughes
Liam Moore / Danny Batth
Bakary Sako
Nahki Wells/Callum Wilson
Ikechi Anya/Nathan Redmond
Kieran Agard/Andreas Weimann
Jordan Rhodes/Odion Ighalo
Nouha Dicko/Benik Afobe

Gary Lisle

Dear ALS

So Dick said no! …..and I for one did not expect him to say yes. He is too old for this malarkey….his experience of what Sunderland getting under your skin feels like will have been a tiny % of what we all experience and so he probably left while his reputation was intact……never mind his health – at 68 his ticker would of taken a pasting !!

My concern if he had stayed is that although he is obviously a very talented manager, he is not used to dealing with the current caliber or bracket of player we are in the market for. He is not going to be challenging for Europe, and only battling for survival seems to be the modus operandi for the next few years until something happens to change our fortunes…. staying as manager would have been a mistake. What we could, or should do, is offer him some kind of consultancy role at the club. A role to guide what is clearly a naïve Footballing board, and still maintain some kind of presence to guide a new, maybe younger, manager through the tribulations and advise on players, and the structure. This would not be a fully hands on role with day to day stresses and strains but one that could over see a strategy…..something we seem to of overlooked through the years. To let him walk away completely is a mistake if not attempted.

As for next manager – I am at a loss to who and where we should head…..a perceived lack of vision or strategy means that we do not seem to know what style of play we want, with what type of players, and therefore what type of manager suits our club!. Survival brings new challenges, and we have to make this transition in the time we have or it is another season of dross we all have to look forward to!

I am not for Allardyce – he is not my man…..and I can’t see Laudrup, Moyes or those types wanting to take a chance with us after the last 3 seasons. I feel experience here is crucial and although I am not helping with a suggestion right now, developing this footballing strategy is crucial – every business should have one, and as we seem to be reminded every day, Football, sadly, is now all about big business!

Keeping the Faith always
Alex

Hello Mackems

Firstly is it true it's all beautiful women serving exotic delicacies on gold trays with sensual back rubs in the ALS Tower, while yous watch re-runs of Sunderland's best games on a huge screen?

Secondly I am dismayed by Dick Advocaat's decision not to be our manager because it means Ellis Short declined to fulfil his prerequisite. Dick said he wanted a commitment from Sunderland to 'sign 5 or 6 Quality, not Quantity, players.' Dick saw this as the only way to stop the endless relegation battles. Ellis Short must have said no. By referring to 'quantity' players I assumed Dick meant not squad players but class acts capable of holding their own against most opposition and being able on a good day to turn a game on its head.

I fear the clubs going to spend most of the summer looking for a manager rather than good players now.

Looks like it's bottom have of the table stuff for us this coming season. But as long as it's not a fifth relegation fight.

Best
PJ

Hi

My name is Mark Wilson I am in awe of the spirit of Sunderland Football Club. Yet again this proud football club have found a way to survive against adversity in the top flight. The people of Sunderland deserve it.

I've written a poem about their survival and because it's the last day of the season I was wondering if you could share this poem with all Sunderland fans please. I'd be so thrilled if you could. It's about hope and the fighting spirit.

The Great Escape

The Wearmouth arched like the crescent moon,
Water flowed into a shallow lagoon,
Mackem tongues taste the salt,
Elevated granite surrounds the Wearmouth vault.

The naves prodigious towers stand still,
Luxurious rooftops from the top of Green Hill,
Plates scarce, abdomens rumbling,
Mouths watering, households crumbling,
Desolate suburbs in deprivation,
Wretched children close to starvation.

Tight knit community struggling to cope,
The stadium of light offers hope.
A Silence like a flower closed in the night,
Generations as passionate as a romantic night.

Like a seagull scrambling for its scraps,
The Rokerites season was about to collapse.
Stranded in a freshwater clam,
Black whiskers caught in a traffic jam.

Red and white stripes pack the metro station,
The connoisseurs of relegation.
Dark clouds hovering over the Stadium of Light,
Like a bull in a tether, the coal cats were in for the fight.

A plethora of Geordie hats,
Rivalry like Kilkenny cats,
Geordie hearts ripped by claws,
Garfield closed the relegation doors,
Cannons battered the obdurate fortification,
Terraces jubilant in celebration,
Riding the coat tails of the super cape,
The miners managed another escape.

Scarves hovering, echoing vocals,
Advocaat warmed by the grateful locals,
Managers tears dampen the dirt,
Emotion for The Black Cats shirt.

Heartstrings felt across the famous river,
For a manger who knew how to deliver.
The Sunderland spirit is still alive,
Because once they found a way to survive.

Mark Wilson copyright 24.05.15

Dear ALS

Well Dick has shown again how shrewd he is.

By saying he will stay if he gets the assurances that the club will spend the amount needed to have a decent shot at the sort of upper mid table position we say is our target he has really put down a marker. If he stays then we can assume he has got that assurance and so the future looks a bit brighter and if he doesn't then we can sure we will continue to stumble along in the same way as we have done these last few years.

So not only do we have the prospect of a decent manager but we will know by him staying or going what sort of future the club really wants to have. I Wait developments with interest.

Cheers
Bob T

Dear ALS

It is fantastic that Sunderland have stayed up again and I do hope that Dick takes the manager’s job permanently.

However I had the same feelings last season and was looking forward to pushing on under Poyet.

I feel the rug was pulled out from under Poyet in terms of transfer budget when we wrote a cheque for £28 million to Mr Short before the start of this season.

So will Advocaat stay?

If he gets the right investment necessary to improve the team.

Or will he go and we can then write Mr Short another big cheque.

Martin

Dear ALS

Last season when our Premiership future looked very bleak I wrote to ALS what my stars said for that day.

The forecast predicted exactly the scenario that unfolded and our premiership future was assured for another season at least.

Well here I go again with today's Aquarius horoscope, hopefully it's not horoscope!

'In your life there is a situation that looks as if it is nearly on the verge of going wrong. But isn't it also nearly on the verge of working out splendidly? Too close for comfort may be just close enough'.

So there we have it lads and lasses, stop worrying it's in the stars.

Eddy in Yeovil

Dear ALS

I wrote a couple of weeks ago that Sunderland would be relegated, that the bookmakers would be proved right and the Black Cats would sink without trace.

Thanks to magnificent management by Mr Advocaat I am delighted to be totally wrong and survive with a game to spare, hire the little giant and give him total backing to get rid of the dead wood, re-invigorate the club as a whole and start next season on the front foot.

The change in performance of some of the players (notably Sebastien Coates) makes one wonder about the man management of the previous incumbent.

Finally well done to the manager and players for a great escape.

Terry Reilly
Burgess Hill Sussex

Dear ALS

I’ve noticed that male life expectancy in the North East is two and a half years less than in the South East and I’m not surprised.

We have to wait until the end of match of the day almost every week and have to endure the tension of our annual flirtation with relegation every year. It’s torture and pushes stress levels to impossible heights. I should have known it would be like this from the day at the end of 1962/3 when Tommy Harmer scored for Chelsea off his arse to prevent our promotion but I was naïve then. Anyway in an attempt to throw the statistics on their head I’ve been to Tesco’s, bought two bottles of egg-nog (£8 each) and will give them a try tonight. It seems to work for some people at least.

Dave

Dear ALS

First of all we all must thank the Lord that someone at the club had the sense to get Dick to take over.


He did not have many matches to sort things out and has done it with a game to spare. He obviously knows his stuff and got the lads really believing in themselves again and working really hard to beat or take points off some really good Premier League teams when the pressure was really on.

So the future, give Dick a two year contract and get Kevin Phillips in as his assistant with view to Kev taking over in a couple of years. The final piece in the Sunderland jigsaw is to bring back Lord Quinn as Chairman. Europe here we come!
Sunderlandfanfor55yearsandcounting
 
Dear ALS,
Congratulations to all players and custodians of our club for avoiding relegation. The biggest pat on the back goes to the all fans whose loyalty amidst consistent subsistence football is to be admired (or questioned!)

Having just watched the match, the focus appears to be on whether Advocaat will stay or go. Let's be honest, even if he does stay what is the average tenure of a Premier League manager? Then where does that leave us if Dick’s missus gets fed up & he leaves after 18 months? My point is what is the longer term direction of our club? What is our mission statement? I don’t see enough of the people who are running our club putting themselves in the spotlight & delivering us a vision for the future, then being accountable for delivering it. It's always the DiCanio or the Poyet or the Advocaat,‘s who are here today, gone tomorrow that are left to deliver the message, while the people who are doing the hiring & firing go missing in action when the camera’s turn up.

For every result good or bad I want to hear from the directorate - with the number of management changes we being subjected to, they are they are more and more accountable. Ellis Short needs to grow some balls & get in front of a camera & deliver a mission statement for the club & commit to it or sell the club on to someone who will. There are clubs who deliver more success in the PL than ourselves on a lower budget/wage bill. The difference is they have a boardroom, manager & team bought in to delivering a vision - Ellis Short come to the table, I want to hear some direction from you, then on a regular basis I want to see the faces in your boardroom who are tasked with implementing it telling us what they are doing.

Phil in Leeds

Dear ALS

I find it spooky how similar the situation today is to the end of the 2008-2009 season.

If we lose to Arsenal tomorrow we will go into the final game with relegation threatening only if both Hull and Newcastle win and we lose. This is exactly the same situation that applied to the final day of the 2008-2009 season. Even more strange is that our fixture is against Chelsea (same as 2008-2009) although we are playing away this time, and Hull play Manchester United at home (same as 2008-2009). Newcastle were away at Villa Park then, so that's the only difference really. On that day 6 years ago Hull, Newcastle and Sunderland all lost and so Newcastle went down. This time it will be Hull if all three lose.

Let's hope we get a result at Arsenal tomorrow to ease the tension!

Alan Haile

Dear ALS,

I went up with my lad Lloyd to the Everton match yesterday – and we had one of the best days of our lives.

What a match, what a day, what crack! The Sunderland fans were awesome – from well before kick-off to flooding out into the streets after bagging all three points in the most amazing smash and grab I’ve ever seen!

From eight to 80, the boys and girls in red n white never stopped singing. I’m still hoarse, I won’t get my voice back till the Leicester showdown at this rate!

The greatest supporters the world has ever seen sang their hearts out – I love the Defoe and Pantilimon songs – while we hardly heard a peep from the Scousers.

On the pitch our lads were true warriors. Forget quality and class. Every one of our players showed guts, spirit and courage.

They worked their socks off and put their bodies on the line from the first whistle to the last.

We rode our luck, got the rub of the green, the bounce of the ball, all those well-worn football clichés.

But the harder you work the more luck you get – and deserve.

And we can’t wait to snap up ‘I saw Danny Graham’ T-shirts!!

We all went mental when the Gateshead Mackem struck.

But when Defoe sealed it I couldn’t even breathe!

We all got smothered in a massive red and white scrum and the air was literally squeezed out of my lungs.

I was desperate to start screaming Defoe’s name and join in the mental mayhem but I didn’t have the breath!!!

We left Goodison as high as kites and still haven’t come down.

Even Everton fans were coming up, shaking our hands and hoping we stayed up and send the Mags down instead!

We showed enough fight and bite yesterday to win the bleeding league, never mind pull off a second Great Escape.

Now for the Foxes.

Let’s just hope every true red and white fan rallies to the flag and we put them to the sword as well.

Thank God we got Advocaat in – and not a second too soon.

Always keep the Faith – and let’s get it right, at last, for next season in the Prem.

Red Williams
Market Harborough

Dear ALS

My take on our managerial malaise over the last decade (and beyond, if you remember that even Peter Reid had a nightmare end to his career at Sunderland, it was every bit as bad as Poyet) is that people don't realise just how big our club is.

We may not have contested in Europe or won a bunch of trophies post war, but we get one of the biggest crowds in Europe. It was interesting on Tuesday night to see even a Juventus full house against Real Madrid is less than us. We certainly have one of the most loyal followings - which team in the universe would be packing them in like we do after our history of failure and near miss. As a percentage of population (if you consider our catchment area to be primarily south Tyneside and Durham) our attendance is huge when you compare it with most Premier league clubs i.e. we have a smaller potential fan base to call on and yet still fill a big stadium, and finally we have more spend per capita on tickets and regalia and away support than the average, despite living in a relatively economically poor area. The effect of this is to put a huge spotlight on the club - every blink of an eye or pause for breath is noticed by a local population fascinated by every trick and turn at Sunderland. Managerial Pygmies like Poyet and Di Canio arrive and are simply overwhelmed by the attention they receive. Bruce when he arrived said that after shopping in the local supermarkets at Birmingham and Wigan he now would be shopping in Harrods. So he correctly recognised the increase in status at Sunderland but then couldn't take it when we complained that despite his upmarket shopping sprees he still gave us tat. These pygmies of course then turn on us and say we have unrealistic expectation. How very dare they! Keane was a huge name, a larger than life character, but I think that the world knows now that that reputation is all in regard to his playing career not his managerial ability. O'Neill had something of a pedigree but then never turned up. It will always remain a mystery to me that a man who did so well at Whickam Wanderers, Grantham Town, Leicester City etc. just couldn't cut it with us.

So, now we have the little General and for the first time ever we have a manager who is bigger than the club. This guy really has been there, done it and got the T-Shirt. He has won at every level both for club and for country. He has worked internationally and won internationally. His pedigree puts all of his predecessors to shame, and now he works for us. Wow! I feel that if anyone has the ability to create a silk purse out of our sow's ear of a squad it will be him. Of course it may be too late. Huge damage has been done not just by the Idiot Uruguayan but over the years and he is not going to cure all those ills. However, I believe he has the knowledge and intelligence to know what to do and just needs a few breaks.

KTF
Alan Fenwick

Dear ALS

So here we are again, I was going to continue with happy as we are. No we’re not.

Relegation staring us in our face, overspent again on brought in players. So where are we going wrong? Looking around at other teams I can’t help noticing that while we rarely see youngsters coming through from the academy, I can only think of Henderson and Colback in recent years, other teams seem to be able bring them on Southampton being the best example. If I was Ellis Short I would wonder why not why am I paying out a lot of money with very little to show for it. I realise it is probably easier to bring youngsters into a winning team but without trying them how do you know if they will make the grade? For all the good things Gus did I think that was a failing. One thing youngsters can do sometimes is bring enthusiasm and a different way of doing things. Look at James Mclean, until he was rumbled the opposition had difficulty dealing with him. So next year and into the future regardless of where we are let's hope we see more academy players making the grade, if nothing else it’s got to make good business sense.  

Regards
Derek Tate

Dear ALS,

Here’s an interesting observation I’ve made recently, and by interesting I mean excruciatingly painful. After seeing us concede immediately after going ahead against Southampton on Saturday, I felt the sting of deja vu. I moaned that Sunderland always let a goal in either immediately after scoring or immediately after conceding and set out to prove it.

So I opened up a spreadsheet and listed the games in which we scored the first goal then conceded (10 games) and games we conceded the first two goals (7 games) and it appears I might be onto something. Below are some observations I have made:

-          Of the 17 games considered, 10 of those saw us concede a goal within only 10 minutes of scoring or conceding the first.
-          In 4 games we conceded within 4 minutes of scoring or conceding the first.
-          We averaged 18 minutes to concede a second goal after going 1-0 down, only bumped up from 11 because we held Arsenal to 1-0 for 60 minutes
-          We averaged 17 minutes to concede after scoring first

I feel this is significant as it represents half of the games we have played this season. You can’t blame the fans finding it difficult to stay loud and proud when even after we score first, we all have that feeling that it can come crashing down before you’ve finished texting your mate the score.

The worst part for me is that there have been 10 games that we scored first and then didn’t hold on or get a second. That’s almost a third of our season and these are the performances that have pushed us down to the relegation zone. And I wasn’t even planning on talking about the 15 games we’ve failed to score this season.

We have only won 2 games 1-0 all season and they were both against Newcastle. Let’s be honest, we only kept the lead at the Sports Direct Arena because we scored so late. Even worse, only Man United also failed to score more than once against Newcastle during their dismal run without a win since the end of February. Bragging rights aside, 1-0 is a poor result against a team that just do not care about playing football.

So we cannot score, we cannot create chances and our defenders have turned mistakes into an art form. These are all physical and tactical issues. More worryingly, we completely fall apart after the first goal goes in. I have no idea how this has happened but it must have something to do with how Poyet and his staff were interacting with the players. Heads drop far too easily if we concede first which turns a still winnable game into a 4-0 defeat within minutes. Maybe Poyet isn’t to blame though, Sunderland seem to have had a weak mentality since Reid’s last season in charge.

I don’t feel betrayed when Sunderland lose or draw but I certainly feel let down when the team can’t hold on to a lead and don’t try to fight back after going a goal down.

Tony Russell
(@TonyRoo)

Dear ALS

From now on Danny you are the man
We thought your career was down the pan
But it’s never too late to make amends
After Saturday’s blinder you now have friends
 
Like a prowling lion you gave it some welly
Even got a mention last Saturday on the telly
So keep the faith cos one day you will score
Your much better than Fletcher & Altidore
 
We always love a man who tries his best
Us Sunderland fans never get depressed
Revenging that horrible eight nil loss
As long as we stay up who gives a toss
 
So please keep playing like that every time
And out of the bottom three we will climb
We’re still hanging on in the hope of survival
Here’s to the great Danny Graham career revival

Cheers
The Danny Graham Supporters Club

Dear ALS

So, Danny Graham - man of the match. Let's celebrate with a song.

For a long time I've thought we lacked an original local song. A chant that links us to the area. For years Sunderland were the County Durham team, so why not adopt a song written by Tommy Armstrong, The Pitman Poet, a man who was born in the county, lived his live here and is buried in Tanfield Lea.

His most famous set of lyrics concern a chap setting off to the shops with his lass. They miss the train, go to the pub instead, and she gets totally pissed. We've all been there.

His life story and the whole song are worth checking out, but the chorus goes; 'Aye, wor Nannie's a mazor, And a mazor she'll remain.
As long as I live, I'll never forget
The day we lost the train,'

These can easily be adapted, I suggest;
'Aye wor Danny's a mazor,
And a mazor he'll remain.
As long as I live, I'll never forget
The games I saw him playing'

Now if that doesn't get him knocking defenders over, nothing will.

Ha'Way The Lads,
Chess

Dear ALS

The bookmakers have made Sunderland hot favourites for third relegation place. This is understandable given the difficult fixtures remaining.

In previous seasons I had hoped that by some miracle we would escape the dreaded drop. This season I expect us to go down and I do not have the irrational hope of survival as in past relegation battles.

This is because this season’s performances have been a disgrace to a City and its fans who have been loyal through thick and thin (very little thick), paid hard earned money to watch a load of rubbish.

The owner and board need to take a look at Southampton, Swansea, Stoke and others to see what proper management at all levels can achieve.

I feel sorry for our new manager who is doing his best to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Lee Cattermole, Seb Larsson, Costel Pantilimon are exceptions but we have too many old and slow players who are not up to the task.

The stables need a massive clear out from top to bottom and unless this is done all I can see is an inexorable slide and goodbye Premier League for the foreseeable future.

Terry Reilly.
Burgess Hill Sussex

Dear ALS

Unfortunately after supporting the lads for over 50 years, I have to offer the following advice to any punters out there:

While bets are still open put your money on SAFC going down... It is impossible not to love the club if you were born in Sunderland. We are the best supported club in Europe in terms of passion and loyalty and meaning in a dull predictable world. But we are down.

Burnley and QPR are down and Leicester are on the up, Hull managed to pull themselves up by their bootlaces. The current lads just have momentum against them. Gus is a fine manager and what he did at the club was beyond incredible. The Chairman just doesn't get it. This is our club, not his. He will move on eventually but we will always be here,

He wasn't around when most of the Sunderland team that won the cup in 73 used to buy chips at my Mam's shop in Seaburn

Brian Spence

Dear ALS

I hope those who have been enjoying a lavish lifestyle on the back of our Premier League status have lifted their heads far enough out of the trough to notice that we are distinctly in danger of finishing the season in a division below the mighty AFC Bournemouth.

A club with a ground that holds 11,700, one of the smallest wage bills in the Championship and as recently as 2008-2009 were in administration in League 2, had 17 points deducted, have been up to £15m in debt, dodged financial fair play debt penalties and only avoided dropping out of the league by winning the last game of the season.

Yet since 2009 (yes only six years ago) AFC Bournemouth have had a plan, direction, leadership, buy in - basically everything we don‘t. Can we learn anything from Bournemouth? I’d love to think that the big shots at our club might wake up from their cash induced sleep walk and go and have a look at what Bournemouth are doing, or more likely Steven Fletcher’s already looking at houses down there. Contrast what AFC Bournemouth have achieved on limited resources over a 6 year period vs what Sunderland have done on their budget and the scale of mis-management and complacency on our part is epic.

I will be at the last home game of the season giving my support, but I won’t be doing any applauding at the end of the game even if by some miracle we’ve got enough points to stay up - this season has simply been appalling.

Phil in Leeds

Dear ALS

How Advocaat can consider that 6 points is enough for our Premiership survival is beyond me. Unless we win at Stoke, we will probably be in a relegation place owing to our disastrous goal difference. We need to score 6 or 7 goals against Stoke to put this right. That is an impossible ask of our team.

We are hanging onto the Premier League by a single thread right now and it is wearing thin. Those supporters who can get to our remaining games bear a responsibility to give maximum support. Forget about your race with Newcastle to see who can be the most disruptive supporters. Just get behind the team. Newcastle are not going down. You will give them something to laugh about. The other four teams at the bottom are all receiving great encouragement from their fans because all of them think they can get above our team. The silly walk-outs have given everyone else hope.

Westlondonmackem

Dear ALS

Duncan Watmore seems to be winning golden opinions as a reserve player.

He’s now 21 and many players have represented their countries, often several times, by that age, so there should be no qualms in picking a youngster with a lot to prove. The first team squad have, to put it mildly, little noticeable or outstanding talent and a few players with consciences who try to hold things together: namely players such as Cattermole, Pantilimon, Larsson and sometimes, hopefully, Defoe and Wickham. Whatmore might bring rather more to the team than several of its present occupants. I use the word occupants because there are players who seem to be mostly inactive, being satisfied with hanging around in their own limited area of the pitch. So, pick Whatmore: if he’s keen and ambitious he should be a far better bet than some of the useless mercenaries who get into the team week on week.

All the best,
Davd from Sheffield
(And fingers crossed that we stay up.)=

Dear ALS,

Just want to add to the discussion on support for the team

I’m baffled by those who say we need to get behind the team more, as in we just turn up and cheer any old rubbish? I think the fact that 44,000 plus are prioritizing watching Sunderland on a Saturday afternoon is a minor miracle for which the club and players should be grateful for in itself.

The crowd at the SOL is a tinderbox waiting to be ignited and the level of reaction is down to the team. If we were watching school kids, then an approach of encouragement would be the order of the day, but these guys are supposed to be the finished article! The top division! Ave Prem League wage £31,000 a week! And people are saying we to motivate them!? My view is that we set the bar of expectation way too low for Premier League footballers to the extent that they find it quite comfortable to use the fans as an excuse for under achieving. Some of these guys can’t hit a ball with both feet on £31k a week - Steven Fletcher chose not to use his right foot when he had a clear chance against the Mags - that’s ok is it? But if the fans aren’t cheering loud enough there’s an inquest? Bizarre.

Phil in Leeds

Dear A Love Supreme,

I have been Sunderland season ticket holder for 15 years during which time I have seen a lot of centre midfielders come and go. I have seen the technical centre midfielders such as Lee Clark, Jordan Henderson, Stefan Schwarz and Ki. Furthermore I have seen the limited but determined Kevin Ball, Dean Whitehead and Lee Cattermole. Having watched these players I have supported and applauded the players for their effort and capabilities although the minimum expectation of a Sunderland player is effort. Should us as Sunderland fans be elated that one of our players was "trying hard" or "gives a shit" or should we forget about players limitations due to their effort?

It is no co-incidence Sunderland struggle to break down teams of a similar ilk to ourselves in the league with midfielders such as Bridcutt, Cattermole, Rodwell and Larsson. As stated above most (not Rodwell) have demonstrated a strong work ethic although are ultimately lacking technical ability.

A centre midfield player (in my opinion) should be the most comfortable player in possession of a football examples include Carrick, Scholes, Ki, Huddlestone, Modric, Xavi etc. The players in which their team mates always refer back to when pressured who are always available and are extremely confident and competent in possession.

Now I'm not proposing Sunderland could lure those players but it would have been nice to have signed Huddlestone and Ki last season and seen what impact two such strong technical two footed footballers could have mustered together and for the attacking players in the team.....anyway enough of the dreams.

Back to the point, are Cattermole et al competent enough in possession (especially when higher up the pitch)? Credit where it's due against Newcastle Cattermole's distribution was good although he was in deep positions and the opposition we're pathetic and he was given so much time on the ball deep inside his own half this type of possession is hardly hurting the opposition.

When was the last time you saw Lee Cattermole driving into the box or slipping a pass to forward to create a chance. Two goals in 6 years is pretty poor return for a centre midfielder. Credit the West Brom Strike was of a high calibre. I'm hardly even going to discuss his disciplinary problems but being 27 and having the dubious honour of joint second most sendings off in Premier League history (with plenty time to accumulate some more no doubt) says something.

Jordi Gomez although he is as slow as a cart horse, I have seen glimpses of his passing ability. Mainly balls in around the "opponents box" to Van Aahnolt (the only player with pace in our team). Imagine if Gomez who can provide these passes had some more pace around him meaning more options to pass to.....

By no means am I saying Jordi Gomez is the answer but it shows what a semi technical footballer can do higher up the pitch.

I've nearly got to the point of not caring about if we stay up or go down, although either way a mass exodus (another year of the revolving door) must happen.

I only hope that a new manager is appointed and can quickly identify these problems along with our Dads Army of a defence and limp immobile forward line and act swiftly and mercilessly. Rather than having the same old try hard players another shot.

In conclusion the points I have tried to make are:

1) The Lee Cattermole / Dean Whitehead saga: Are hardworking centre midfielders with limited technical ability good enough?

2) Sunderland need some pace in their team, especially in the wide / forward positions.

3) Sunderland require a least one centre midfielder who is competent in possession and is trusted with the ball.

4) Ultimately we are shit and I would not be upset to loose various members of the players staff.

Gary

Dear ALS

I have to say I totally disagree with Westlondonmackem on his last post, which is a first as he has posted many quality letters that I agree wholeheartedly with.

The first thing to point out is that of the many football supporting friends I have who have seen SAFC fans at the SOL, or at their home grounds, they to a man have nothing but respect for us, our numbers, noise levels and love it when we come to town!

That said, as someone who travels long distances for home games, but also a regular away fan, I would say there is definitely a difference in the attitudes/behaviours of us fans at home v away and I recognize my own attitude change between the two.

The “away” atmosphere is more lighthearted and more an interlude in the drinking and craic and the front put on is normally to show the home fans what loyal and vocal support is all about “We Are Sunderland" I love it, AKA Saints, Palace and Fulham three of the best away atmospheres of this season I have witnessed despite the rubbish we watched away from home the tendency is to be stoic no matter what and get behind the team no matter the performance level!

At home I have witnessed some of the most pathetic, shambolic and downright disgraceful performances and at the SOL .I am not having it, I will give back to the team what they give to me. If its shite and there is a lack of effort and desire then I will give them that back especially when I have got up at 5am and spent £350 to get there and back. The time of blind support is gone. The minute we followed the path of paying huge sums of cash, recruited mercenary players who couldn’t care less about us, and have a club whose philosophy (if there is one) has broken away from representing us a working class, post industrial area, is the minute I gave up the blind faith approach.

It doesn’t mean I don’t love SAFC anymore, but now I do not know what that means. It seems less about the players (bring back some local talent please), or the management / board, but more about my mates and those thousands of fans who always turn up and still have an attitude/voice that says I am not a puppet, I am not going to pretend that everything is OK, that we represent a reality that is not glamorous, because as a club that has been the general attitude for several years now and look where we are heading!

Alex Campbell

 

Dear ALS.

Not only Sunderland, but all the other relegation-threatened clubs who have very recently changed managers, have chosen badly. All, that is, except Crystal Palace. Alan Pardew was a brilliant choice. Look where they are in the table now. Next season, irrespective whether we are a Premiership or Championship team, he is the one to go for. Never mind what it costs, just ensure that he is back in the North-East, this time at the SOL.

Unless, of course, we have no ambition whatsoever and are quite happy to scrape along as a poor, second-best club that never even hints at achieving anything season after season, many years in and many years out. We never even have the pleasure of the odd little boost to give us something to talk about. I can’t remember how many years ago it is since one of our players scored a hat-trick.

We could do with signing up a new set of supporters too. The home fans we have are rubbish, even worse than the team. They go to games to support, so why aren’t they doing this? When things are bad, they should be increasing their support and encouragement, not walking out like spoilt children. They have become a laughing stock.

Westlondonmackem

Dear ALS

I agree with one of the previous letter that there is only one person to blame for our demise and that is Mr Short.

Since he arrived in 2008 we have got progressively worse as a team and that is as a direct result of some of his awful decision making coupled with his failing strategy of trying to reduce the running costs of the club.

He has appointed a board who have no awareness or knowledge of football after getting rid of the few people who did know anything, on top of that he embarked on a disastrous course of action in sacking managers who were underperforming and replacing them, not once or twice which could be forgiven, but 6 times! the man's judgement is fundamentally flawed.

If that weren't bad enough we have then followed the strategy enforced by the DOF of getting rid of, or letting go our better players and replacing them with dross. Vergini, Gomez, Bridcutt, Buckley, Rodwell just a few examples of far worse players than the ones they replaced.

During his 7 year tenure as owner he has gradually turned us into a laughing stock and has obviously followed the same strategy as his rival owner up the road in the misguided belief that this is the correct way to run a football club.

People say he is propping up the club financially and without him we'd collapse, but that is simply not true we existed perfectly well before he came on the scene and we will do so after he has gone which hopefully won't be too far away now.

Mr Short's time is up and he needs to get out asap, he has presided over the self fulfilling prophecy that has led us to this point and he alone in my opinion is 100% responsible for the mess we are in.

Regards
Rich

Dear ALS

There is a noticeable pattern in the current complaints of our fans – weariness, lack of hope, not looking forward to matches as much they used to, and most distressingly, a lack of connection with the club and a feeling the club is losing its identity on and off the pitch. We are increasingly wondering ‘What’s it all about any more?’

This got me thinking. We are essentially a Championship club. Since the mid-1950s (actually probably the mid-1930s) that is where most of our heroes, memories, passions come from.

Clough, Hurley, Montgomery, Kerr, Dave Watson, Pop Robson, Rowell, Bennett, Gabbiadini, Ball, Martin Smith, Mickey Gray, Phillips, Quinn etc.

Sure, some of these were Premier League quality at various stages of their career and a couple performed well for Sunderland at the top level for a season or 2. But our memories of them are largely based on how they performed while we were a second tier club. When we largely had a positive and passionate style of play that fans could identify with and get excited about. When we were a competitive team that had interesting ups and downs but generally had decent results over the course of a season.

We’ve been in the Premier League for 7 years now - our longest continuous stretch for half a century - and made a soul-destroying lack of progress. For 7 years, with the odd exception due to decent loan signings (and Darren Bent) we’ve lacked pace, penetration and guile and not been physically or tactically strong enough. We’ve been unexciting to watch and have had no momentum as a club at any stage. The best you can say is that we’ve been ‘organised’ and resilient at times, but even that has now worn off. We are basically uninteresting.

So, is it such a disaster to be in the Championship - where the club and the fans can ‘find’ themselves again and be what we want to be – creating momentum, giving young or local players a chance, dreaming of better times in future, cheering on heroes, creating shared memories and positive experiences for the next generation?

I wish we could be like Southampton or Swansea but if it’s not possible then spending the next 7 years in the Premier League in the same manner as the last 7 would be a lot worse than being in the Championship.

(Interestingly, I think that the same analysis applies to Newcastle – their current predicament is a little different to ours (and they have the successful Keegan years to hark back to) but it essentially boils down to the same thing if you truly listen to the complaints of their fans).

Michael
London

Dear ALS

Having supported our club for 67 years since I was 8 I've seen all the ups and downs and one thing I will say is a constant is that if you give 100% for 90 mins every match our wonderful supporters will back you.

Remember please you are playing for people who save and scrimp to buy tickets every year and probably do without other things to do so, I don't say you're not giving 100% but I certainly hope so. SAFC is a great football club and it should be a honour to play for it.

Average attendance at SAFC this season is around 44000, not another club would get this with the way performances have been over the last 5 years. Football is a simple game if you've not got the ball fight like hell to get it and when you do get it fight like hell to keep it and do something with it. Give 100%. The supporters might not like it but will forgive a lack of ability of the highest order but anyone who's head goes down at the slightest setback should look at himself and take a leaf out of some of the other players around him and ask himself what have they got that's lacking in me. I won't name names but we all know we have players who run their hearts out every game, to them I say a big thank you.

Harry A Spennymoor

Dear ALS

Sunderland are suffering the effects of Premier League Economics. Private owners with a Premier League club will always want to turn a profit especially if they are not too interested in the sport.

The big money rewards for winning the League and doing well in European competition requires massive investment on inflated player fees and wages.

Even if this is possible it is a very long term project and with European spending restrictions in place probably unlikely. Most owners want to turn a profit as soon as possible. Therefore investment in the team is limited to spending enough to maintain Premier league survival.

Any finish higher than 17th is a bonus and an opportunity for cost cutting i.e. selling any asset for an inflated transfer fee and replacing with someone with potential on a lower salary.

The £50 million guarantee for just surviving in the Premier league results in the bar being set very low in most Club boardrooms.

Martin

Dear ALS

I watched the highs and the lows of our abysmal season and I have a strange feeling of déjà vu. The lads get up for all of the big teams and get some decent results .When the Lads come up against the also- rans they seem to come out flat and the result is we are struggling to say in the top flight. This proves to me that the present crop of players are not good enough to sustain Sunderland in the Premier League.

I have read fan's letters and most have some very valid points: whether it is the coach's fault, owner’s fault or the players fault. The truth is there was some very bad decisions made by the owner when he appointed Roberto De Fanti as Director of Football, who brought in over paid and under achieving players.

Then it was Margaret Byrne's turn to bring in Lee Congerton who also brought in players of poor quality. If SAFC are to have a Director of Football and a Manager/coach, then they must work together to bring in the type of players that the team requires and needs. Letting home grown English players of Jordon Henderson and Jack Colback’s quality go to other teams will always consign the team to struggle. Decisions like this have long term consequences and it shows in the team today. I would say whether we stay up or go down please take the time to get the right Football Management team in, people with a long team plan. Obviously if we stay up it will be easier to attract quality football people. In the mean time stick Jack Rodwell in alongside John O’Shea and we will survive.

Nick Pearson

Dear ALS

If we try and look at the situation we are in dispassionately, which I agree is hard to do, it is not difficult to understand why we are where we are, understandably emotions are very raw after such a humiliating defeat but this is just a repetitive pattern we have seen for some considerable time now.

People are quick to lay the blame on our players and yes they were piss poor on Saturday but the week before we were all lauding them saying what a great spirit they had shown and how well they had all played.

The downward spiral in our fortunes has not just happened recently but I believe it is a culmination of events that have led us to this point and we do seem to have got progressively worse on the pitch since Mr Short took over, so he also has to take some of the blame, and even though he isn't directly responsible for running the football side of things he is the one pulling the strings:

Just before Short arrived in 2008 we had been promoted under the leadership of Niall Quinn as Chairman/CEO and Roy Keane as manager, two very popular characters with both fans and players alike and even though Keano was an unproven manager at the time and a hard nut he was well respected.

Mistake number one by Short was to get rid of them both and replace them with Margaret Byrne and Steve Bruce, and then not satisfied with his first mistake he compounded this with a catalogue of disastrous hirings and firings in the forlorn hope that he could somehow rescue the sinking ship that he was partially responsible for running aground.

The worry is that Mr Short seems to have no vision for our club other than survival in the PL so he can cream off the financial proceeds that come with that. In fact since he took over in 2008 he has overseen the transition that has turned Sunderland into a graveyard for managers and players alike. He has also succeeded in turning the hope, optimism, and passion we had with Niall Quinn into nothing but despair and misery for the fans and the people who really care about the club.

People say we have always been this bad but that is simply not true, and although we weren't always in the Premier League under Bob Murray's ownership he at least had some vision and ambition for the club and laid the foundations for us to move forward, and we played better football in those days.

When Short took over our club in 2008 there was still a strong bond between the local community and the club which now seems to sadly be broken, SAFC it is now run by faceless bureaucrats who don't appear to value that bond and relationship, and don't appear to have any sort of plan for how to repair it.

Short's business expertise is supposedly in helping sort out "companies in financial distress" that has become a bit of a joke in our case, and although we may not be "financially distressed" we are all being subjected to a real level of human distress that is both painful and humiliating.

Strong leadership starts at the top of every organisation, and I fear nothing will change until we have an owner and people running the club who have the drive and ambition to make us a successful football club again , it can be done but Mr Shorts prize asset is at risk of going down the pan if he continues on this path of self inflicted destruction.

Regards
Tom

Dear ALS

The Chris Young article in the Echo this afternoon 13/4/15 hits the mark for me. Organisations that continually fail meddle with the employment of junior staff usually making them redundant to cut costs. Later if needed more senior staff go too. Perhaps now is the time.

Sunderland have done that in changing players, managers and coaches but the fundamental structures and personnel at the club remain. The scouting system has failed to unearth and cut price gems for years. Some changes have been introduced though.

The youth system fails to produce young talent good enough to break through into the first team. Have the coaches been changed? No! The playing staff are aging, contracts are running down. Has a succession plan been implemented to phase new staff into the first team? No! The manager/coach has failed to get results on the pitch. Has the manager coach been changed? Yes many times in recent years without much continuity.

Does the administration of personnel work effectively? No! Contracts of senior professionals all seem to end at similar times so the tactical expectations, knowledge and expertise built up in the squad is lost. Each summer we start again. I wonder how remote or 'hands on' the owner of the club is in organising changes at the club?

The club needs a footballing Chief Executive en-cultured in the footballing art. The scouting network needs an overhaul in personnel, as does the personnel involved with the youth system and development squad.

The senior squad needs long overdue investment in personnel to grow and develop together with a manager that inspires. But hey, how often do owners of businesses sack themselves? Perhaps a couple of years in the Championship (unless they get relegated to division 1) would do them good. Goodness knows what Defoe thinks now.

Kind Regards
Alan

Dear ALS

I know its early doors for this, but I was reading the letters and could think of nothing to add to the wise words already written, it's just a case of waiting for the trap door to drop I fear, so I wanted to be the first to do a “best and worst moments” for me this season.

The BEST? Simple SOL April 5. The atmosphere and the noise that brought tears to my eyes, and a swelling of pride that I have never experienced in 35 years supporting the Lads. Defoe 45 minutes BANG! If only we could have more of those!

The WORST? Well too many. Southampton away, actually apologizing to my son for indoctrinating him into becoming a SAFC fan, Villa, Palace, Leicester. The own goals, the hopeless and hapless defending, it goes on, but for me, the moment that stands out?

Stoke at home. Fletcher nods it in and then spends the next few minutes cupping his ears, mocking us for daring to doubt his capabilities. I mean he has scored 7 goals in 2 seasons after all.

This for me is my stand out worst moment, the one that typifies the type of players we have this season which is why we are doomed to go down, but there is a silver lining. I won’t have to see him in our famous shirt next season as some other mug will have bought him and he will have jumped in his Lambo (hopefully banging his heed in the process) and be headed down the A1, M6 or wherever!

Keeping the faith always!
Alex

Dear ALS

The unavoidable truth is that in order to have any success in the Premiership a team has to a) be located in London or the North West and b) have almost unlimited funds. Remember a club has to meet both of these criteria. Top players will only work in those two regions and they are the only areas in which the WAGS will live.

For the foreseeable future - and I'm talking decades - the best Sunderland can hope for is to stay in the premiership. If we avoid the drop this season Ellis Short should beg Sam Allardyce to pick up the poisoned chalice.

Sorry to be so negative but if you doubt me check the records since the Premiership began. As Niall Quinn so accurately remarked, 'If Sunderland AFC were it's supporters they would be in Europe every season'.

Lawrence Stainbank

Dear ALS

After watching the lads for 70 years I and thousands like me are getting fed up with the same old excuses, 3 seasons now we have been hanging over the abyss, because if we do go down it will be a long time before we climb back up.

6 games left a potential 18 points, but we may get 6 points if we beat Chelsea and Arsenal otherwise we have no hope against the results about time the axe came down and cleared out the dead twigs who turn up every week not to play but to get paid, they are a disgrace to our shirt.

What other centre forward has gone 22 games without a goal. We used to have a fortress when we were at Roker Park, and had some decent footballers, now with a fairly new ground we are a ruined castle.

Get rid of this director of football, get a decent manager and get rid of at least 8 first team players, and start buying British not Euro crap, and we may survive this traumatic experience .

Cheers from a tattered Red and White shirted pensioner
Spud the Mackem

Dear ALS
 
I’ve been undertaking a thorough and detailed analysis of our squad, tactics and playing style in the aftermath of the Palace game and I’m come to an earth shattering conclusion. We’re shite.
 
Now this isn’t a knee jerk reaction to a ‘one–off’ underperformance. It is based on the conclusion that any team which concedes a total of 8 goals spread over three consecutive home games and only scores 2 in reply, isn’t really ‘on the up’. I’m sorry to have to break this disappointing news to you. Furthermore those eight goals were effectively conceded in the equivalent of less than 60 minutes and represent a defensive implosion of trouser soiling proportions.
 
Whilst I’m resigned to what seems like the inevitable I just wanted to offer some personal observations on the Palace game:-
 
1. O’Shea and Vergini must be the slowest central defence pairing in the Premier League.
2. Time has caught up with O’Shea and he is being found out too often. He looks like he is playing in one of those walking football games for old gimmers shown in the Barclays Bank adverts.
3. We have no reasonable cover or viable alternatives for central defence or centre midfield
4. Midfield overall doesn’t create enough for the strikers or provide sufficient cover for the defence
5. Catts gets caught in the centre of the park too often when closed down and his head also goes AWOL when we’re getting tonked
6. Wickham hasn’t looked at the races for some time and for a big lad he gets out jumped and outmuscled far too easily by more slightly built defenders than him
7. About the only positive I could take from the last 2 games has been the performances of Jones and Gomez. In the case of the latter, it was long overdue but to give Gomez some credit he’s done well recently and he certainly didn’t deserve to be subbed – there were about 6 or 7 others who could have been dragged off before him.
 
So there we have it. We can’t score, we can’t create, we can’t defend and we’re hopelessly exposed against any organised opposition with pace (which probably covers about 17 or 18 of the teams in the league). It doesn’t bode well does it?
 
GDB

Dear ALS

No Hiding Place. The one nil win against the worst ever Newcastle side seen in the top flight does not hide the fact our club and team are a complete shambles. The meek capitulation against Palace following a similar limp effort against Villa and the earlier debacle against Southampton proves the players are short of heart, fight and more importantly ability to compete at this level.

O'Shea despite 100 Ireland caps and over 300 appearances for Manchester United played like he had never been on a football pitch before and Vegrini was no better. The midfield minus the energy and commitment of Larson was completely inept and just cannot create chances. Rodwell is a complete joke and whoever sanctioned paying £10 million for him should be sacked immediately as he will never make a premiership footballer.

Although he won't say it, the new manager must wonder what in God's name he is doing here with this bunch of talentless heartless excuse for footballers who can only ruin his reputation in the game. They have arrived here as a result of the malaise of bad management and poor decision making running throughout the club; it begins with the owner of the club and runs right through to the players on the pitch. If by some miracle the teams below us are poor enough to keep us in the league there needs to be a complete clear out.

John Robson

Dear ALS,
 
I am a German Sunderland supporter - presumably I am the only one. And after games like yesterday there will probably remain so. I am sorry with the supporter from Czech Republic who travelled so long to see such an awful game. I have one question since yesterday: Why? Why did we play so bad? On days like Sunday the last week we could beat every opponent. We play well and we could beat Newcastle higher than 1:0. Defoe and Wickham worked hard with the defender, especially with Jones and Van Aanholt, who can make their runs in the danger zone. All was fine, everybody was happy. It was our best seasonal performance.

Yesterday we saw nothing of them. No working from Defoe, Wickham was our best player in my opinion and he worked very hard again. Our defensive duo O´Shea/Vergini showed faults who are not Premier League suitably. Lee Cattermole had one of his worst days. We miss Seb Larsson every minute. I make Dick Advocaat no reproach. What should he make by such unfathomable dropouts? I hope it become better with the change from Gus Poyet to the Dutch man. But there are the same mistakes. We play very good and you could hope that we win also the next game but mostly we clearly lose. And I am sorry with every fan who paid for a ticket. You have to know I am a young Sunderland supporter, only three years. But this three years were unbelievable. I watch every game in a live-stream with very bad quality. Because there the opportunity is from Germany the premier League over satellite to see, I wanted to get Sky. However, for it I must buy to myself a new satellite dish and from Germany Sky is very expensive. There hard falls so much money to pay for games like yesterday. Nevertheless, I will do it, always in hope on a victory the next follows.
 
Best Regards
Martin

Dear ALS

Despite it being a long time since I’ve written to ALS, I’m still here; still a passionate fan; still feeling the annual frustrations; still managing to get up to the odd game (not yesterday! 1st miss in ages); and still loving the victories against the Skunks.

A thought occurred to me following the game and the 5-in-a-row stuff (probably a tad on the late side now)……and just in case we want to keep an audible celebration of said achievement….that a simple song may keep us going for a while.

To the tune of Molly Malone (Alive, Alive Oh – which is a nod to our greatest ever Ambassador, St Niall)

“Five in a, Five in a row,
Five in a, Five in a row,
Newcastle are *
We’ve won Five in a row”

*Insert swearword of choice here! I’m writing this at work and the internet police will be on me if I use real Anglo-Saxon…however something that rhymes with Bankers may work?!

Just a thought….thought I’d ‘put it out there’.

All the best,
Damian Reilly 

Dear ALS

Sometimes I wonder if football is any good, if life is worthwhile and if I matter. Then everything is validated and good triumphs one evil. 1 - 0.

There is only one truth. In life, it's all worthwhile. I have significance and I have value. Then I notice that Love Supreme has been telling the truth all along.

Regards
Neil

Hello ALS,

In 31 games over a fifth of our league points this season (20.7%) have come from the two wins over Newcastle.

But hopefully that proportion will now shrink significantly as we collect enough points in the rest of the season to stay in the Premiership. If Newcastle had won these two games, we would only be a point ahead of Leicester and they have a game in hand.

All the best,
Harry

Dear ALS

Easter Resurrection

On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures.

On the fifth day they rose again in accordance with the Sunderland fans

Gary Sibbet

Dear ALS

Now I feel sick after today's results. When I turned March over 4days ago and saw Fletch for April on the calendar

I thought it a good sign after his Scotland hat trick but was it an April fool? I am nervous (let's call it nervous excitement) for tomorrow. I believe I believe I believe

Gillian Hill

Dear ALS,

Eddie’s letter touches on some points which, whether English fans like it or not (and I certainly don’t), are slowly and silently creeping into the organisation of the game. It is going up-market, lead by Chelsea, Arsenal and the two Manchester clubs. The days of clubs, even in the lower divisions, being owned by the local builder or plumber have almost disappeared, being replaced by “money men” who have made their fortunes in the Far and Middle East. The Americans are a fleeting, temporary participant, only there to buy clubs cheaply and sell them to the money men expensively. There for a quick buck. It has become important to have an up-market image and an international perspective in order to market clubs. Step off the ‘plane in Singapore and the first thing you see in the terminal is the club shop for, wait for it, Bradford City. This goes to show how far down the road the shift away from English ownership has already gone.

English managers are going out of fashion. Within a few years there will be no English managers with their untidy appearance before the TV cameras. They are slowly but surely being replaced by suave, smartly-dressed so-called “foreigners” but who speak the Queen’s English and not some local English dialect which a world-wide audience struggles to understand. And they already bring in players from all over Europe and this is spreading to Africa and South America.

The next stage is to have one or two league or cup matches staged abroad in stadia which can accommodate more fans than Wembley and thus bring in more money. This will continue to develop until a situation is reached where most of the games are abroad and only one or two in England.

This is where English clubs are heading and, I think, that 25 years from now, we will have a handful of stadia in England with a game every Saturday, shared by around 7 or 8 clubs by geographical area. We will be able to watch “our” club perhaps twice in a season unless, of course, we’ve won the Lottery and can afford to fly to the Far East every weekend.

This will, of course, not happen in Germany where the fans are all members of the club, each with a vote. Borussia Dortmund, for example has 85’000 members with a vote and thus 85’000 attendance every home game. This simple system could save English football and ensure that the fans decide on most aspects of the club. All you home fans need to get started is sufficient funds to buy the club off Ellis Short.

There lies the problem.
Westlondonmackem

Dear ALS

Can't believe some the bullshit and speculation on here about who our manager will be next season.

The manager we have now may well be 67 but since when does age have anything to do with being a premier league manager? we've had plenty of younger guys who frankly have had neither the experience nor the wherewithal to do the job properly and that has led us to where we are now.

Advokaat has a phenomenal record as both a club manager and as manager of the Dutch national team not once but twice, on paper his credentials and experience far outweighs that of our last 6 managers combined, he's also successfully managed some of the top players in Europe.

I somehow don't think he will be that phased by what faces him at Sunderland, so we should be applauding the fact he has actually agreed to come to a club that let's be honest has been a graveyard for every manager since the Peter Reid era, Short should also be applauded for getting someone of his calibre to come to us.

Right now above all what we need is an experienced head who can navigate us out of the mess we have got ourselves into, and that was because of the decisions and judgements that have been taken by inexperienced managers with no sense of what real leadership is all about.

Dick's knowledge and experience of the game is second to none and he will bring stability and a calm collected way of doing things to players who need that kind of confidence after the debacle of the past two years. Yes we lost last weekend because things went against us on the luck front but we have to be circumspect about things, and remember Sunderland AFC are still in the premier league and with a Dutchman in charge who actually has more management experience than his other two countrymen put together, things will improve.

All I am saying is let's give Advokaat our full support because right now he is the perfect man to do the job

Five in a row coming up soon!

Regards
Rich

Dear ALS,

I’d like to put another slant on Westlondonmackem’s speculation around Paul Clement.

Recent and prospective appointments indicate the club is swaying toward a younger manager. There’s an argument that it’s a successful approach if you take Swansea for example, with the succession of Jackett/Martinez/Sousa/Rodgers/Monk since 2004. Its been an evolution over an 11 year period, most of which was put together outside of the Premier League pressure cooker, but its now serving them well, to the extent that they can make managerial appointments from within.

Right now I don’t think we are in a position to appoint a younger manager - we need someone who is best placed to give as much a guarantee as is possible that we stay in the Premier League and who will stay long enough to begin a building process.

In a situation where Di Canio/Poyet or possibly Clement brought short term Premier League success to Sunderland, do you think they’d stay around long enough to put some foundations in place? It's more likely their heads would be turned by a ’bigger club’ and we’d be right back to square one.

There’s only 2 names for me - Pulis or Allardyce and we must do what we need to do to get one of them.

So many people react negatively to these two names, but can our style of football get any worse that what we’ve endured under the ’young, forward thinking’ Poyet? Pulis and Allardyce have both been through the Premier League mill and in my view would be here for the longer haul. My only concern with either would be the relationship with a Director of Football, but they certainly wouldn’t be seduced by the bright lights that would attract a younger manager after the first few rave reviews on Match of the Day.

If we want to go down the road of a younger manager with progressive ideals, lets get some stability in the club first. The pressure we keep putting ourselves under is not good for developing young managers or young talent from the Academy.

Phil in Leeds

Dear ALS

Dirk Nicolaas Advocaat is a manager in the style of Avram Grant. Always around on the periphery of greatness, but never quite getting there. And at 67 years of age, I question whether he has the stamina to do the job required of him. He has to hit the ground running – fast. We have no choice but to wait and see. I hope, for all our sakes, he is successful.

And, apparently we intend to sign up the assistant manager of Real Madrid for next season. This underlines my comments yesterday about lack of ambition. We should be going for the manager, not his assistant. Second best Sunderland, as ever.

Westlondonmackem

Dear ALS

Agree with most of Eddie's letter below and obviously Mr Short's strategy to promote the corporate image of SAFC on the world stage and in particular in Africa is working a treat as shown on the BBC website, what we need now is a strategy to match that global ambition for the bit that matters most.

You get the feeling that Mr Short's project after almost 7 years is still very much work in progress, unfortunately a catalogue of bad managerial appointments, combined with the inane strategy of selling or letting our best players go in the hope that we could replace them with cheaper better versions, has led us to this point.

At the moment we have a group of players who are just that, a group, they do not play as a coordinated team and so far this season they seem to have abandoned all sense of purpose on the pitch, that is apart from when we play our neighbours, when as if by divine intervention we suddenly see all the passion and traits come out that are so sadly missing in every other fixture, it really is bizarre.

My point is that with the new man in charge, at least until the end of this season, if Mr Advokaat can bring all of his experience and skill to bear in getting this group of disparate and dejected players to play in every remaining game to the level of performance we are used to seeing in the derby games, then there is still hope. Last Saturday even though we lost to a goal that should have been disallowed, there were some better early signs of this, so let's hope that can be improved upon.

Strong leadership which we have sadly lacked of late is all about instilling confidence and belief in the players in what they are doing, through good organisation, tactical awareness, a flexible game plan, and using a system that plays to people's strengths, rather than the shambolic approach we've seen most of this season.

On paper at least Dick Advokaat has both the experience and ability to bring these things but time is against him so he needs our full support if he is to succeed in his mission to save us, he is the only hope we've got at the moment, so let's drop the cringe worthy phallic references and show him some respect, it's the least he should expect from the self professed best fans in the PL.

Tom

Hello all at ALS,

There have been some truly wonderful letters and comments recently which are not only informative, but have moved me to tears as we see before our very eyes the sorry state of our beloved SAFC. Richard Boyles' letter is wonderful reading and is clearly written from his heart. A copy should be pinned up in the dressing room for every player to read.

In 57 years of following my beloved SAFC this is my lowest point, even lower than our spell in the old third division.

I feel the club has lost its' identity with some fans, the community and the city. I've said for a long time that some players are just in it for the money. They don't give a toss about the history of our club and the importance it holds to the city. Even though the country is supposedly on the road to financial recovery, how many 'ordinary' workers (for that is what many of us are) drive round in Lambourginis after under performing for God knows how long.

Kick us when we are down Steven Fletcher.

Everything seems to be based on the corporate image of the club regardless of how the team is doing. I guess it doesn't really matter if we are shite as long as the image of the club remains high to the directors. 

Yes, we showed improvement on Saturday but come on people could we have got any worse than the awful QPR and Villa games.

I now wonder what will happen at the end of the season. If we stay up, maybe big Dick (have I really wrote that) will be given an extension to his contract. If not then who do we turn to?

I hope it's not big Sam as I just don't think he can bring anything different to us. For me, I would go for Mark Warburton at Brentford who has done brilliantly there. He is worth considering as he getting sacked at the end of the season and thus won't cost us anything.

We desperately need to bring in local talent too. I'm sick of overseas players coming to the club for soft money to go with their inept attitude. I want players who will care about the club, the community it should serve, the greatest city in England and the most fantastic supporters they will ever have.

Thank you Richard for your moving letter. It truly reflects my feelings.
Keeping the faith as always but bloody hell it's tough going.

Eddie
Wirral

Dear ALS

So the "little general" (I always thought that was Bobby Kerr?) has taken command of our shell shocked troops. He certainly gave a Napoleonic performance in front of the cameras at his first press conference and I for one would certainly not like to get on his wrong side. Whether he can motivate or put the fear of God into our overpaid underperforming primadonas will be seen over the next nine games.

Gus has trotted off into the sunset with a huge wadge of cash and no doubt a gagging clause in his settlement, so I will take with a pinch of salt anything he says today or anytime soon. His team have told me enough in recent weeks about his motivational and coaching abilities.

I look forward with interest to see how the new manager sets up the team. Has anyone told him Van Arnhott cannot defend, that Bridcott cannot play and Gomez does a good impression of a statue? Has anyone mentioned it's so long since we had a spell of attacking play we have forgotten how to create chances and that our best midfield player Lee Cattermole is not available?

I wish our new leader well, he is no doubt being well rewarded by the Premier League gravy train in his endeavours to keep the staff and player's noses in the same trough come the end of the season.

If it's better to be a lucky general than a good one maybe have hit on a winner as both West Ham and our friends up the road seem to be struggling to find eleven fit players lets hope he can hit the ground running. I for one am not holding my breath.

John Robson

Dear ALS

Richard Boyle's letter is a letter that gets right to the very heart of Sunderland’s malaise.

It needs to be read and re-read by those running the club and particularly by the players.

Dave from Sheffield

Dear ALS

Richard Boyles' letter sums things up very well indeed. In contrast, Les from Boldon could do with uncrossing his legs. If fans are spending their hard earned cash on watching SAFC then they have every right to hurl verbal abuse at players if they are bottling it and not giving 100%. Eight goals at Southampton and half as many before half time at home to Villa is plenty reason to have a pop at Poyet too.
 
I'm sick to the back teeth of 'fans' like Les calling for those more passionate and aggressive than him to be banned from the stadium. If he chooses to just sit there and accept the constant dross served up without so much as a whimper that's up to him but get off the backs of those who express their views more forcibly.
 
Pete
Southend

Dear ALS

Of the 29 premier league games played this season so far, 38% have been losses, 48% have been draws and 14% have been wins.

I believe these figures in the cold light of day made the sacking of Mr Poyet and his coaching team inevitable, nuff said.

Terry Reilly
Burgess Hill Sussex

Dear ALS

Having just read through the letters page I'm disappointed not read any condemnation of the unacceptable behaviour of some supporters - those who began to verbally abuse the players and staff in the dugout during the Villa game.

We know players are very well paid and in many cases under performing, but nothing they do or don't do merits what happened. I assume those responsible will be banned from the ground and quite rightly. They do not represent the majority of SAFC supporters.

Les
Boldon

Dear ALS

Surely the margin of error in mathematical probability of us finding the right manager has been used up by now and the law of averages must now be on our side.

Mr Short's record on firing manager managers is almost as bad as Poyet's win rate this season, however hopefully this time he has picked the right guy. You have to hand it to Short though he is not afraid of making tough decisions although I am sure he will be feeling just as much pain and disappointment that Gus didn't work out.

On paper the facts show that Dick Advokaat has an impressive track record having managed some very good European club teams and the Dutch national team, many of his past players also speak highly of him as a well balanced tactically aware and disciplined manager, all attributes that have been sadly lacking at our place of late.

The players need someone to believe in and someone who can both motivate and manage them in a professional manner, if they get that then who knows they might start to do, we shall have to wait and see.

Advokaat is taking a big calculated risk knowing the situation we are in and the disconnect that has been created between the club and the fans. But hopefully with his experience and management ability he can help repair things quickly so we can start to look forward again and bring back the passion that has been so sadly lacking of late.

We have all become understandably very cynical of late trying to rationalise what has happened with our beloved club, but we do still have something to fight for and we are not finished yet so don't stop believing and let's hope that Dick can turn things around.
 
Regards
Mr E Nog

Dear ALS

It is fascinating that our club is once again in the middle of a change of management without anyone involved in the running of the club being able to deal with change management.

This is the 21st Century and Sunderland AFC as a 20th Century club is an anomaly. Sunderland AFC is a football (soccer) club which is routed in its’ community but led by a corporate team without any sense of community. Professional football as played in the Premier League is and has been for a while a circus and our players are merely acrobats and tumblers and pretty average ones at that who need a ring master or leader (hence Advocaat nee Poyet). The player’s agents have managed to convince the directors that they are worth a wage and that they can perform in the Premier League. That is all. If we want more, or a community responsive club, then make sure you can make the club money. We don’t own the club or the franchise, we are just customers who (given the TV money involved in just staying in the league) can take it or leave it. I hate that, but it stops me going mad.

So let’s all of us either buy the club like Swansea supporters have or the German clubs do, or boycott the club until they play entertaining football so that at least we can enjoy the circus. Either way people, let’s be honest with ourselves. Not one of the professional team play for Sunderland’s community or even the history of such a great club, they play for themselves or their pay packet. Some professionals are passionate about their circus but not about what playing in red and white means to a Sunderland supporter where the club is the community. They may understand it but they will not feel it. If there is something rotten in the Stadium of Light it is that. No one who directs, manages or plays gives a fuck about the community of supporters other than providing the noise - after all it’s only a circus. Could you imagine what 11 Sunderland supporters who were even half decent players could do to the Premier League! Now I’d pay to watch that every day.

Richard Boyle

Dear ALS

Well, poor old Gus has gone and I feel sorry for him. I hope he gets another post soon and has more success than he’s had with us. Taking over at the SoL is a daunting prospect, but why offer Dick Advocaat only the remainder of the season? If he’s successful, why not get him to stay? It’s a bit insulting to say, ‘keep us up this season, then clear off.’ Of the potential managers in the frame, none inspire much confidence in me. Of Poyet’s predecessors, Bruce, O’Neill and Di Canio none had much success and why Poyet was expected to succeed where these; decent managers apart from Di Canio had failed. Poyet inherited the same problems as they had and various purchases of players of modest ability hadn’t helped.

When the on loan and very useful Borini became available to Sunderland he turned us down and one can now see why. Sunderland can become a graveyard for any half way decent talent and one can see the talented Defoe getting buried by the mediocrities around him.

But there’s more than this to it all. Where does Lee Congerton fit into all of this? What is his record in football? How much responsibility does he take for a number of very poor imports? Perhaps Congerton, with his modest record in football as a player, coach and administrator should come under the spotlight. Louise Taylor, usually a well-informed, sympathetic and responsible reporter in the Guardian says in today’s issue that ‘Gus Poyet said there was something wrong at Sunderland, but it turns out that it was him.’ Can it be argued that Poyet’s predecessors were all wrong, or misfits, too?

Niall Quinn is said to have spoken about ‘Gremlins’ somewhere in the club and I think he’s right, but these Gremlins are only people who have so far escaped identification. Advocaat and his successor(s) face the same situation as Bruce. O’Neill, Di Canio and Poyet faced and will be bedevilled by the same gremlins, unless something is done to oust them.

We have a devoted following of over 40,000 and they deserve that those who run our club work towards its success.

Dave from Sheffield

Dear ALS

Yet again Ellis Short has been a brave, brave man and made a correct but very tough decision. Well done mate.

If there was a fault it was that he should have gotten rid of that Uruguayan Incompetent after the Southampton game / debacle. Never mind, I have pulled the Renewal Forms back out of the bin and cannot wait until Saturday to see what our new man does. For the first time in a season I am excited about Saturday, and then with Collocini and Cisse out and Krull on his worst form ever, Easter looks like something to look forward to as well, rather than dread.

Some people have unkindly called our new man a "dinosaur" (he's the same age as me: cheeky beggars) but what a pedigree. We know Dutch football managers are excellent (maybe Ruud Gullit chose the wrong club?) and this guy has won everything and been every where both at club and international level. He really knows his business. I guess there is only Gus Hiddink who could be said to have a better record but he is even older. Anyway, for those doubters our man Ellis has given Dick Advocaat a short term contract to focus his mind on survival. Perfect. If he achieves the turnaround we pray that he will, then he will be in contention for a two to three year contract. If, heaven forbid, he does not then we re-group unencumbered by a manager who failed.

We have a much better team than our position and performances indicate. There are only Poyet's championship group (Bridcutt, Buckley, Gomez) to have doubt about. Other than that I think that when we see Defoe played properly we will see the quality he is. Rodwell, although still in some doubt, will again become the midfield provider he always was. Our back four will return to the mean clean sheet machine they have been for a significant part of the season. Whickam and Fletcher will stop playing as left mid-fielders. Without the encumbrance of Poyet's daft tactics where nobody seems to know where they are supposed to be or what they are supposed to do, they will grow another foot taller. It's like a cloud has been lifted off me too.

I see some say Poyet was a man of integrity, but he still hung on for his big pay off didn't he?

Cheers
Alan Fenwick

Dear ALS

Well Gus has gone. Ellis Short et al have clearly nailed their colours to the mast; staying in the Premier League is everything to them.

Interesting to note that the turning point was the crowd reaction on Saturday when all the £10 cheap seats emptied at half time - most true fans stayed, but clearly the board are influenced by how it looks, not how it is.
 
I've been trying to work out the reasons for his sacking and they are a little difficult to understand. I guess we'll never know the whole picture, but if Gus' remit was to get us into mid table obscurity and keep us on the back pages and not the front pages, then clearly he's failed. I can't help thinking the Johnson debacle is a contributory factor.
 
If it was to make us better, well I think he has, but not quite as much better as we had hoped. Personally I think Gus spent his entire time here with one hand behind his back, as the spine of his team is essentially players he didn't buy and, particularly with the strikers, players he doesn't really want or rate. I'm not even convinced that he wanted Defoe, as his style of play, clearly doesn't suit a Jermain Defoe style striker. I'm betting Gus is probably not too disappointed. I wish him well.

With his sacking, however, the next manager now has to motivate the overpaid failures of four different managers; he's got to deal with the Johnson situation; he's got to keep us up and somehow prepare a squad for next season.
 
Good luck, mate. Don't envy you your job. Frankly you've got a poisoned chalice. The players woke up last season, probably when their agents said "There's a clause in your contracts, lads, that your pay drops by half you're relegated!." Don't think they'll be arsed again.
 
This current squad is a rag tag bunch of individuals, who clearly have no discipline and no backbone whatsoever. The reason most of them are here is that we pay them big money and no fucker else wants them; very reminiscent of Fulham's squad last season, and look what happened to them. They appointed Felix Magath.
 
Looks like we're going for Dick Advocaat - anyone notice a parallel?
 
The easy decision was to sack Gus. The brave decision was to say to this bunch of inept individuals that at the start of next season Gus is still the manager come what may!
 
Personally I'm planning for Championship football next year and looking forward to it as we'll be rid of all those who are only with us because we give them the status of being a Premiership footballer, cos they'll be the first one's driving the Lamborghinis off into the sunset towards the next pay check.
 
Don't think I'll be renewing next year. Think I'll join the £10 cheap seat brigade!
 
"Are you listening, Elis Short?"
 
Bob Graham
Kidderminter

Dear ALS

I will start with, I told you so! Ellis wielded the axe when he should have done it at the end of last season when it was blindingly obvious he wasn't good. Enough which has been borne out by the dross so far this season.

Short and his team need to accept their share of the carnage. Short has to decide what he wants. Does he want to play at the top table, if he does, stop messing around and do it properly and get himself a quality proven coach with some big ones to sort out that dressing room and back him. All the obvious candidates are gone, so Ellis, give the Hod a bell!

Jeff Davison FTM
Southampton

Dear ALS

I have been convinced all season that we would be relegated. The club has made so many wrong, bad decisions over the last couple of seasons. They act as though they are a supply club, supporting other Premiership teams by taking good prospects on loan and letting go the best, young players coming through the domestic ranks. No real effort is made to retain those who show promise. Henderson was given away for “pocket money” instead of being retained or sold for a very large fee which they could have used to buy in a top class replacement. Welbeck and Borini could and should have been offered contracts they couldn’t refuse. With the size of regular attendances enjoyed at The SOL, the money spent would soon be recouped. There is almost no financial risk involved.

There is a lack of ambition. They don’t even aspire to finish in the top ten and a top four finish and Europe is nothing more than a supporter’s wildest dream not shared by the club. The attitude seems to be “wait and see” which seems to mean “wait and see whether we avoid relegation or not”. I started supporting Sunderland and attending regularly at Roker Park in the early 1950s when the match programme proudly declared on the front cover “The only team never to play in any but the First Division”. Over those 60-odd intervening years, the club has slid ever downwards with one “blip” in 1973 when they won the FA Cup.

The way things have gone in England, there is little prospect of being able to attract the very top players to a depressed North East which lacks the quality of life, attractions and facilities of the South-East and Manchester, but Liverpool is probably the worst area of the country and manages to attract good players to two major Premiership teams by making offers which cannot be refused. Neither club is a regular contender for the top four, but they have a chance to do so each season and that is a joy to their supporters. A joy that our supporters never experience.

One often reads the phrase “Keep the faith” in your columns, but for me, this becomes more difficult as each season passes and I find myself looking out for the results of Arsenal and Mr. Wenger and my nearest club Brentford. Both teams have great ambition and cheerful supporters based upon success. They look forward to each game with pleasure and hope whereas our supporters look forward with anxiety and dread.

Little wonder that football is slowly but surely fading in the North-East. When Hartlepool are surely relegated in a few weeks, probably with York City or Carlisle United there will only be three clubs left, Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough, possibly with two of them in the Championship. That’s down from nine league clubs in the 1950s.

Westlondonmackem

Dear ALS

Remember packets of spangles? Or those bags of multi coloured elastic bands?

Remember Ice Jubilees? Those triangle shaped orange flavoured Ices. Asking your mate if you could have his ice after he had sucked all the juice from it.

I remember the excitement of getting the number 14 bus from Houghton to Park Lane bus station. Walking through town (we weren't a city yet) and over the bridge to see the floodlights in the distance.

In the Roker End waiting for the peanut man to sell you a packet.

There was no talk about different formations it was plain and simple 2-3-5. Get the ball forward as quick as you can and let's hope we score more than them.

We all knew Ces Irwin or Len Ashurst weren't the best full backs in the country. That Gordon Harris looked older than our grandads. We also knew that from Goalie to outside left everyone of those players were prepared to die and battle for the club, the team and most of all us supporters.

With relegation on the cards and losing again no one left the ground before half time, booed or threw scarves and season tickets at the dug out because we knew that the players were trying their best for us. They were fighting to stay up, they all gave their all and we were happy with that. They took pride in wearing the shirt of this famous old club. We apreciated all of their valiant efforts even though we lost and were relegated. It still hurt like hell but we knew those players felt that hurt just as much as we did.

Fast forward to the present and does any of the above apply to the spineless bunch of no hopers we have wearing the shirt today?

The only similarity is relegation but we all know none of them will give a toss or feel our hurt.

So I enjoy memories of spangles and laccy bands and other simple pleasures. Most of all I enjoy the memories of players who played for pride and OUR club and not just for financial gain and big new cars like those at OUR club today.

Eddy in Yeovil

Dear ALS

So Gus has gone and where do we go from here? Saw my first game at Roker Park as a 10 year old and have been there ever since through thick and thin. De Caino identified an underlying problem as did Gus so what is it?  After all the owner has changed, the board has changed, the playing staff it seems have been like a revolving door. so as an "ordinary supporter" these many years is anyone willing or able to give the answer. Is it too much to ask for a team that will compete every game and not throw in the towel i.e. Southampton and Villa.

So come on tell us what the problem is and more importantly tell what's being done to put it right. There's now an opportunity for a fresh start, hopefully a settled period and success on the pitch with a change from being a laughing stock to the SOL being a feared place for visiting teams rather than the easy pickings of recent times.

Who's going to be head coach, well "we ordinary supporter's" will never be asked or involved in that, so let's hope that sanity prevails and it's not someone dressed up in a joker costume.

Alby

Dear ALS

I volunteer as a reader in a local primary school and there are kids in year 6 who have a better command of the English language than Poyet. He is almost unintelligible in his post match interviews and I suspect that this inability to communicate must be part of the reason why he cannot coach his team.

His written communication is equally inept - his email to the fans on Saturday evening was a disgrace. I just don't think that he is very bright.

The only good thing to say about Saturday is that at last everyone now will understand and sympathise with this Uruguayan Nincompoop getting the sack. Short was impressively decisive with Keane, Bruce, O'Neil and di Canio and he must be the same with a man whose win stats record is worse than all of these predecessors.

Regards,
Alan Fenwick

PS. I am more than a little disappointed in the letter from Red and White Stripes joining Poyet and Steve Bruce in saying that it is partly our fault because of our winning expectation. The loyalty of Sunderland fans verges on the insane - where else in the world would you have 46,000 fans turn up after the season we've had?

Dear ALS

There has been a lot of comment following the Villa game, but are we all kidding ourselves that everything was ok before it?

We’ve not put any comfortable distance between ourselves and the bottom 3 all season, but no alarm bells have been coming out of the club as if our position in the table has been acceptable? Now here we are surprised that there’s a risk of relegation, while the club has just been treading water listening to Poyet talk about confidence, luck, referee decisions and I'm sure the Johnson situation will get pulled out at some point.

In the meantime all the credible the managerial candidates have taken up appointments at other clubs. I’m not one for knee jerk reactions, but let's not lose sight of last season’s miracle escape and what's the club done to avoid a repetition? For starters Alonso/Colback/Ki/Borini would all walk straight into our starting 11.The only positive I can take is that we’ve drawn more games, but at the expense of playing the most unattractive football I’ve seen in many a year and people are saying we don’t do enough to get behind the team? Give me a break - if a £50,000 a week professional needs me to motivate them, then something is fundamentally wrong. Poyet’s system simply isn’t working, yes we try to play the ball out from the back, but the players can’t keep it going past the half way line. Then when Poyet says on TV he’s going to go away and analyze the game, if he can’t spot what the problem is standing on the touchline watching it then it's time for a change. We saw our left hand side get embarrassingly exposed at home by QPR - yes QPR! And against Villa it was Deja-vu. Fletcher covering Van Aanholt! Bridcutt stood in between Brown and O’Shea holding their hands! We were all over the place. I've never been a great fan of Cattermole, but he looks a world beater in this team.

Phil In Leeds

Dear ALS and the ever faithful Sunderland fans.

What a crap season we find ourselves in yet again. 13/14 managers since 2002, most of them in the last 6 years, why has our club got this bad this quickly?

Under Keane I seriously thought we had found something. That for once we would be ok and the good times would come strolling back, oh how wrong! This season has got to be the worse season of football for us in years, possibly worse that than famous 15 pointer season, at least that team had guts. We have to creative spark, no one willing to create that magic from nothing, no one running down the flanks. The signings Gus has made have been strange.

Someone brought up a valid question last night, why have a state of the art academy not to use any of the players from it? There are a few people on twitter who still believes Gus is the right man for the job and will get us to safety as “he has done it before he can do it again”.

We had a slightly better team last season; players could actually pass to one another, defend and score. And to say we should keep because of the cup final too is very naïve; Ashurst got us to final didn’t he! To whoever we get in, they are going to need a whole lot of luck.

And to whoever we get in, in the summer one thing is clear, we need a massive overhaul in players. But we say this every season, don’t we?

Trying to keep whatever faith I have left kept safe.

Yours
Hannah – Southampton

Dear ALS.
 
Red and white stripes maintains that the fans are not backing the team and therefore are part of the problem, this is unadulterated b******s.

If week after week and month after month the team show no desire to tackle, no desire to run and sweat (with the exception of Lee Cattermole and one or two others) this is rubbish.
 
When the team get rolled over by QPR who are a team who do not win away from home and also do not run or sweat, it is absurd to blame the fans. When the players are wheeled out time after time and promise to do better next week and fail miserably this is not the fault of the long suffering fans who pay an entrance fee to watch the half hearted efforts of the team with said exceptions.
 
I watched the Bradford game on TV and the difference in work rate, sweat and will to win was apparent from the whistle. I am certain the club could acquire (including Watmore and others) a squad of young determined and fit young footballers who will run, tackle when necessary, close down when necessary and play their hearts out for the club and supporters who are paying their not unsubstantial salaries. The present team with the aforementioned exceptions do not have the heart or the will to put in an honest shift and the sooner the majority are shipped out will not come soon enough for me.
 
I feel better after that and I do wonder if some of you long suffering fans agree with me.
 
Terry Reilly.
Burgess Hill Sussex

Dear ALS

I must start by saying sacking or backing (sounds like a hair removal treatment!) Poyet will not stop the rot in this club that has been in evidence from the minute we lost Quinn. He is the man Ellis must turn to if we are to take a long term look at our club, swallow his pride and beg Quinny to help in some capacity even if it is in an advisory capacity.

The issue we have is players/structure. We are not a fashionable club and long may it stay that way and whoever is responsible for our club must do more so here are a couple of thoughts

The Don'ts
Continue to buy average overseas players who are looking for a few quid to milk the Premiership gravy train for a few years, we have a scouting network and need to work harder at being more original than that.

Buy players who are “not required” by their clubs unless they are top 6, there is normally a reason they are not wanted!

Rely on “loanees” to build a seasons hopes on as this is not sustainable and in the majority of cases they are just a replica of those we could not sign in point 1, and again are normally on loan for a reason!

The Do’s

Work like never before to advance the young British talent in our Academy - this will be our future and they will be brought along knowing what this club stands for and requires

Build a brand that is based on Sunderland, the city, the people, and that is instilled in all players and staff who come from outside the region, they need to know what we demand and expect, call it a cultural education or letting them know what they are in for! Focus on a vision that is not just based on one season

Get Ellis Short to appoint a Non Exec representative of the fans on the board so we know what is going on in our club, and feedback what we feel, this is a club like no other (apart from up the road) where our team is not just a “one day a week” consideration and we need to have a voice.

I have said it before going down would be disappointing, but for me not the end of the world (the Premiership is not that great an experience unless you follow a top 6/7 team) on the proviso that if we do (and it's looking more likely now than ever) go down, we make some of the changes so we are a different team when we come up, my biggest fear is if we do go down, we keep the players, fund their salaries and then get more of the same, they are not good enough and those that are do not understand what we expect!

KTF and FTM!!
Alex

Dear ALS

What is wrong with Sunderland AFC you ask? You are right when you say that the same pattern has happened with each manager over the last 5 years.

You are right when you say it can’t be the manager’s sole responsibility. My view is that part of the problem is that fans, who are eager for success and progress, soon lose faith in a manager and the team when things don’t go the way they want as quickly as they would like. This frustration creates tension in the ground at home games which transfers to the players and manager.

The supporters are not backing the players / team for long enough and are not creating a positive, encouraging and solid atmosphere in the ground. Giving the team and the manager grief when things don’t go as they want spirals the whole thing into a mess such as we have now. Fans play a crucial role in a ground in backing their team and ultimately can win or lose games depending on their “support”. Sunderland fans at home games have to change.

“You’ll Never Walk Alone” is a fantastic supporters song because it expresses what other fans truly believe and they back their team no matter what. Sunderland fans need to do the same. The Stadium of Light needs to be a fortress of rock solid support.

Yours sincerely
Red and White Stripes

Dear ALS

Amidst the doom and gloom that has enveloped our great football club yet again, we are all scratching our heads as to what to do next. I think the answer is quite simple really.

S.A.F.C. are the great draw specialists and that's all we need to do now, draw the next 9 games. Perhaps nick one win playing counter attacking football, we play two banks of 5 and defend for our bloody lives. Forget any fancy football, it has not worked, but what has worked is our ability to draw a game.

Not pretty, but pretty is not what we want now. We need 9 more points, and get our win by murdering the bloody Mags. Then next season when we have managed to stay up, we need to get in 2 new central defenders and 3 creative midfielders. Job done. Defoe will bang them in and Wickham needs to throw his weight around a lot more but he will come good.

Fletcher needs to get himself over to Penshaw Monument in his brand new motor, and run up and down it a couple of hundred times, and that will sort out his injury prone problem. One more thing, a big shout for Dominic Sharkey (Nicky), just passed away God rest his soul, who I believe is only one of a handful of Sunderland strikers to score 5 goals in a game when we beat Norwich 7-1 many years ago but I still remember the excitement of that evening. He was a canny player for being 5 foot nothing, but he had Herd and Crossan next to him and Mullhall and Usher on the wings, now that was a forward line.

Keep the faith
Stan the Mackem man

Dear ALS

I have read with interest all the comment on the reasons to keep Poyet, the managerial merry-go-round, nobody better out there, a more deep seated problem at the club and, to a point, I agree with them all (you probably can guess the next word) but what is a racing certainty if we stick with Poyet we will be relegated.

I am not a fan of changing manager every five minutes and if we were making slow but steady progress, even in the bottom reaches of the table, I would support keeping Poyet 100%. The fact is we are not making progress, we are going backwards and Poyet does not project confidence he knows what to do about it. Of course the players are partially responsible but so are awful tactics.

As someone said in another letter to say the performance against Villa was like a pub team would be an insult to pub teams.

Phil

Dear ALS

Now that the dust has settled (sort of) and we're all left debating the point of clearing away all of our rightly de-prammed toys, we can see in plain sight that something needs to change at our club. But there's so much more than a simple chop and replace that needs to happen at a great deal of levels.

1. The Board
Ellis Short has, for all his detractors, done a decent job for the club in terms of the business end of things, stabilizing us financially, and expanding "the brand" with a few clever sponsor links. Furthermore, it should not go unnoticed that whilst he's been here, there's been an enormous amount of local growth in terms of all the planned builds outside the stadium, the SoL concerts and even owning up to making a slightly rash if justified decision with regards to Di Canio.

However, it doesn't take a genius to realise that since Quinn departed, the boardroom has been lacking a brain in the football department. No one will really know if Short's heart is truly in it, I'd like to believe so, but his biggest pitfall is having no one around him who has proper experience of footballing life. He is an owner without a clear vision; he went for Bruce on Quinn's advice; that fell on its arse as we all know. O'Neill looked like it made sense, until it became abundantly clear he'd become something of a footballing relic. Di Canio was bold, but insane. Poyet suggests a long-term vision, but something has fallen away, which I don't necessarily think can be pinned on Short. Frustrating as he may be sometimes, I don't necessarily think Short is the problem; lacking a clear vision perhaps, but he seems to have been edging closer to one that has been marred by a couple of wonky appointments.

2. The Manager
Everything about Poyet suggests he should be the right man, looking at last season: we had a style of play in mind, we weren't afraid to be aggressive even if we were terrible at it, and gave the cups the respect they deserve. That all changed immediately on that lovely day at St. Mary's this season. Since then, we've barely even thought about attacking, and our briefly confident defence have to live with being on the ball 80% of the game and being crucified for when the pressure inevitably builds to an error (read: calamitous goal). Sadly, Gus has totally lost it since then. One or two games aside (more often or not earning an exciting 0-0 draw), our tactics have been confusing at best, infuriating at worst and it's consistently looked like a case of "when" and not "if" we're going to concede. Worse, the man brought in a natural goalscorer, and then immediately decided to remove any semblance of support for him, although admittedly the Johnson fiasco doesn't help there. I totally get that people don't want more upheaval at the club, neither do I, but Poyet has not only stubbornly refused to change his ways until it's too late, but he has even flat out admitted that he doesn't know what to do. Further infuriation came from Poyet's big-talking of the academy players, saying a few are close to the first team, only to then not name a single one on the bench against Villa. If something needs to change, he's the easy option. Should that happen, my personal (albeit risky) choice would be Ian Cathro, the Scottish assistant boss at Valencia, who built up the academy at Dundee United, did a stellar job at Rio Ave and has now got Valencia flying again. He's admitted to wanting a job in England and would be happy working with a Director of Football, preferring to being left to the coaching side, solidifying an identity and using the youth to full potential. Google the BBC's recent article on him and tell me he doesn't sound like an attractive option. Age/experience will no doubt be questioned, but I'm fairly certain Mourinho's footballing experience wasn't exactly sky-high in the early days.

3. The Players
It's been said time and time again that there's a rotten core within our players. I'm somewhat sceptical of this, given the amount that have left us in recent years. But something's clearly not right. It took for Poyet's arrival to really get Larsson going and to stop Cattermole wanting to break everything he saw, not to mention he seemed to finally kick Johnson into looking remotely like a £10m rated winger. But then again, you see things like Fletcher moronically allowing his photo to be taken as he unveils his new Lambourghini after such a successful season that will irk the fans. Yes the lad is being paid that money, but fans will always question whether they've earned it, right or wrong. In theory, the players we have are enough for a steady 12th placed in the Premier League, but a few underperformers have let us down, and the rest are headless in their efforts to fit a confusing and dull system. Players will always change, so it is will a pinch of salt that I consider these rotten inner goings on of the dressing room.

What's the answer then? I've not a clue. I find it hard to see Poyet surviving yet another abysmal showing, but if he makes it to the end of the season, my reckoning is that it'll only happen if we somehow avoid relegation. So thanks very much to Burnley for making sure we were extra miserable last night. Survive, and he probably gets until October to prove it. If not, who knows? Is another caretaker the answer? Can we really be that cheeky to waste Bally's time again? Does anyone have Spag Bol's number? Are we on the verge of imploding? Three points at West Ham will make it all much better, but who can really say they know where our next goal is coming from? Somebody do SOMETHING!

Stephen Kennedy

Dear ALS

I suppose we all try to find slithers of silver lining after getting thrashed 4-0 at home to a dull Midlands team with less than 10 games to go in the season. And to say those silver linings are hard to find would be an understatement. But to my surprise it was staring me in the face as soon as I logged on to our club website.

It seems our youngsters at the club are not a bad bunch of players.

The under 18's and under 21's have both enjoyed impressive wins of late, and both share similar stats of one loss in the last 10 games. And amidst the same old same old 'it was a bad day' videos and pointless, uninspiring interviews, these small articles prove there may be hope yet for poor old SAFC. Which league that success may manifest itself remains to be seen, with the Championship trap door squeaking as we apply more weight, but the talent is there. Surely?

Not that we, the paying crowd ever get to see it however. It sums up a lack of trust in our youth that Gus simply ignores these players from bench and pitch alike and still churns out poor players, on poor form, with poor attitudes, under poor tactics. Remember when Duncan Watmore looked like an old fashioned winger, prepared to bomb down the line and take a man on? Turns out he's still doing that, albeit for the ressies.

Meanwhile we're left fuming with our current plight, suffering Poyet's 'poor me' comments, watching absolute dross week in week out. What must our youngsters be thinking? Will they ever get a chance?

Yes, now, maybe. When the prima donnas leave not prepared to face bank balances in the Championship. Maybe we'll see some impetus from the lower ranks when we're forced to play them, after they should probably have ben given more chances to prove their worth long before we ended up this bad.

And something else to infuriate us before we seek comfort in our tiny silver linings? Boro will probably pass us on the way down, leaving just them and the Mags representing the North East in the Premier. Remember those days? Cheers Gus, after all that talk of us fans living in the past you've sent us back there yourself.

Time to start following the form of our reserves now. I think we're finally going to see what they're made of next year. Shame it took this long.

Mark
Can't believe a year ago I'd watched us at Wembley

Dear ALS

Villa was definitely a low point that pretty much just goes to reflect our form of recent weeks. It's been on its way, and now it's happened. I myself am far from pleased (as I can imagine everyone else is) and there must be a solution.

Gus isn't the answer, despite the miracle he performed last year, he isn't the one to save us now. If anything, he's made things worse. Poor signings, poor play and quite frankly shit refereeing haven't helped our season. The players we have are good on paper but put them on a pitch and they're like headless chickens.

What the hell has happened!? So where do we turn? I'm not sure myself, but all I know is there is something seriously, seriously wrong with the team, the club and the manager right now. This is my opinion personally but I shall now break into my outburst.

For Christ sake man Sun'land, sort the hower out man!
Kind regards, Tench

Dear ALS

I can see no advantage in sacking Gus Poyet. There’s something wrong with the players and has been for quite a while now.

Martin O’Neill and Steve Bruce were not bad managers, although di Canio and Keane were. But good or bad, none of our recent managers have managed to get much out of the players and quite of few of them haven’t come cheap and command good salaries. Something needs to be sorted out on the training ground or in the dressing room. There’s weasel somewhere who needs to be found out and kicked out, and I’m sure it’s not Gus Poyet who seems a clever and honourable men.

Dave from Sheffield

Dear ALS

Let's be honest for the last 5 seasons we should have come to expect this situation.  It's been a long time coming in my humble opinion.

As a club we have not improved or progressed one iota from where we were 5 years ago.

We keep blaming the managers for our predicament and rightly so. But shouldn't we also be blaming the person who appoints those managers? We have never aimed high in the managerial stakes, we take mediocre people who we hope and pray can make the difference. No one apart from Peter Reid has made one bit of difference in my 50 odd years of supporting Sunderland.

Am sat at home just after Burnley have beaten Man City. That's why they will stay up and we will go down.

They can win important games where as we can't. Not with this manager and his staff in charge.

I'm not bothered anymore though. I'm lucky that I'm 350 miles away. It's the loyal fans who go week in week out I really feel for. They deserve much, much better than they are being served by championship standard players.

If we should be relegated let's look forward to happier weekends being in a league where we just might be able to compete and challenge for promotion. That will only happen with a new manager and players who actually do care and fight for the shirt.

So my vote is for the present manager to be shown his cards and dare I say it perhaps a new owner who just might be able to right all the wrongs of the last 50 odd years.

I can't see it happening though not in my lifetime.

Eddy in Yeovil

Dear ALS

Per the BBC--Poyet said: "I am responsible. I am one of the few in football nowadays, I am honest."

I have had it with this passive-aggressive bullshit. Even I, a Yank who has never seriously played the game and knows eff-all about tactics (but has supported the club for 16 years), knows you don't play 4-5-1 with a striker wide left at home against a team that hasn't scored away from home in 10 hours. But whatever. That's not the worst part. The worst part is the condescending crap where Gus "takes the blame," which in his mind means patting himself on the back for being the rare "honest" man in the game while projecting the actual blame outwards. Really, though, to whom, Gus? You tried blaming the previous regime, you tried blaming the fans. Who's next? The stewards? The souvenir vendors? The imaginary guy who put an imaginary gun to your head and made you buy Liam Bridcutt?

Well, here's an actual honest assessment: Blame yourself. You've lost the players, you've lost the fans. You're out of your depth.

Mark
Brooklyn, NY

Dear ALS

Plenty of Fresh Air and no Excitement

If that was what your doctor recommended then come along to the Stadium of light they serve it up in spades. The worst run club in the Premiership, the worst managed club in the Premiership and the most overpaid players in the premiership combine to produce the most embarrassing performance in recent history.

The pathetic, overpaid, underperforming prima donas gave four of the softest goals away ever seen in the premier league. The manager could not even get eleven players on the pitch for the start of the second half. The club have the cheek to send out season ticket renewals. I can tell them a good alternative use for them.

There is no organisation, no passion and no belief. We will be relegated and we won't be back any time soon if there is not an immediate change in leadership.
Surely Gus cannot survive this final debacle but it may well already be too late for our beloved club.

John Robson

Dear ALS

Harry Horto outlined with some accuracy the trail of failure that has haunted successive managers. But he doesn't suggest what is actually wrong and what should be done about it. In my opinion it is a complex matter and has been part of the club for years. One key problem is that the players are pampered and spend the week in the Academy 'bubble' with saunas/ spa pools / masseurs and chef prepared meals. No one gets near them and they tell each other what they want to hear. Talk is cheap and the garbage that comes from the players and the manager during the week is just hot air. When it comes to doing it on the pitch- they get found out.

Look at Burnley. Their club ethos is based on hard work, solidarity, commitment and they have a manager who tells it as it is.  There are few 'big' stars on fat salaries. No £10m players who seem to be injured more often than not. Also, we the fans must unwittingly take our share of the blame. We are so easily pleased that when we actually win a game we treat the players like heroes and create a false sense of security.

Finally, if the likes of Swansea can do it on crowds of 22,000. Why can't we? We need a manger who can root out the prima-donnas and put some honesty and commitment back into the club. The Poyet formula has failed and even if we stagger over the line (again) the prospect of watching the tedious style of football that has got us into this annual mess over all again is just too much to take.

M McNally

Why Poyet has to go...

1. He started his time as our manager with a clear system. His system. He told us repeatedly that he would never change. His system got me excited at first. Sunderland...a passing team, surely not?? Then we signed Defoe and he dropped his entire system. Sadly he didn't have another system to replace the old one. We would have to 'experiment' to see what works he told us. We're still 'experimenting' and none of the systems he is using are working. As we can all see this is because his system is both negative and confusing.

2. He is Mr Tinker man. Since he took over as Manager the only time he hasn't changed the starting eleven from one game to the next was during our miracle escape. Coincidence...I think not! Seriously, do I really need to point this out to him??

3. He undermines himself and the team in the press. By admitting that he doesn't know what system will work. By telling us in the press that a certain player will play (Alvarez this week) thus giving the opposition manager a head start. By constantly blaming referee decisions. By stating his faith in players like Buckley and Bridcutt that we all know are not good enough. By criticising the opposition in advance of a game (Liverpool). These things undermine us and embarrass him which means that they also embarrass us. When he said that after being sent off at hull (child/pram/dummy) he saw the game differently while sitting in the stands I could have screamed. It seems he can't see the obvious things that we see in the stands from the dugout?? At least that explains a lot! If he's around next year Then I think he'll have the pick of the seats in the stands to watch the games in the championship.

4. His signings are awful. Name one that's paid off? Scocco, Bridcutt, Buckley, Coates, Rodwell? Maybe you could give him credit for Vergini and Defoe but the jury is still out on them.

5. There is no fight in his team. No pressing high. No crunching tackles (without cats). No dynamism. No urgency. No passion. No fight. That's why our home form is so poor. Only that. It's not the players that set the tempo for the game. It's the coach. And it's not good enough time and time again. Last year or this year is the same. Hull, QPR, Villa, all the same. They don't fight for him and he doesn't even know it's his fault.

5. Last season with six games to go he gave up. He blamed everyone else. It was not reverse psychology to get the players wound up. He just gave up like the rest of us. Anything else anyone says is a lie. He gave up. He was right that we needed a miracle though. Divine intervention. Nothing to do with the coach at all.

If you add up all these points they highlight that one very distinct thing is lacking. Leadership. Gus has none and it shows in his team's performance. Unfortunately his team is also our team.

Personally I've never liked us sacking managers. I thought we sacked Bruce too early (boo as much as you want), O'Neill was a surprise sacking with six games left, although we were as bad a coached side then as I've seen wearing a Sunderland shirt. Di Canio going was also earlier than I expected considering the run of home fixtures we'd had. This time I hope Ellis is true to his form. Enough is enough. I want passion. I want fight. I want kick and rush if that's what I have to accept to get the passion and fight. I want what villa had today. I don't want losing with a whimper. Anyone remember a Reidy side getting whacked eight nil away or four nil at home without so much as a whimper? I want that again. You can keep your tika taka football Gus if that's what it really is now. I'd call it something else but I don't like using bad language.

David

Dear ALS

If I wake up tomorrow (Sunday) and he (I can't even bring myself to say his name) is still the manger then there really is something deeply wrong at our club. This man is tactically inept and has been on borrowed time in my opinion from January 2014.

It was as plain as day becomes night that he didn't have a clue about where to play players or formations and all that culminated in the humiliation at Spurs last year. Luckily for him (and us at the time) we did get that miracle but this man (nope I still can't say his name) hasn't learnt a thing in the intervening period. The pursuit of Buckley and Bridcutt two Championship level players at best showed his own level of thinking. Today we played Larsson, Bridcutt and Rodwell in the same area so that effectively we were two players down in Midfield. No wonder we waited 3 minutes into the 2nd half for Larsson to return because without his effort I dread to think where we would have been! We were woeful and the lack of pace in midfield was embarrassing. 

There really is far too much to go into in terms of what is wrong at the club but the last manger was certainly right when he questioned attitude and whilst many didn't like his techniques I don't recall feeling as humiliated in that short period as I have done on a number of occasions this season. 

The players have vastly underperformed and it is a disgrace that they receive a day's pay for the performance today (I leave Fletcher, Larsson and Defoe out of it on this occasion) but it is the whole set up by the manager that needs correcting. If he hasn't had the decency to resign or been sacked then I really must be living in some parallel universe. Of course no doubt someone will still trot out the ridiculous in "Gus we trust" mantra but all I can think is that they have a placed a large bet on Sunderland being relegated!

I will keep the faith in my club but I lost it in in Poyet (I managed to say it but it really was a struggle!) a long time ago.

Andy Mavin
Ayrshire

Dear ALS

I should make it clear before you read this letter that I am a journalist who works for, and has worked for all of the major broadcasters at various points throughout my career. They all differ in many ways, but have one thing in common: when it comes to contempt of court, you tread very, very carefully. I work with these media laws if not every day, then certainly every week.

If I were to use a highlighter to mark up the possible instances of contempt of court in The Secret Wag’s latest article on Adam Johnson, I would probably end up highlighting the bits which are not something which might get this person into very, very hot water.

It is absolutely incredible that this article has been published; for someone with a considerable profile, does this person not have a lawyer check over her writing before it goes to press? Clearly not, because if they did, the answer would be “no, no, no, no.”

It’s worth looking at what the laws of contempt are designed to do. They are there to protect the judicial process. They are they to make sure an investigation – and possible trial – are not prejudiced. They are there to ensure a juror does not say “hold on a second, what about that piece I read last year which said he definitely did it?” or “X has got a criminal record, therefore he must have done this too.” What people need to understand is that these laws come into effect from the moment proceedings are active. That is usually the point of arrest, not when charges are laid.

However, some people, like the Secret Wag, feel that the law is there to be challenged. Some of the things published are utterly astonishing. I do not wish to quote her here as reprinting of certain excerpts might have consequences for whoever chooses to do it. Needless to say it is available online and anyone with half a brain cell will be able to access it.

It does not matter if no prejudice is eventually caused – the risk of it is enough. As is the intention of the piece. The Secret Wag may be really trying to say “If this happened to me, I would kick my husband into touch” but that matters not a jot if the accompanying text is laced with prejudiced and conjecture.

As for Sunderland fans; well, we are getting a raw deal here. Whatever happens they do not come out of this with any benefit at all (unless Duncan Watmore suddenly starts banging them in). So the real frustration here is that the club is being treated like dirt, finding itself on the front pages instead of the back. People are rushing to stick the knife in when in reality all we care about is three points on Saturday.

One final thing – please, please, please do not refer to this as “journalism.” It is not.

Ian Bendelow

Dear ALS

As Sunderland’s idiosyncratically drab season wears on, perhaps it is time to look ahead; to predict what we could do better.

Sadly, the progress which we made under Roy Keane has halted - years on, we have ,if anything, fallen from the position in the Premier League that we achieved under the Irishman. Now, after more managers (or ‘head coaches’) than I can bear to count, we reach a point from where I can see only two outcomes.

Firstly, we can continue to regress until, sooner or later, we find ourselves in the doldrums of the Football League.

However, there is another route! An improvement on the depressing football that we have witnessed for closing in on a decade; a mark in our history that we can be proud to say we saw.

Therefore, I feel that we should perhaps consider taking a more holistic approach; an approach similar to that of Southampton, or Swansea. By developing our young talent - take The Saint’s Nathaniel Clyne - whilst buying smartly from abroad, we can emulate these team’s success. Why not? We have a wealthy owner, coupled with a huge fan base, and our stadium is fantastic. Thus, we are the perfect club to take forward!

Finally, and I feel this is the biggest part, we need to put our faith in one man to lead us through thick and thin. Whether we remain with Gus Poyet, or part ways and opt for a wiser head, I believe that stability is crucial.

Keep The Faith,
Mitch Marshall

Dear ALS

What a depressing year so far.  We sign decent players and before long they’re lost in the general, current mediocrity. 

I think if we signed Ivan the Terrible he’d soon become Ivan the Very Ordinary.

Dave from Sheffield

Dear ALS

I've no desire to see any new managers, we have had too many and the budget the club works on almost makes the debate inevitable.

However how come against Hull PVA wasn't the first name after Catts on the team sheet? AJ was out and he's totally innocent until proven guilty so bog off press knocking the fans supporting him, this is England, but wtf wasn't our only left sided player not selected?

The worrying thing was that Gus said when he was sent off he saw from the stands that we needed width, that's unbelievable and a 6 match touch line ban may not be bad, we have to watch from the stands every week and it's not good

Whilst on don't have major problem with Vergini, he tries and a bit sublime to ridiculous, (was behind the goal at Southampton and thought he was taking the piss), however I think Gus got a bit of a soft spot for him, maybe South American and all that, but please choose between Vergini and Rivière and let the young fast left footed lad play on the left.

Next winge is up front. Danny Graham must play well in training and have nothing against him however played 32 scored 0 tells a story. He aspires to Dozy's record. Fletch and Connor may have their faults but at least, play good or bad, both are not carrying a massive monkey around their neck about never scoring since Martin O'Neill was manager.

Last point, how come the fat Geordie bastard wasn't charged for trying to flatten the linesman to get to Gus? Maybe it was because the 24 stone scapegoat couldn't actually push over the 10 stone linesman to get to Gus? Reminded me of the big lad at school who shouted "hold me back or I'll hit him" and he was already stepping back.

A weekend off the stress but we should have been beating Reading to get to the cheesy chips

FTM
Mackem Paul

Dear ALS

I wasn’t at the Hull game and had to settle for the extended highlights on Sky. However, after that painful viewing and reading the match reports on ALS I would just like to offer some simple observations:-

1. Gus said that the Hull and Villa games were both ‘must win’. In his post match comments however he seemed happy with a point. I know one point is better than none and at least it stopped one of our rivals in the relegation battle from getting 3 but if we had any real ambition we should have gone all out for the maximum. From what I saw and from the reports, the performance was poor and we could easily have come away with nothing.

2. Poyet’s team selection lacked imagination. As they commented on Sky, there was no creativity or width in midfield leaving the front two starved of any decent supply. Whilst AJ’s solicitor fights his corner off the field we must have other ‘wide’ options in the club at least to come on from the bench (and I don’t mean Buckley). Alvarez doesn’t strike me as a winger. PVA’s introduction seemed to make a big difference so why wasn’t he on from the start? That said, it’s a damning indictment that our best crosser of the ball on the night was a left back.

3. The pressure is clearly getting to Poyet judging by his team selections and his errant behaviour last night. I have bad memories of Bruce, O’Neill and PDC all losing the plot towards the end of their respective tenures at our club. Perhaps Gustavo is already hurtling towards his own P45?

The bottom line is, we’re just not creating enough chances and the few that we do aren’t being converted. The only way we’ll get out of the relegation dogfight is by winning games and I just can’t see that happening at the moment with the tactics we’re using or the players we’ve got. We shouldn’t be relying on other teams around us to lose, for our own survival.

The future isn’t bright and it certainly isn’t orange (more a shade of brown I would suggest).

GDB

Dear ALS

We are in another fight for survival and it is becoming an irksome habit in the last few years.

It is obvious that the training is part of the problem and the players are not fit as shown by their slowdown after 75 minutes. This was highlighted by Di Canio and it is still a problem. True professionals should be able to run for 97 minutes. We have a game at Hull tomorrow and this will cause us problems due to the fact that we have fitness problems. The same cause can explain our susceptibility to injury which leads to key players being unavailable sometimes for weeks.

The other part of the problem is poor tactics and this is the responsibility of the manager. His so called 4: 1; 4; 1system is a joke because the available players cannot string two passes together and progress is stilted in the midfield leading to us being slow in attack and being unable to get players forward.

It is about time we dropped the Cattermole/Bridcutt role in favour of two attacking midfielders. Our team as set up is unbalanced and negative leaning. We need to fix the midfield and inject some pace. I would sooner see one of the youngsters like Watmore in midfield to try and improve matters rather than Gomez who is a Championship player as are Bridcutt and Buckley.

Unless our players start playing consistently at a decent level we are going to struggle this season and we cannot rely on other teams. In my view we need probably two wins and two draws to survive but getting two wins in the last quarter when we have only managed four wins in the first three quarters is a tall order.

Richard Beck

Dear ALS 

How did it come to this? Last season was vaguely shambolic and yet the team was far superior to this season’s.

Borini, Ki, Alonso would all walk into this team. Bardsley and Colback would be very close to first choices / regular starters. Gardner would be on the fringes and no worse than Bridcutt, Rodwell or Gomez.

It is hard to fault our aging defence or defensive midfielders. But the lack of attacking and guile this season defies belief – we simply haven’t been up to Premier League standard.

Also, we have 2 strikers in Fletcher and Wickham who, while not world-beaters, respond reasonably effectively to a supply of half-decent crosses. We have four wingers at the club – Johnson, Alvarez, Buckley and Giaccharini. I can barely remember a decent cross coming in from any of them in the past 2 years. I’d say Giaccharini is probably the best crosser, but he’s always injured.

I hope we stay up – 2 wins from the next 2 games and all will look rosy to many. But without another serious overhaul in the summer we’ll just again struggle terribly next season – O'Shea, Brown and Defoe will be another year older. Where is the youth, the dynamism, the vision, the planning for the club? What a shambles and what a waste of a great stadium, fan-base and deep-rooted footballing culture in the city of Sunderland.

Best wishes
Michael

Dear ALS

The company I work for has two corporate seats behind the goal at Old Trafford so that we can take guests to games. This is because I work for an Australian firm that have a site in Bradford so naturally any visitors from our Australian home base will be Man Utd fans. Fortunately they never want to go to the Sunderland games so I get to go.

I went with my Bradford City supporting son who now lives in a castle on the moral high ground after Sunderland's "annihilation" by Bradford City.

Last season we were both in the away end to see the penalty shoot out win in the Capital Cup. My son recorded the penalties on his phone and uploaded them onto YouTube and had 12000 hits before Man Utd PLC contacted him directly with a legal threat over corporate image control. He deleted the video and then uploaded it again and got 18000 hits. He figured if they take a 15 year old to court over this they can have his worldly possessions which consist of lots of empty cans of Lynx in a very untidy bedroom.

Being an undercover away fan in the home end is never enjoyable and if you're in the Man Utd end it is simply annoying beyond believe. Firstly, they all stand up, all the time. Secondly, they sing in an Ian Brown type way about some match that happened in 1999 that they apparently won in injury time.

My son asked what they are singing about as he does not do History GCSE. The first half sees the history boys get more and more frustrated as they are not winning yet. My son's phone battery goes dead so I lend him my phone. He asks what the password is, I replied "SAFC". I get caveman glares from the history boys. My son says City are nil nil at half time away at Peterborough. The history boys cannot compute this as to them as they only know one City.

We had a great view of the penalty and even more bizarre sending off. Rooney scores and the history boys make some noise. I don't even bother pretending to applaud and simulate, there is enough of that with Ashley Young and Di Maria. They should make them play in Speedos.

Boom, Rooney scores again from 3 yards out and the History boys have won. It's not 1999 anymore, but for Sunderland it is not when? We walk along David Moyes Avenue and hope to be back next season for more old school remembering....

Best regards
Adam Thompson

*Star Letter*

Dear ALS

I'm at a loss to understand why we are not a regular member of the teams fighting for at least a top 8 finish.

In our time we've been
The team of all talents...L
Are in top 6 of trophy winning clubs...
Been called The Bank of England club...
One of the top half dozen best supported clubs in England.

So just what is it about SAFC that we have nigh on full houses and an owner who is reputed to be a self made billionaire, that we struggle to avoid relegation season on season...and fail now and then?

The commercial side brings in £millions a year with corporate events and summer concerts. The gates are what many Premier League clubs can only dream of and while the Live Match Broadcasters aren't massive fans of us we still get a fair sized chunk of revenue from them.

If Swansea, Southampton, Everton or even Stoke can do it why not us?

I'm sure Ellis Short didn't make his money with daft speculation and isn't too keen on giving his loot away on a whim but surely he must realise that investment in stock (decent players) is paramount to success. I'm also sure Short wouldn't know a decent player from a ballerina so he employs someone to do the job. Who advises him on who the right person is or does he interview then pick the best candidate (according to his opinion)?

I've no idea. I've also no idea why he promoted a secretary to be his Chief Executive, only he can answer that but whatever the answer is he let Quinny go without much of a fight and since then we've been on our arse too many times. Sure, it wasn't all sweetness and roses under Quinny but he started a revolution at the SOL that has stalled under less able people.

Look Ellis...we have the academy and talent from all over the North East to choose from, we have the ground and crowds to compete with even Chelsea or Man City, you have close to more money than every Sunderland fan combined, yet we still languish just above the relegation zone.

So what do you intend to do about it because after one cup win in over fifty years of being a Sunderland fan I'm getting too close to being subbed before I see another trophy win. Hell man, even a few seasons of top half comfort will do if you can't give me the other.

Best wishes
Paul

Dear ALS

Is it me or are we missing a trick here

After the game everyone in the ground or armchair thought that this was mistaken identity.

In embarrassment however the ref has said that he didn't get it wrong and he thought two fouls were committed and therefore sent Brown off for the second. Hands up Sheasy stopped Falcao and it was a pen and he should have gone.

However the ref has said that he saw the O'Shea foul and deemed to take no action, and therefore the Premier panel can't take any action. When they look at the Brown challenge there is no way it is either a penalty or a sending off so should be rescinded.

Personally think we could do with both Sheasy and Wesley in the coming games and therefore expect the Club to use every trick in the book to get them out there

Worried from Reading

Dear ALS

The debates rage on

Should we persist with the Gus bus, does he know his best team, formation and does he have a Plan B?

Well I think the changes to systems etc show us he has a plan b in mind to get the team looking a threat. Sadly WBA and Pulis was probably the worst home game to get when trying to get the system going as he can kill any game.

I think it’s now time to look properly at Agnew or Honeyman in the middle of the park. Bold? Maybe but the little bits of the U21 I have seen they both look to have more to them than Gomez. Honeyman in particular looks like he can open a defence and more importantly get round the pitch quickly – 2 things that Gomez lacks. Agnew also looks a very composed player and seems to have the ability to find red and white shirts more often than not which some of the first team struggle on!

Not saying we need to flood it with youngsters but play one from the start and then send another one on for him – our midfield works with the 2 cogs of Cattermole and Larson but we are lacking the third cog after that and Gomez really isn’t the answer. Rodwell maybe when he gets fit then he can play and make way for one of these two.

I also think the young left back Robson has to be a better bet than shoving in 2 right footed full backs that killed any width on Saturday.

What’s the worst case scenario? We are rubbish again and draw 0-0 again?

Daz

Dear ALS

Last season when our Premiership future looked very bleak I wrote to ALS what my stars said for that day.

The forecast predicted exactly the scenario that unfolded and our premiership future was assured for another season at least.

Well here I go again with today's Aquarius horoscope, hopefully it's not horrorscope!'In your life there is a situation that looks as if it is nearly on the verge of going wrong. But isn't it also nearly on the verge of working out splendidly? Too close for comfort may be just close enough'.

So there we have it lads and lasses, stop worrying it's in the stars.

Eddy in Yeovil

Dear ALS
 
I've written the following about Poyet's recent open letter and the development of our playing style, I hope you like it:

 
Let me get this controversial view out the way up top, we do not have a bad team. Sunderland have had a good enough team for mid-table obscurity for at least 3 seasons now. By not hitting that level since Steve Bruce decided to become a pantomime villain, it’s no wonder we barely keep a manager for longer than a season.

Instability is offered as the main cause of our troubles. Sure we get a boost for a few games, maybe a few months, when a new manager comes in but inevitably the cracks start to show, results slump and another P45 is issued. When MON failed, it was Poyet who was championed as the man to give stability and gradual progress to the club.

In the wake of his open letter, it is clear that Poyet is worried about his position and that he does not want to become another failed manager at a ‘sleeping giant’. He did an incredible job to keep us up last season and in the last few games it began to look like a new era was dawning. Unfortunately, this season didn’t start with the bang the fans expected, regardless of how much we try to keep our expectations at a realistic level.

So we didn’t progress particularly far in either cup competition. To be fair, neither do 90% of the other teams. Yes we had a relatively soft run but on any given day a small team can beat a big team. Sunderland fans should know very well how the flipside of that feels and I wouldn’t change those 1-0 wins against Manchester City for anything. Some people blame negative tactics, others say it’s bad attitudes from the players. It’s most likely a combination of both.

Poyet wants to develop a smooth, passing style that creates attractive football. This system relies on discipline and positioning more than some fans seem to appreciate. It’s obvious that the result at Southampton forced Poyet to shore up the back line. This disjointed and over-zealous insistence of forcing his rigid tactical style from day one seems to have been our main problem. I’m all for the football that Poyet wants to implement, but he or the fans can’t expect to establish it within 12 months. It needs to be slow process coupled with learning which players adapt well enough. If you can’t replace the players that can’t adapt, you need to adjust the tactics to accommodate them. Depending on how that goes, if you want to replace them at the end of the season you should be well aware of the type of player you need instead.

That’s how team development and player acquisition should work. I’m very happy that we got Defoe and I’m sure he’ll score many goals but it smacks of a panic buy to fix a short term problem. Provided we stay up, Poyet should know which players aren’t adjusting and have a list of possible replacements. If that’s the case, next season should result in further stability and hovering around the 9-14th mark. I worry that Poyet’s implementation of his style of play too quickly will only result in another revolving door transfer window and ruin the chance of stability and consistency that Sunderland have been begging for since Reid left.

If we stick by Poyet, I hope to find out I didn't need to worry about the upcoming summer transfer window. Provided only a few players leave to be replaced with more appropriate players for Poyet’s style we will progress. Oh and make Cattermole captain. I was very against this decision in the Bruce days as he was untrustworthy and overly aggressive but now he has developed into a Roy Keane type and channelled that aggression into great leadership. He’s earned it now, he deserves it.
 
Tony Russell
(@TonyRoo)

Dear ALS

Di Fanti or Margaret Byrne. Who do you believe?

All the evidence points to Di Fanti being correct. While no one could blame Mingolet going to Liverpool to further his career at a fair price, there was no sense in selling Sessegnon, to me one of our most creative players to a potential rival in the relegation stakes. This follows the sale of Darren Bent and Gyan. Don't forget at one stage we had a front three of Bent Gyan and Welbeck. So it is not an isolated occurrence

The whole Short tenure has been one of cutting costs and poor buying and allowing players to run out their contracts. Colback, Gardner and Bardsley have been able to be regulars with their respective Premiership clubs after we allowed their contracts to run out. At least the Irish Consortium backed Quinn and Keane to the hilt until the Irish Economy hit the buffers. The club is not well run the decisions often defy logic, why was Niall allowed to drift away surely he would have been a better advisor than either Di Fanti or Congleton he understood the club and its fans.

Why are the fans not given any representation on the board, as apart from Sky we are the biggest contributors to the clubs finances. I for one would not believe Margaret Byrne if she told me tomorrow was Friday and we never know what Ellis Short thinks because he never communicates with us so I can only conclude that Di Fanti might be both right with regard to the club and also not very good judge of a player.

John Robson

Dear ALS

Reading the Di Fanti article in The Guardian raises some serious concerns about the way our club is being run, even if some of what he says is pure fantasy taken with a large pinch of salt.

No football club, or business for that matter, can sustain a successful future if its strategy is to just reduce cost and not invest in the future. Reading between the lines of what Di Fanti is saying it seems he was employed to "rebuild the team" by basically offloading our best players and replacing them with cheaper versions.

I notice that the stance taken by ALS was to immediately mock this article in its Comedy Gold feature, but joking aside there is an element of truth in what he is saying.

If you look back over the Ellis Short era since 2008 we have sold a lot of players, and yes we wanted to offload some of them, but we have also sold a lot of good quality players who have gone on to do very well elsewhere, and in reality it seems that we have replaced most of these players with ones who are inferior quality and by default cheaper, with one or two exceptions.

I am not a great fan of Mr Short but he is our owner and has a right to do what he wants with the club, but if we look at the reality of where we are now and the root cause of our lack of consistency, playing quality, and current position, the common link is the quality of players.

This is wishful thinking on my part but it would help clarify things if Mr Short were to do an interview about his vision for the club, like Tony Fernandez has just done with QPR today, and where he wants to take SAFC, and be honest with us if the strategy is to just reduce costs then let's at least hear it from the horse's mouth so we know what to expect.

It seems to me that all the major investment in the club was made pre Short's tenure and we are now just paying down debt, I suppose it's really no different to the way the country is being run.

At the end of the day nothing in life is black and white and if this strategy had been successful and the team were performing well we wouldn't be complaining now, but we shouldn't just blame the current manager and ignore some of the root causes that have led us to where we are now.

Rich

Dear ALS

I must admit I don't go very often but a couple of observations from the last match I went to, the 0-0 v Chelsea.

As Sunderland kicked off the first half I made a blood curdling roar, presumably learnt conditioned behaviour from many years at Roker Park. It wasn't planned, it's just what the over 50s do at kick off.

Nobody else made any sort of effort to remind the players that it is Sunderland, I was in the upper concourse.

And not forgetting the players come out to Russian Ballot Music, that cannot be good.

Best ever atmosphere from Sunderland Fans has to be Port Vale away when we were promoted out of the old "Third Division".

Nigel Robson

Hi ALS

Lots of talk of sacking Poyet understandably, but in fairness it's a really tough decision for Short to do that given the number of times has had to do so in his 7 year tenure as our owner, and the precarious position we find ourselves in now, although as an optimist I still think it is redeemable.

Basically this is all about financial risk and Short will only sack the manager when he is 100% sure GP has reached the point of no return which could well be after next weekend. If we were to go down we'll lose tens of millions which would be disastrous for our club and for him personally, so Short will do whatever it takes to keep us up, rightly so.

Sad as it may seem to lots of Gus supporters he has not really taken us forward despite presiding over The Great Escape last season, in stats terms his win rate this season is only 22%, which is worse than many other managers who've had the job in the past and still been sacked.

On top of that he does give the impression that he has completely lost the plot not only in the silly comments he makes, and that is probably due to the immediate pressure of the interview situation, but also we have to seriously question his judgement and ability to motivate players and help them to improve their performances. Most of the news boys just haven't got going since joining us and a number of key players who performed very well at the end of last season just haven't turned up this year, and you have to ask is that because they have no faith or confidence in their manager?

Unfortunately we have lost the chance of getting Sherwood who was one of the few out of work managers who has something about him and there is not a lot of choice out there so Short really does have a massive dilemma in what to do.

So let's hope it doesn't come to that and that GP can find the winning formula again soon for all our sakes.

Ken

Dear ALS

Are we going to be relegated?

This is what we need to do to get to the magic 40 point mark. We have 6 home games left and 7 away. In theory we can stay up just by winning our home games but our home form is dire. It's hard to see us winning 5 out of 6 when we've only won 2 all season.

So from these remaining games we need 16 points, in other words 5 wins and a draw

Home                                  
West Brom                           
Villa
Newcastle
Palace
Southampton                                                                                                              
Leicester  

Away
Man U
Hull
West Ham
Arsenal
Stoke
Everton
Chelsea                                                                                                               

However each time we lose a home game then we have to win an away game to make up.

We could still be safe by winning 4 and drawing 2 home games but then we'd need to pick up at least 2 away draws.
                        
If win 3 and draw 3 of our home games then we need to pick up at least 4 points away from home.                       

If we should go on a losing run then for the "Great Escape Year 2" we'd probably have to beat Palace, Southampton and Leicester at home and win 2 and draw 1 at Arsenal, Stoke, Everton & Chelsea

On our current form it's going to be tough but what was that last season about Miracles Do Happen?

John Briggs

Dear ALS

I read with interest the blog that Eve wrote on your news page and the main article about keeping Poyet in charge but can only see reasons why he needs to go.


The only argument you can come with to keep him is that it may create instability and no new manager could turn things round. Eve lists all the poor players he has brought in and sites the ones we have lost. It says he has a vision for us, I am sure every manager of every club has a vision but not all succeed. Lose this Saturday and he will be gone I am at a loss to why people want him to stay.

I could give a list of every reason why he should go but Eve has listed most of them. I am a fan who travels to every home game from Doncaster I don't like been criticised from the manager about how I should support my team. If he remains in charge I see nothing but trouble.

Dave McKeever

Eve

Just read your letter and agree with lots, and also fact that you are not saying Gus out without suggesting who might actually be a better bet.

However must disagree with comments re PDC. I was at a West Brom and he did come over to the away end to apologise, and was saying take it out on me not the players and then 5 minutes later was in front of a camera slagging his players. You can't keep the dressing room like that and it wasn't first time.

What worries me is that Gus is feeling the pressure and starting to sound a bit erratic, it's the fans it's the press, watch out ball boys if we lose on Saturday. Seriously with the further rise in Premiership/Sky monies we really can't afford to go down this year. Big game at the weekend

Worried again from Reading
Paul

Dear ALS

I can`t help but notice the striking similarity between our beloved SAFC and that mad hotel in the Stanley Kubrik film, whereby seemingly good fellas (one notable exception here!) go completely bananas during their tenure at said institution.

I'm all for Gus, hope he can turn it round but won`t be surprised if the next press conference involves primitive wood cutting equipment and leering references to the precise location of Johnny.

Cheers
Ivan

Dear ALS

I have been a season ticket holder for over eight years and regularly attend away games. I can categorically state that whatever the result I have much preferred away games for the last three seasons because of the atmosphere generated by our away fans, but It hasn’t always been that way however.

I think can understand and empathise with what I think Gus Poyet is trying to say about our fans but just not with how he says it. In my view correspondents on ALS, Sunderland Echo et al who refer to our “fantastic fans” are deluded if they mean the home fans.

Our home support is awful in terms of atmosphere (the away fans such as Leeds, Burnley and Fulham have called it worse than a library and they are right) and attendance at the final whistle. I can’t understand how 400 away fans can make more noise than 40,000 home fans. I also couldn’t believe that after going so long without a win that the Stadium of Light was more than ¾ empty at the final whistle of the Burnley game. Don’t we care anymore? Where is the passion and support? If I was a player I would certainly be disheartened, the money they earn has nothing do with that! I appreciate that the team have to give us something to cheer, and that there haven’t been many reasons to of late, but even when they do we the fans fall have fallen short.

It hasn’t always been like that, it wasn’t that long ago that the Stadium used to rock and spur the team on, even in the Steve Bruce era. I think the rot started in the turgid Martin O’Neil reign, even though in the beginning he was the fans “chosen one”, were we were bored to death.

Don’t get me wrong I am not an out and out Poyet supporter and do think he has often made a lot of repeated mistakes, poor tactics, poor substitutions etc but who is else is there to turn to at the moment that is better? I would be quite happy to see a patient, possession based approach interspersed with a rapid counter attack when the opportunity arose but we don’t seem to have the players with the ability or intelligence to pass to each other or to adapt as the situation dictates, which is more to do with the players themselves than Poyet

Against West Brom please can we actually pretend we are Crystal Palace and “sing your hearts out for the lads”. Let's create an atmosphere, try and be positive rather than poisonous, and intimidate the opposition rather than our own team. Make some noise and stay in your seats until the final whistle. It might make all the difference to the result either way. By all mean vent your spleen if we lose, for all you doom and gloom merchants a full stadium booing has more impact than an empty one, but hopefully it won’t come to that for once we have a full stadium showing their appreciation to a winning team.

Mark
Newton Aycliffe

Dear ALS,

As I am exiled down south I ask you to do me a favour.

Find Lee Cattermole, patch him up, clean his boots, do whatever it takes to get him out on the pitch on the weekend. Without him we lack leadership, grit, determination and bottle. Whatever people say about his footballing “talent” or his “temperament” at least he would have gone down fighting for the shirt in the last two games as the rest of them were gutless.

Keep the faith.
Alan
Cambridge

Dear ALS,

I wonder if we could stop entering the FA Cup if we’re not going to take it seriously. We didn’t seem to take it seriously last season and I assume from the line-up and amount of effort yesterday that we didn’t this year. Does a fit, professional player like Defoe really need a week off?

And please tell what the purpose of putting George Honeyman into the shambles with 5 minutes to go was. Surely we’re trying to bring these young players on, be proud to pull the shirt on and encourage them, rather than associate them with a disaster. I suggest dropping them into a game with 20 minutes to go when we’re well ahead and allowing them to express themselves. Of course now I’ve written that I realise that they’d never get on, so forget it.

That bloke Jon Stead looks like a good player, perhaps we could sign him.

Dave
Oxford

Dear ALS,

I was down Bradford as were many others, and from listening to people and reading the backlash of yesterday's defeat there is one big over riding point that stands out.

People seem to have mellowed in the Premier League and now take a lot for granted in terms of team performances and support of the team.

Just because we are a larger club than the majority in the country, does not give us a divine right to anything in football. Over the last few seasons our home crowd has noticeably reduced in volume and passion which is worrying as that is very thing that made us what we are, the drive of the people pushing the club forward and making our home somewhere our team love to play.

I just hope going to Valley Parade or (Coral Windows Stadium) has opened the eyes of a section of our supporters what it's like to experience life in the lower depths of English Football who have not had the pleasure.

Now the comments made by Mr Poyet regarding the fans has undoubtedly been twisted by the media to suit which ever panto villain they wish to portray him as, but maybe just maybe there is a point somewhere in there he is trying to make to help us.

Having said this he has not done himself any favours by supplying the press/fans with ammunition and should have been wiser to make the comments the way he did.

This maybe the week that Mr Poyet parts ways with our club, but for sure will not change the mentality of our fans; this has to be done on our own.

After all every single one us want the same things for our beautiful, old, magnificent club.

We need the fire, the passion, the roar back into the Stadium of Light and a hell of lot of educating of where our club has been in the not so distant passed, and where we never want to go back to.

Phil Simpson Dear ALS

Well as a Leeds based SAFC fan the highlight of yesterday was I was home 20 minutes after the game finished.
 
That was it really.
 
My biggest gripe is how we approached it tactically yesterday- would for example Arsenal have changed their game from the passing style they have engrained on the club over the last few years, as Gus has been trying to do in the last 18 months, to just launching the ball long every time we got it?
 
The players had to be playing under instruction and I could see after 10 minutes that we were playing to Bradford’s strengths and not ours – pumping it up high for their centre backs to head away as our inept front two couldn’t win a header.
 
Take away the blatant penalty red card that wasn’t given and tell me what Fletcher or Graham did? Not that they were alone and I have said this for a while, if Bridcutt is a professional footballer than at 38 I am coming out of retirement and demanding a trial at SAFC as I would have had more impact than he has in the last 4 games – truly a woeful player who was out of his depth again yesterday.
 
Anyway I digress – my point is why change our pattern of play? Had we gone with the 4-1-4-1 formation that we have been playing pre Defoe and had we tried playing I think we would have come away with a draw and still be in the hat. I just hope that Gus hasn’t used the FA cup as an excuse to kick and rush so he can throw it in a press conference to say it doesn’t work after our next 0-0 draw ( I would take this on Saturday now!) to defend his philosophy?
 
Also what is the point of taking all that squad to Bradford and then making two changes in the 87 minute when the game was lost?
 
I still think in Gus we have to trust and hope we can stay up but there are serious alarm bells ringing from yesterday’s tactics and bizarre media outburst- does this mean he will not be in the Echo all week spouting nonsense? I do hope so as a siege mentality may bring this mob together and turn things around.
 
As I say the best part of it yesterday was that it didn’t take me and my dad 90 minutes or so to get home in misery after another shocker of a performance.

Keep the faith, if you can.
Darren Hands

Dear Gus,
I am writing to you through ALS in the hope that you will read and understand what a genuine Sunderland supporter is hoping for.

Firstly I am in no way looking for you to leave the club, I like most supporters understand what you are trying to do, and welcome the style of play you believe in.

A possession based passing game is no problem to me, however when we can neither pass or posses it becomes a problem and that is when the stadium becomes intimidating for everyone.

Our players are highly paid professionals who should be capable of playing in any kind of atmosphere, they should walk onto the pitch with no doubts as to what is expected of them and if they fail to perform should expect to face consequences.

Our problem seems to be, that once on the pitch the team seems to forget the preparation and ends up playing a disjointed game somewhere between a possession/passing game and a don't pass to me I might make a mistake game.

We don't press because no matter how many gestures you make from the technical area, your back four do not push up the pitch (probably because your captain knows he cannot get back quick enough if things break down.) This brings me to the main issue motivation; I see a pattern which I think is obvious. You have a game plan, you motivate the team to follow it, they get on the pitch a gradually loose motivation, you need a captain on the pitch to keep the team in line.

We currently don't have such a captain, we have such a player, sadly injured and missing for a number of games now, games that we have failed to show at. Is the pattern becoming clearer? Love him or hate him, Lee Cattermole gives 120% and pushes the rest of the team to do the same.

There is no substitute for passion and as good a bloke as John O'Shea is he does not show passion on the pitch nor does he lead by example. To play a fluid passing game it is vital that everyone wants the ball at their feet, we don't look like that at the moment and we won't until you have someone on the pitch who understands you and has the drive to execute your plans on the field of play. Sort that out and everyone will start to enjoy football at the Stadium of Light again.

Keeping the faith no matter what
Clive
North Yorkshire

Dear ALS

I just wish to drop a line to you with my sincere appreciation at the warm ovation given to us at today's final whistle.

The Sunderland fans to a man/woman were superb throughout and were a credit. It cheered up a grumpy 50 year old Bantam no end. 

Best Wishes
Martin Molyneux

Dear ALS
 
The voices of dissent against Poyet will be even louder now and rightly so. The first grumblings started last season and no-one can say that the criticism of him this term isn’t deserved. We’re floundering near the bottom of the league looking bereft of confidence and ideas. He has stated that he has a certain ‘way’ of playing football and that the fans need to be patient. With permanent signings like Bridcutt and Buckley and loan signings like Coates?
 
He’s now saying it’s taking longer than he thought to change things. How long does he need? I know Rome wasn’t built in a day but its decline, although gradual, once it started, couldn’t be reversed and that now sounds very much like us.
 
As soon as I saw his team selection for the Bradford Cup game I knew we were stuffed. On a pitch which a Sunday morning league would be ashamed of he played Alvarez and Johnson in a four man midfield. Everyone knows that, on a pitch like that, silky skills will be the first thing to go. He needs his bumps feeling (or we need ours for believing the crap he is now coming out with). I know Bradford had a fantastic win at Chelsea but an away cup game at Bradford was surely winnable? If Poyet thought it was always going to be a hard game it inspires little confidence for the rest of the season (against much better teams than Bradford).
 
I think he should now ban himself and all the players in the coming week from spouting the usual bollocks of excuses which we just know they will come out with – like ‘we need to dust ourselves down, pick ourselves up and put in some hard work on the training ground’. What the players and Poyet need to do is admit that, as professionals, you are ashamed of yourselves for putting in two performances in a week like the those against QPR and Bradford. If you don’t feel humiliated you don’t deserve to be associated with SAFC. Ellis Short should issue written warnings to all of the sorry shower of shit who pulled on Sunderland shirts today. In any other job that’s exactly what would happen.
 
To Poyet, O’Shea and all the rest I simply say... embarrassed? You effing well should be. Clueless? You certainly are. A disgrace to the shirt? Without a shred of a doubt.
 
GDB

Dear ALS,

We were clueless and gutless, out-thought and out-fought at Bradford this afternoon.

One of the most disgraceful, shambolic Sunderland displays I’ve ever seen – and I’ve been watching the Lads for 48 very long years.

Poyet has got to go – and go now.

Short’s got to boot him and his equally hopeless backroom mob out of Sunderland before it’s too late.

We were totally out-classed today by a League 1 side.

If anyone out there can see three worse teams in the Prem than us on current wretched form then they’re looking far harder than me.

Keep the faith if you can and pray for change,

Cheers
Red Williams
Market Harborough

Dear ALS

I’m Mitch, a 13 year old season ticket holder who also attends the occasional away game. I also regularly read your magazine, whilst I often read your website too! I thought a child’s input might be interesting, so I have composed a summary of our season so far. Enjoy (it’s probably not as bad as our season, not that it would be difficult)!

Sunderland’s season so far can be summarised in one word: mediocre.

It has been a season punctuated by only four league wins (only 2 of which have come at home) and the most draws of any team in the league. Naturally, this streak has been linked to a staggering lack of goals - only Aston Villa have scored less in the Premier League this season. However, it would be almost impossible to have scored fewer than their 12 league goals in 25 games! This even included a goal drought which seemingly lasted forever.

Despite the arrival of Jermain Defoe from Toronto, in a swap for the hapless Jozy Altidore, Poyet’s dour style of play has frustrated the dedicated Mackem crowd.

Furthermore, a barrage of criticism from Poyet - directed at the fans of his team - has not done him any favours whatsoever. By accusing fans of ‘living in the past’ and preferring players to ‘run rather than pass’, Poyet has alienated the crowd that once sang his name loud and proud.

Diverting from his 4-1-4-1 formation in recent games, Poyet has made desperate attempts to appease the fans; experimenting with a supposed 5-3-2 formation had few merits; a 4-1-3-2 formation has brought a win against Burnley and a draw with Swansea, separated by a cup replay win over Fulham.

Sadly, a torrid defeat to QPR - who had not registered a league point away from home until their trip to Wearside - has mounted the pressure once again on Poyet’s shoulders. Clearly, the lack of a driving force in the absence of Lee Cattermole has taken its toll.

What does the rest of the season 2014/15 hold for Sunderland? Nobody knows, but I feel I have a good guess: being bored to death and eventually just holding onto our place in the league - with, or without, Gus Poyet.

Keep the faith
Mitch MacDonald

Hello fellow red and white friends,

During my entire working life, when I have under-performed at work, I expect and have duly received at the very least, a ‘talking to’. The same can be said of my performance with my partner (ahem).

When I buy goods and services, I expect the stated quality or a certain level of performance/service or, I can demand a refund.

Now my point…

Why should a football club, its players and manager be any different? When I pay my cable/satellite subscription or hard earned money to watch, (given that I now live in Canada on economic grounds that can get a little expensive) why should I have to put up with underperformance and/or poor service?

With regards to Mr Poyet being somewhat upset at the crowd ‘venting its spleen’. How else is a supporter meant to impart his/her displeasure? If I went into the alluded to store and complained about a piece of tat I had been sold; only to be told, I was an ingrate and didn't have the faintest idea what I was talking about, this might leave me, well…somewhat irked let's say. At this point I may let my primordial side take over.

Mr Poyet needs to have a reality check and inform his over-paid prima donas of the realities of the outside world presently. Namely, f***** austerity, poverty, unemployment and other assorted unpleasantness. If these so-called professionals can’t take a little good old fashioned North East venting then they should maybe consider a career in banking or some such where, their ivory towers can protect their clearly precious egos.

I actually like Gus Poyet and ‘get’ what he is trying to achieve, he should be given the time and patience to achieve it.

Let’s be honest, the manager merry-go-round hasn't worked for us too well. We have had a veritable battery of good managers over the years that have grossly under-performed. They have all alluded to a malignancy in the club, a cancer which, permeates through the upper echelons of the club. My fear is Ellis Short is a woefully inept surgeon who, lacks the skill or motivation to cut out the cancer.

Sunderland AFC should be a club for the fans, run by the fans who, have its best interests at heart…100 f****** percent.

David
Fan of 35 years and former Clock Stand K deviant
‘Sunderland till I pop of this mortal coil’

Dear ALS,

I messaged you after the Boxing Day game with my frustrations and here we are again after another game we should be winning at home only to find ourselves well beaten.

Nine times out of ten I point the finger at the players ans the QPR game is no exception - its already been said - commitment/ambition/cohesion/leadership/intelligence are all missing on the pitch and let's not lose sight of the fact that the above are basic requirements. If only we could take such things as a given and be talking about skill/finishing/vision/team dynamic - that’s a long way off and I'm afraid too many of us set the bar of expectation way too low for players on £50k a week. Sadly the desire isn't there in my view and they are delivering as minimal a return as they can get away with.

That’s my rant about the players over, but I’ve also got to turn my attention to Poyet. I watched in disbelief as many others have pointed out at how we were being ripped apart down our left and he did nothing about it. At one point in the first half I thought ‘good he’s getting the subs warmed up’, but it was the QPR subs. Poyet just stood there with his arms folded like he was oblivious to what was going on. His signings aren’t doing it - Gomez was on another planet - I think if the pitch had been another 50 yards wider he couldn’t have kept it in play and Bridcutt is far too one dimensional, what if we’d been playing a decent team? But then again they perk up for the higher profile games - makes me laugh!

I suppose on a positive note, looking at QPR at least we don’t have the frustration of following a team beneath us in the table with a wage bill bigger than Athletico Madrid.

I know I'm not the only one who travels to games, but when I got back home after 1am on Wednesday morning I do ask myself why I bother.

Phil in Leeds

Dear ALS

Like many others this is my first attempt to express my feelings of frustration at the current situation at Sunderland. I agree with most of the sentiments as regards Gus being a nice guy and can see what he is trying to achieve on the pitch. However, much of his comments as regards the fans are 'lost in translation' sometimes honestly, other times deliberately.

I agree that Gomez is not the answer but on a personal level he has become the 'lightning conductor' for the fans frustration at Poyet and his football vision. Clearly, he is far too slow for the Premiership. I was at Swansea (epic train journey) where the reason for our left side weakness was clear for all to see. This is partly because PVA is not a good defender but more importantly because the wingback on the left side who is supposed to double-up and help PVA is Gomez. Quite frankly he couldn't be bothered to cover the ground necessary and left an open door down the left. Cue- attack after attack down the left side and a goal by Ki.

Bridcutt, another Poyet signing is also short (no pun intended) on the necessary skill and vision and spends far too much time pointing and telling other players what to do and where they should be.

As for Wickham, he could do well to watch Zamora's hold-up play and the way in which he executed the second goal. Connor is a 'big lump' as someone has already said and it's about time he started to make his size and weight count more.

The situation is of course far more complex than it appears, but Gus prepares and sends the team out. What were his pre-match instructions against QPR? Whatever they were, nobody took any notice. As for second half displays, Swansea/ QPR and others, we are generally woeful. How does Gus prepare the team for the second 45?

Off to Bradford on Sunday. Kevin Friend (as if) referee and a banana skin waiting to be slipped on. Will we roll up our sleeves and battle to get a result or be bullied by a supposedly less skilful team?

Am afraid we have made little progress since last year. Thanks to some kind Cup draws and a mini- successful run of results. Gus is still there. But now Paul Lambert has gone is Gus the 'last man standing' down at the bottom? Time will tell.

Maxi

Dear ALS

I have been going to the match for over 50 years, I have had a season ticket for over 30, including the season in the old Third Division and I was one of the 17,00 at the Stoke cup game (even though I broke my wrist on the morning and my daughter had to drive the 120 mile round trip).

I am not stating this as if I am some kind of super fan, but to highlight that if I am as angry as I have ever been supporting SAFC then there must be something wrong. I have seen worse squads playing for Sunderland and seen us relegated numerous times but those managers did not have the money to compete and at least they (the managers) behaved like men when things were against them.

In all those seasons at least I knew it was not my fault but I cannot say that now, because I want to see some commitment and even attempts on goal (lowest in the Prem.) I am some kind of football dinosaur who should just pay my money and suffer whatever is put in front of me by those who know better. As Poyet states that the players are not doing what he wants and the supporters do not want us to play the way he wants. Why does he not leave and take his turgid football to someone who wants it, good luck with that. He reminds me of a 7 year old always saying “it wasn’t me” and then stamping his foot, he wants to grow a pair and grow up.

The myth that we hounded out Bruce because he was a black and white was allowed to stand and now no doubt when Poyet finally leaves it will be all over the press that the supporters hounded him out because he was a progressive coach. I waited a day before I wrote this to see if I calmed down but I have not and I am still tempted to send my season ticket back to Ellis Short.

Eddie Kenyon

Hi ALS

Went to see Oxford United play last Saturday. Cheap admission, a few beers and a 20 minute journey back home. Difference was the passion of the players, the reasonable admission price. Expensive beer aside, a nice afternoon out. Was really looking forward to the QPR match, tuned in the wireless, settled with a wine and listened..........

Commentary said, lack of shape, doubling up against PVA, danger, prevent it, do something, nothing happened until halfway. By then we were 0 2 down and the wireless was off!

Big mick take in the pub tonight from my smoggy mate, a couple of Chelsea, a Spurs fan who said if you still can't win with Defoe there's no hope!

Stop meddling and play a settled winning team. Thank you. We will beat Bradford, but the Baggies heaven help the meddling

Kind Regards
Alan

Dear ALS

Look it is the first time I have voiced my opinion on any online forum. But feel as if I have to say something after the last two matches. Can anyone tell me the similarities between the Swansea game and the QPR game? Well we let two goals in from our left wing from crosses which Ki scored both (the first one being chalked off for offside).

But we have not learned from this and we did exactly the same in the QPR game. Teams have cottoned on to the fact that we are using a makeshift forward from one of our wings and are using the space in that area to get behind our constant deep defence to run at us and cross balls in that we have an inability to defend against.

We also seem to defend in packs of 3 or 4 so when the other team puts a ball over to the other side of the pitch there is plenty of room to for them to bomb forward.

I think Connor Wickham needs to watch the game back and watch how Bobby Zamora terrorised John O'Shea the whole of the game. Connor has good control of the ball but need to get angry.

We desperately need Lee Cattermole back because he would have lead by example and got others to man up.

I think Gus is wrong to think that the fans want a long ball game. We don’t because why would you put a long ball to a 5 ft 4 striker and Connor does not win balls pumped up to him, the defender always wins the ball, so what's the point of that.

What we want is passion and desire and a team that is prepared to put a shift in over the 90 minutes.

I could not tell you what our style of play is.

Against the big teams it is park the bus until we let one in

Against the other teams it is a mixture of back pass to the goalie that cannot kick the ball properly and goes out for a throw in. Then pass the ball till we lose it, normally after the third pass because we have no movement at all.

We must have passed more balls backwards in the whole league so far this season.

I think that Gus has a problem where he wants support for Defoe but is not sure how to do that without leaving too many gaps at the back.

Let defenders defend but 15 yards further up the pitch

Let midfielders patrol between the defenders and the two forwards, this will give 15 yards less to patrol so should make it easier to do.

Let the forwards be strikers, make the midfielders pass to the strikers.

There should be movement between midfielders and strikers to create gaps in the opposition defence; we have a poacher so shoot at goal from outside the box, Defoe would love to get on the end of a deflection.

A new (Zamora) Wickham would love to burst pass a big defender to do the odd diving header or power blazer on goal.

This will lift the crowd because they will see effort and desire just pass the ball for effectively.

Peter

Dear ALS

It is an embarrassment listening to Poyet's inane comments every time we lose a game and don't perform, we have seen this sort of thing many times this season, he'll be saying next he needs to resign because he has a dodgy knee.

Reading between the lines of what has been said it sounds like he is well and truly fed up and wants out asap, not a great advert for our club, owner, and fans, when a manager or head coach seeks to offload the blame for his shortcomings onto others who have done nothing but offer support.

All we want is to see our team put in a performance and play with some pride for the shirt particularly in home games where we have become so easy to beat it is unreal, not many other PL teams can get regular home crowds of over 36,000 and beyond 40,000, even the likes of some of the top teams come nowhere near our home attendances.

I see comments about fans booing and that the haters should get behind the team, but come on what do you expect this is supposed to be entertainment and we are still turning out to watch our team underperform week in and out, that sort of loyalty is priceless and at the moment is going completely unrewarded at home games, apart from twice.

Ellis Short should read Poyet the riot act for making disreputable comments, and some of our players just need a rocket up their backsides because their schoolboy errors and lack of effort and endeavour is unacceptable, it wouldn't be tolerated in most workplaces so why should it be here, we have too few players who always put in a shift but the rest really need to step up to plate before it's too late

Ken

Dear ALS

This is not a reaction to last night's disaster but a view that has been building for some months. I was prepared to give Poyet time. In my view the club needs some stability and changing manager every 5 minutes does not help.

That said, enough is enough.

It seems to me the team set up was all wrong last night and QPR took full advantage. That is the manager's fault. Sorting out the mess before it causes real problems - that is the manager's job. Firing up the players so they come out all guns blazing - that is the manager's job.

What really hacks me off is Poyet's ongoing statements about the problems have been around for years and he does not know how to fix it. Guess what, he gets paid a pile of money to know how to fix it regardless of what happened in the past. I have supported the club for nearly 50 years and if Mr Ellis wants to pay me Poyet's salary I can happily spend many a long hour giving chapter and verse on everything that has gone wrong over the years and how I cannot even guess how it could be fixed.

Let's imagine I worked in despatch and kept shipping parcels to the wrong customers. The big boss comes down to find out what is going on and I tell him I don't know what the problem is but it is OK because the bloke before me had the same issues and the person responsible for buying keeps buying cardboard boxes when I have asked for gold plated. I am sure the boss would simply accept that and wander back upstairs without another word (not!).

Phil

Dear ALS

At the QPR game last night I found it really sad to watch all the glum faces of all our fans at the end and throughout large parts of the game. With the mist rolling in, I could not believe that we had just lost to QPR (without any away points, managerless and 3 players, including their top scorer injured!) in the manner that we did.

There was no urgency, spirit, determination or team ethic to work for each other during a turgid first 30 mins. Why would you stand off a team like them, with their record and hand them the initiative? Where was our desire, in front of our fans to get after them and demolish them? Gus seems all too cautious in his approach. This might work away from home, but at The SOL our fans deserve 100% effort and application. It took 15 mins for our first attack and a full 30 mins before Wickham's tame header. The lack of understanding was highlighted when PVA played a short free kick to Gomez, who wasn't watching and went out for a throw to them!

All the fans could see we were not closing down, particularly on our left and their right, where that household name Matt Phillips and Leroy Fer (my MOM) had a field day. There was no pressure on the crosses which they scored from ( Same as the Swansea goal). Jordi Gomez left PVA horribly exposed. He is lightweight, has no pace and was completely out of his depth last night. Every time he gets the ball offensively, our attack stalls. In a team not known for its quick counter-attack, why did we sign somebody who is even slower than what we've already got?! I'm afraid Gomez and Bridcutt are Championship players at best. The worrying thing is why did Gus leave it 'till half time to change it? Mourinho would have done something about it earlier!

Connor Wickham is a big lump, who is living off his goals at the end of last season. Was it really such a good idea to offer him a 4/5 year contract? He seems reluctant to break his neck and get in the box at crucial times. Only Johnson, O'Shea, and Larsson did themselves justice, with the latter the only midfield player who can pass the ball.

Typical bloody Sunderland, as soon as we dare to think 'Some winnable games coming up!' we do not take advantage. Are we worse than last season? Marcos Alonso, Borini (Goals and Pace) and Ki (Good footballer) Bardsley (solid defender) are all badly missed. Whoever plays in the next few games, please honour the shirt and give 100%! And message to Gus, let's go out and attack teams and do not give them too much respect!

When I think of that Wembley trip last March and how proud we were of both the team and its magnificent fans, where has that spirit gone? Come on Sunderland show us The Light!

Don Heelbeck

Dear ALS

At first he blamed Di Fanti.
Then he blamed Congleton
Then he blames the players.
Now he blames the fans!
I think it is time for a change.

We start every home game with no tempo and no ambition and hand the initiative to the opposition. There were gaps as wide as an ocean down the right which QPR played into while Supercoach shrugged his shoulders. To be as small as Bridcutt and be effective in midfield you need to be Javi or Innesta which clearly he is not. Gomez strolled around clueless and ineffective, no change there but still gets selected. Van Arnholt could not trap a bag of cement and has all the positional awareness of a six year old. Poyet clearly cannot motivate this group of players or come up with any sensible tactics. Let's have someone else in to motivate the team and get the crowd behind the team for the final run in. As for Gus the bus engine is running I think it is time to jump on.

John Robson

Dear ALS

In two hours time I will be 65 years old and I have been following SAFC since I was 10 yrs old.

Tomorrow I leave the world of work and after tonight's performance I leave the world of SAFC. 

I go to live on my pensions and I will hope not to think about rich young men who don't give a flying fuck about the club I have loved for 55 years.

I hope that we can survive this season and Ellis can find someone in the world who knows more about "Soccer" than he or Poyet does. The football world has gone mad and the average supporter has been sucked into the lunacy of it all.

TV rights for the premier league were announced today at £5.1 BILLION pounds and yet ticket prices soar. I give up. Goodbye football, sorry, soccer and goodbye sadly SAFC. I don't need the stress, I don't need dodgy (cheating) referees and I don't need the obvious corruption within the game anymore. 

Goodbye and good luck my beloved Sunderland ::(

Bilco73

Dear ALS

Many years ago I played professional rugby. I crossed over the bridge from turning amateur into that of being a professional. The biggest difference I remember in that period of transition is the way we went from playing with instinct and flair to playing by the repetitive work undertaken on the training pitch and drills / playbook know how.

I know this is necessary, and that preparation is crucial – obviously! But after going to the game last night, and a few others this season including the debacle at Southampton, I can see that we have a plan, a way of approach, and a philosophy. All good. What worries me is that we have lost the instinct and flair that makes a team unpredictable and difficult to plan against or manage on the pitch and becoming one dimensional. Plan A only.

Although we played well last night – even at 0-1 I had no doubt we would win against an average Championship side, what frustrated me, and from the groans around me a few others, was the number of times last night that a player refused to vary from the plan despite the obvious options opening up in front of him, always reverting to taking going by the plan of going wide and the invariable slow build up that comes with playing through Gomez and Alvarez. We had opportunities to go through the middle, be more direct, and heaven forbid take a shot! My real concern is that we have just made a key signing in Defoe. He is class – you can see that, and he will get better – he worked hard tracking back, winning the ball getting involved, but he looked frustrated at the slow pace of our attack, and as a result we constantly allowed Fulham time to get men behind the ball and crowd him out. Surely we need to adapt to being able to play to his strengths as clearly after his being our only transfer in this January, we are putting a lot of hope on his scoring goals?

Alex

Dear ALS

How many times have we heard this since the downturn in our performances? What we really did not need is for Gus to try blaming the crowd at the SOL for the lacklustre performances from the team.

I think that most people who have witnessed the last games at the SOL may agree, that far from wanting Niall and Kevin back at Sunderland (although they will always be welcome), all they want is to see a team that looks like it cares about the result. Gus also has also talked about confidence or lack of it, and how the fan's attitude can affect the players, perhaps that lack of confidence translates to players looking like they don't care, or care more about making a mistake, than making a forward pass.

The number of times this season I have seen someone make a three yard pass to a teammate who is marked by three players, simply because it would move the problem to someone else, is starting to get painful.

I am sorry but our team are supposed to be professional sportsmen who are paid huge amounts of money to be able to handle the pressures of the game that we pay to watch. The club that we support are supposed to be able to motivate players to play to the best of their ability every time they walk onto the pitch. So what is going wrong?

Despite his recent comments, I still have faith in Gus and his enthusiasm for success, and also am happy to bear with his move to change our style of play. Where I think we are failing, and I believe explains all of the above, is leadership on the pitch. John O'Shea neither motivates the team nor leads by example, and as such is not the captain for our current position. Our performances began to fall apart when Lee Cattermole was injured! He doesn't wear the armband but he performs the role, and leaves no team mate in any doubt of what is expected in terms of effort. So simply put, give Catts the armband as soon as he is fit, and if that is not this Saturday think about someone else to give it to.

The fans will always get behind the team when there is effort, a risky positive pass that fails will be applauded, especially if the player then goes all out to win it back. So let's hope that Things change before Saturday and that we can really kick on from a win over Burnley.

Clive
North Yorkshire

Dear ALS

Sunderland V Fulham

I was at the cup tie in 1969 when Fulham who were on their way downwards to the second division hammered us 4/1 with Johnny Haynes who was nearing forty then giving a master class of midfield play creating at least two of the goals and barely misplacing a pass during the ninety minutes.

Today I thought Fulham again had the best player on the Park in Brian Ruiz. Why a player of such talent is languishing in the Championship is beyond me he could walk into our midfield and quite a few others in the Premiership.

As for us another first half passed with very little attacking intent or threat. Coates looked as though he could not be bothered, how Liverpool paid £9 million quid for him is as big a mystery as why we got him on loan.

Bridcutt ran around like a headless chicken for most of the match, so no change there.

Jack Rodwell has given a few hints recently that he might be a player but has given not the slightest indication he is worth the £10 million we are supposed to have paid for him. His sending off today was pathetic and what few brain cells he has were obviously not working.

I think it was right to give Mannone a game but he looked very shaky and was a disaster waiting to happen but fortunately it did not on this occasion.

Things did improve a little in the second half even with ten men, Larsen by far our best player this season tried to galvanise the team and Buckley did provide a threat down the right when he came on. van Aanholt tried hard but he has no touch and never goes down the line.

Defoe looks a proper player and really came to life in the last thirty minutes but we need a midfield player to create the chances before the transfer window closes.

Unlike Manchester City and Chelsea we will be in the 5th round draw but we need a replay like a hole in the head.

There is no award for drawing football matches if there was we would  win it or at least draw.

John Robson

Dear ALS
 
We signed a striker from Toronto... and didn't it change things.

I've recovered now from feeling depressed after the Spurs game; hopes raised then dashed, is somehow worse than no hope.
 
Two unlucky goals. An awful deflection and an in off the post, but on reflection, a day later - much better than against Liverpool, more excitement. More belief.
 
Thank goodness for Defoe and the change in style Gus feels he can make now, more of this
 
Oh and did anybody else think Vertonghen's effort WAS offside? Adebayor was in offside position when ball was hit & Jones changed his run back because of him, so he was interfering with play.
 
We signed a striker named Defoe.
 
Barry Conlin
Nottingham

Dear ALS

Here's a poem!

Jermaine Jermaine he's our man
All part of Gus's cunning plan
He's small, he's quick and scores for fun
For 90 minutes he'll run and run

But Danny Graham he can't score
Nearly as bad as Jozy Altidore
Poor old Wickham he's so slow
Will he ever get a goal? Probably no

But we do have Seb our super Swede
He runs the show in our midfield
Hope the others soon step up to the plate
If we don't win soon could be too late

Haway the lads we need to get a grip
So we don't end up in the Championship
We need a performance from every man
Life's just great being a Sunderland fan

TKW

Dear ALS

Gus says he thought we would be doing better and is disappointed we are not. Not half as disappointed as the fans I bet. I for one am not surprised. At the end of the summer transfer window I disgusted friends and family by saying I thought we would be relegated, based on the lack of quality in the new signings and the lack of potential goal scorers.

When we ended last season on a high it was based on a left side of Alonso, Colback and Borini, improved performances from Larsson and Cattermole and goals from Wickham and Johnson.

Borini wasn't replaced, Colback and Alonso were replaced but by inferior players, Wickham is played out of position and Johnson left out or substituted in lots of games.

Vergini was brought back to the club on loan as we wouldn't pay £5 million for him,an example of the thinking that has got us into the mess we are in if he is not worth £5 million he shouldn't be at the club.

Jones' injury problems were apparent from his playing record at West Brom, not serious injuries just niggling ones similar to what he has suffered here.

Coates has played six games in three seasons with Liverpool due to injury and loss of form why did we think he could help us.

Buckley is simply not good enough

Alvarez has shown nothing to even consider paying £9 million for.

Pantilimon has been an excellent signing

Rodwell may yet prove his worth

How do we get out of the position? We are in obviously a couple of signings short of decent players who can score goals, can we get them doubtful giving the amount of money available?

Should we change the way we play? Gus likes the system of 4-3-3 when we have the ball and 4-5-1 when we haven't, nothing wrong with the system, Swansea use it very well. The difference being it suits the players they have it doesn't suit ours. One win at home in the league should tell him that. Instead of trying to put square pegs into round holes he should think these are the players I have got how do I get the best out of them, that's how managers with weaker squads than ours get better results.

Everything I have mentioned is not all down to Gus, but team selections and tactics are and unless he has a rethink, come summer we may well be in the Championship and he may be out of a job.

Let's all pray not
John (Consett)

Dear ALS

I watched Saturday's game and was very disappointed with Sunderland, they were rubbish and created nothing. It reminded me of a match I attended in 1968 against Liverpool at Roker Park where we also lost 0-1 after playing very badly. So nothing changes!

Sunderland do well when they have a proper goalscorer in the side and right now we don't have one. When I first started going to Roker we had Brian Clough and the lads scored hatfuls every week. Since then we have had success when we had Marco Gabbiadini, then Kevin Phillips and more recently Darren Bent. Since then, nothing much. Jermaine Defoe is a goalscorer, a proper striker, and I would love to see him wearing the stripes.

Haway the Lads!
Alan Haile

Dear ALS

Gus was spot on to come out and say what I, and nearly every mate of mine who trudges home or away carrying a ton of dread on their backs before each game. We have a second rate team, first rate fans, second rate team. Simple.

Our team deserves to be last on MOTD as we are an un-entertaining, under achieving team that seems incapable of playing to a coherent and effective plan. That seems unable to pass the ball at pace, in a forward, dynamic fashion, that almost seems to be lost in a time when all around us other teams are developing.

I have followed Sunderland for decades and can only remember one era (under Reid) where I was confident, where I would genuinely be optimistic about the result, dare I say it, would expect us to win no matter who we played. I would even scratch my head when we lost, that is 3 maybe 4 seasons in 37 of watching Sunderland.

Now I am not writing this as a whinge. I am never going to change. I will always be mad about this club, the 700 mile round trips, the away days which are always a blast and the craic that goes with them. I love this club, but we have to take Gus’s comments and use them to move the club forward. In my opinion, we should rebuild our side with Gus at the helm. We should be bringing through young local talent that understand what our culture is and what we as fans stand for. Don’t tell me they are not there, and if we have to go down a division as a consequence, then so be it. People crack on about how good the Premier League is, well I don’t buy it. It’s a league where two maybe three teams have a chance of winning and a dozen or so sides scrabble around to stay up and maybe provide the odd shock. I would trade the odd season or two in the Championship if it meant coming back with a team like Southampton, or Swansea, to represent us fans, than put up with the dross we are witnessing at the moment!
FTM
Alex

Dear ALS

It's really very sad to see the state we have fallen into at present, where did it all go wrong again?

At the end of last year Gus Poyet was a hero after pulling off the miracle of miracles yet after 21 games this season we look totally down and Gus seems to have completely lost whatever ability he once had to change anything. The players who have been brought in have been totally ineffective and if anything we are a worse team than we were.

Last year at this time we were starting to show signs of improvement with that great win away against Fulham, but now we just seem to be getting worse each game and it's a real struggle to see where we will get our next win from, all the teams below us are improving at the same time as we have hit rock bottom, it really doesn't seem like just a few weeks ago we beat the Mags and were on a pre Christmas high.

So where do we go from here? Without some radical change in our approach to games we haven't a hope in hell of beating, Spurs, Burnley, Swansea, QPR, West Brom and ManU, if Gus isn't capable of turning this around in the next few games then Short only has one option which is to replace him sad as that may be, Short will no doubt have weighed up the risk of us losing more games and already have his list of prospective candidates.

It's still in Poyet's hands at the moment but won't be for long and if we can't win some games before the end of this month then he could be gone by the time we play West Brom. With the exception of a couple of our players the rest seem to play with no pride or passion and appear to have lost all sense of urgency or drive to get forward and create chances, it's possibly the worst period of football we've seen from a Sunderland team for many years, without Cattermole we just have no leadership or fight.

Laudrup, Sherwood and Clarke are front runners with the bookies but knowing Short's past record he could pick anybody so let's hope if he has to pull the trigger he will then make the right choice this time and doesn't fuck it up again.

Here's hoping the team can muster a win soon for Gus's sake cos we do like him and desperately want him to succeed but he's looking more and more like he's out of his depth.

Regards
GP Appreciation Society

Dear ALS

Is Gus Poyet A Head Coach Or A Headless Chicken Coach?

I ask the question because I see the team playing in the same way as they were under Martin O'Neill. Filing in behind the ball even against the lesser teams and showing no ambition to win football matches. I don't think the squad is any better or worse than another dozen teams in the league but the tactics are boring, lacking any imagination and extremely negative.

Passing the ball across the back four may be retaining the ball, it may look good in the match statistics but it is not good to watch and not very effective.

On team selection the only thing I can say about Jordi Gomez is he is deceptively slow, does not influence matches and is a puzzle to me how he is always on the team sheet. I think it is about time the playmaking role in midfield is given to Adam Johnson look how West Ham have been transformed by Stewart Downing’s switch, and with all due respect he is not as good a footballer as Adam. He is wasted out wide, starved of the ball and usually the first to be hooked by Gus.

Gus says we need new strikers but how do we know? We create so few chances it is embarrassing. Alvarez and Giaccherini, despite huge wages are clearly not up to Premier League standard and Bridcutt and Buckley are Championship players and that is being kind. At least the last three will put a shift in but “Alverage” thinks that is beneath him. Vegrini’s worst two games were with him in front of him I do not think it is a coincidence.

I think a new coach could get more out of this team, we could not even create chances against ten men Aston Villa and often Poyet substitutions leave the team with no shape or game plan.

If we are to have a Head Coach let's have a proper one go out and get Glen Hoddle he is a good coach and knows a bit about playing attractive exciting football. In fact I think he could still play better than Jordi Gomez.

Remember this Gus, remember this Ellis we are paying good money to be entertained and it is not happening. If you can't change it pass the reins to someone who will.

John Robson

Dear ALS

Is it any wonder we are almost always last on Match of the Day? Having earlier listened to the match on radio I'm not sure why I waited to watch it but did nevertheless. It was pitiful to watch but the radio really told the tale.

Larson was mentioned twice. Now he has been our best player but today was overrun by the Liverpool midfield. Gomez received most mentions but only for back passes and fouls. On the radio it was hard to believe Giaccherini was on the pitch. Wickham a no show. In fact it was hard to name the team from the radio commentary.

Gravely for us we are hovering over the relegation area. The inevitable defeat at Tottenham next week will make the picture look even worse. Talking of which, Crystal Palace are dross but showed real attacking endeavour against Spurs; Leicester are rubbish especially in front of goal but had 21 shots; Burnley attack you at every opportunity. Only Sunderland choose to start a game determined not to lose rather than just go for a win.

We can attack teams but choose not to. The players are not good but they are trapped in a system where they cannot thrive. The solution? We all know we are likely to lose at Spurs so why not just attack them from the start. Regardless of the result we will gain confidence with a brave attacking display. After all if we play 11 at the back and lose then confidence for the three home games out of 4 to come will be at a low ebb.

We can ill afford the run we went on last year after beating the Mags. We seem to be repeating it but this time with no character or attacking flair. We need to change now. Miracles, like lightning, don't strike twice.

David Johnston

Dear ALS

It's just embarrassing now watching this team. Week in week out I watch in disbelief as they fail to pass the ball to each other, just what do they do all week in training.

This last game against Liverpool, in instances where they had the ball, they managed to give it away to the opposition 53% of the time and failed to complete 48% of their passing! Now call me old fashioned but any team will not win a game with averages like that. It's the same week in week out (Man City the exception but we'll come to that) Poyet's team are just terrible.

He might be a nice guy and all that but for goodness sake he must be a softy on his players because they play like pussys. No bollocks, no fight and let's face it not much skill. It's unbelievable setting your sights to defend all the time when it has been shown we can play attacking football, so why don't we? People are too soft on this team, they need a rocket up the proverbial and sooner rather than later and Poyet needs a reality check. If he watches the replay, which lets hope he does, how can he fail to realise that he is not doing his job coaching this team. He moans about not being the Manager of the club but I think the Club realise that first things first, coach your team, he's not achieving that at present. So the drift to the bottom has started and are we ready for the misery? Last season was a fluke staying up, no doubt about it and with this team's lack of application on the pitch we look like a second rate championship team at best and that is being generous. Who will rise to the challenge and lead this team on and off the pitch because, let's face it, someone has to and soon.

Time to grow a pair Gus, stop being a fanny and kick some arse, you've got a pussy clutch of a team there with not one man amongst them willing to show that Sunderland are in fact a professional football team.

M Hammond

Hi ALS

There's been a lot of bullshit on here and the blog about how much Ellis Short has invested in players since taking over.

Here are the financial facts:

Since he took over in 2008 we've spent £149 million on players but sold players for £103 million so net spend is £46 million

In the equivalent preceding 6 year period we spent £76 million on players and sold players for £22 million so net spend was £54 million

About time some fans took off their rose tinted glasses and stopped portraying him as some kind of philanthropist, he's just a businessman.

Saying that he's not to blame for bad decisions on all the duffers we've bought, that responsibility lies fairly and squarely at the door of the management team, so let's hope they get it right going forward.

Rich

Dear ALS

My letter yesterday provoked a healthy debate, although it is worrying to think that so many people took it so seriously, of course we wouldn't want to sign Stokes and the Beast it was a wind up, but in the furore that followed the point of the discussion was missed which was, if we always do what we've always done we'll always get the same result!

Successive managers of late have made the same mistake of going after players that end up being duds particularly in the striker department, so we have to ask the question why is this, is something fundamentally wrong with the process?

Take our most famous striker and club legend the brilliant Kevin Phillips, before Peter Reid signed him in 1997 he'd played for Baldock Town and Watford who were in the old 2nd division and finished 13th that season, the following season they were promoted under Graham Taylor.

The point is that Reid had the foresight to spot an exceptional talent and he looked beyond the obvious places to find a striker and took a big risk which paid off handsomely, we also got relegated that year which meant is was an even bigger risk. But in the following season KP went on to score 23 goals in 25 appearances and he was out for 4 months with a broken toe, the rest is history.

Ok we're not likely to find another Kevin Phillips but you get the feeling that now we just want to play safe in the transfer market and we have become totally risk averse. I could never see the club taking such a chance on signing an unproven striker from a lower league today, although we seem happy to waste Mr Short's money on players who have failed with other premier league clubs and overseas clubs which is quite bizarre really.

Let's just hope that we achieve some success in this transfer window this time round, keep the faith

TKW

Dear ALS

It's obvious to anyone with half a football brain that we need a proven striker or two, so I'm just throwing this out there to provoke some debate.

Remember Anthony Stokes he used to play for us a few years ago, didn't do that well with us then but has gone on to become a clever player and very effective striker with both Hibs and Celtic, 80 goals in 170 appearances between these two, Stokes is still only 26 and surely has plenty of goals left in him and would fit well into our setup.

Or what about the Beast from Wimbledon Akinfenwa, he scared the shit out of Liverpool's defence the other night and despite his size he's always goal ready and scored a cracker the other night and is as strong as an ox.

When it comes to strikers clearly Ellis Short doesn't want to spend top dollar so why don't we look beyond the obvious choices who everyone else is going to be after and will inevitably pay more than us. What have we got to lose? Because we can keep on hoping for improvement from our current strike force but they've hardly mustered double figures between three of them in two seasons and it's not likely to happen soon. 

Come on Gus you need to stop playing safe and take some risks, we don't need more defenders we need strikers.... there's now't to lose

TKW

Dear ALS

"Consectatio Excellentiae" is what it says on our badge which supposedly means In pursuit of Excellence.

Yes we're a long way from excellence but here's a wish list of 5 things that might help us in our pursuit

1) Wickham starts to find some form soon, why can't he emulate his counterpart Harry Kane at Spurs who has really kicked on this year and become one of their key players. He needs to start showing some real energy and positive attitude on the pitch and stop looking like he's just a shadow player, we all know he has the ability.

2) Can Gus actually pick the same fuckin team two weeks running? This will be a big challenge for the man who's fast becoming the tinkerers apprentice, he's worse than Ranieri was.

3) Can we actually focus all our collective effort on beating more than just one team each season, the derby match has been going on for over 100 years and by now we should be able capable of playing our best and winning more than just these games every season

4) Can we please give our best players the credit they deserve, Seb Larson & Pants have been by far our outstanding players this season but rarely do they get the credit they deserve

5) This really is a long shot but can Ellis Short please give Gus some more money to spend, so far since Shorty took over in 2008 we have averaged a net spend of £11 million per season on players which is nowhere near enough if we really do want to improve

Happy New Year
Regards
Optimus Prime

Dear ALS

Playing Leeds tomorrow reminds me of a never to be forgotten day, April 19 1957.

I was working in a Darlington hotel, the Leeds team were coming for an early pre-match lunch on their way to Roker, managing Leeds was none other than Raich Carter, for most our best ever player, home grown at that.

Nothing to lose I asked the great man if I could have a ride on their coach to the match and back to the hotel, go and ask the chairman he said, if that's OK you are welcome.7

Fifteen minutes later I was sitting two rows back from another great, John Charles. World class in anybody's book. To round of a memorable day we won 2-0 in front of 56,551 fans, it was I think the last game Charles played before being transferred.

The coach returned via Penshaw so that Raich Carter could show the team the monument.
Getting onto the coach at Roker I was even asked for an autograph.

Derek Lambert

Dear ALS

I've not heard or read much from the club around the Boxing Day performance other than Gus Poyet moaning about the penalties we didn't get. I'm still livid about how bad we were but haven't felt that message coming out of the club. For a match that Poyet stated was one of THE pivotal games of the season, what he's saying to the players mustn't be sinking in. I was thinking about all the people including myself who went to that game in high spirits because of the Newcastle result, the time of the year, because they were back in Sunderland for Xmas and hadn't seen the team play for a while, because they had upgraded to the Black Cats Bar to enjoy the day with friends, etc, etc. All were massively let down and it's easy to contextualise the performance given Hull, who were the better team were beaten at home by Leicester the following game.

When things aren't going for us Gus is quick to talk about the players confidence and how they need a bit of luck or decisions going for them, but that's on the assumption that in the meantime the players are putting in a shift and we went into the Hull game brimming with confidence from a well earned win at Newcastle and got a gift of a goal in the 1st minute, then what did we do? We didn't press home our advantage; we just sat back and waited for another gift from Hull. You make your own luck through hard work and endeavour and I didn't see any of that on Boxing Day. Gus has previously said that there's something not quite right at this club and that was it in a nutshell on Boxing Day - confidence to complacence, it was like watching a different team after the Newcastle performance and this happens all too often.

Throw in the missed opportunity against Villa and before you know it we'll be backs to the wall again and you can look to that Boxing Day performance, when everything was in our favour and we didn't grasp it. Don't get me wrong, we need some better players, particularly up front, but we need also need some better attitudes toward consistent hard work within the team.

Phil in Leeds

Dear ALS,

Came across this suggestion of a new chant on a Facebook fan page. Feel it deserves some recognition.

You put your Pardew in,
Your Pardew out,
In out in out,
You wave your banners about,
You blame it on Mike Ashley,
And you all walk out,
That's what you're all about.
Woahhh Geordie Geordie Geordies....

All credit goes to 'Mark'. Merry Christmas Chris

Dear ALS.

I do not give a s**t whether Gus is manager or head coach, I am also delighted that he is a draw specialist rather than a loss specialist.

He is moulding a team that do not panic and play as a unit. The whingers of this world have short memories and want the world today, Gus is working wonders and I for one appreciate it, give the man a chance and stop whinging.

Terry Reilly
Burgess Hill Sussex

Dear ALS

Like most supporters, I have an opinion on how our team plays and I am not a manager, so it is only as a long suffering die hard (45years) fan.

Yes we haven't had big budgets to spend; apart from the disastrous time under Keene, when he had an apparent open wallet to use. What I see week in and out, is a lack of quality from the midfield, to provide the support to our forward/s, who are expected to create chances themselves.

In Wickham and Fletcher we have a good combination of height and skill to work off each other, given the quality pass from the support which isn't there. The last player who had that vision was Dwight Yorke. Wickham can learn of Fletcher, but he can't score goals stuck out on the left wing, we have wide men who should be doing that already. Partnerships Quinn and Phillips for example, do work but what's the point of the keeper, lumping a high ball forward to Fletcher, to head it on to nobody?

Croydon Mackem

Dear ALS

What about Poyet saying that he is not the "manager" but only the "coach" in the papers today.

Does he not speak to his bosses? Does he not care that that is terrible PR for the club which pay him his high wages? Congerton and Poyet's bosses have always said that he is fully involved in recruitment activity. No decisions would be made to bring in players he didn't want and I guess, within obvious financial constraints, they will always try to get any targets he is especially keen on. Poyet is playing the same game as Di Canio, saying that he had no involvement with the 14 recruits acquired during the summer before last. Of course De Fanti called him an outright liar for that. At least Di Canio said such negative things about his place at the club after he got sacked; whereas Poyet seems to think it is legitimate to be this disloyal at the same time as taking his wages. Sounds like he is getting his excuses in early to me. I still think Poyet is a lightweight who is struggling to manage a club of our size and expectation. Maybe he will grow into the job or maybe he will just seek Pardew-esque excuses throughout his time at the SoL. I would have sacked him straight after the record breaking Southampton game and certainly consider it after 10 draws out of 16 games.
And what about Altidore? Poor bugger. I have not heard one person say a good word about him since his big miss on Saturday and yet he might be just the man to soften up Collocini and Williamson on Sunday should he be given the same role as at the West Ham game. I pray he does. And if indeed he does score, I for one will give him the biggest cheer of the season. But I am not putting a bet on it.

Merry Christmas everyone and remember to keep your horses stabled on Sunday.

Regards,
Alan Fenwick

Dear ALS

Couldn't agree more with the last letter looks more and more like we are being run by Ebeneezer Scrooge.

Judging by Gus's comments today in his press conference  about transfer policy we seem to have a very disjointed approach to transfers where he is saying he has no input and is not responsible for who the club buys and sells.

Here's what he just said: "I want more quality. Do I think I'll get it? I don't know. You know what is missing. It is clear what we need to do. That is down to recruitment. I am a head coach. I am not going to be a head coach when it suits people and a manager when it doesn't. That side of it is down to recruitment. So, if you ever get the chance to speak to anyone on the recruitment side and ask them about it, you are lucky. If you don't, don't ask me."
Read more at

Reading between the blurred lines it would seem that Mr Short does not trust Gus and would rather entrust some pen pusher to deal with player transfers.

Tom

Dear ALS

In the great debate that is raging about our lack of fire power up front we need to look at the facts and understand why we are in this situation.

Firstly, in recent years we have never been able to hang on to any decent strikers we've had which begs the question are we paying them enough. Before everyone goes off on one about Wickham's new contract he is basically on the average pay scale for strikers in the PL and we are competing in a fiercely competitive market

Secondly, if we look at our strategy to pursue one option last summer we never appeared to have a backup striker plan in case the main target didn't get acquired. Meanwhile West Ham, Everton, Stoke, Southampton, et al all managed to do something we couldn't i.e. get themselves a decent striker or two.

If you strip back all the comings and goings since Mr Short's arrival in 2008 we have actually not spent much on players at all, and prior to the Di Canio debacle we had spent approx. £130 million and sold players for £90 million so our net spend was £40 million.

Since PDC and Poyet's arrival we have spent approx another £25 million but we have also sold a number of players during that period too, Mignolet, Sessegnon etc.

So if you tot up the total spend on players during the Ellis Short era which started in September 2008 we have spent a grand total of no more than £65-70 million on new players net of players sold.

If you then spread this over 6 seasons it works out at just over £11 million per season which in the overall scheme of spending in the Premier League is pretty small beer.

At the end of the day we can bleat on about lack of this or that player but if we aren't prepared to spend bigger amounts we will always struggle. Our owner is supposedly a billionaire and a very successful business man but my fear is that he will not increase spending any time soon on players and we will always have to expect Gus or whoever is in charge to work miracles.

Bearing this in mind it is quite remarkable we are doing as well as we are!

Regards
Rich

Hi,

Dave of Sheffield has said it all.

I would just like to add that I believe Connor Wickham has developed into the sort of player that would do a great job playing just behind the main striker. If that striker was Borini or someone of a similar ilk you could have Fletcher on the bench as a backup. Altidore must, of course, be sold in January.

Regards
Lawrence

Dear ALS

Dozy Jozy Altidore missed a sitter
Like Bozo the clown he's a real side splitter
He looked so bemused missing a chance like that
But we've always  known he's just a useless twat

Then our  defence   had a senior moment
Downing scoring they failed  to  prevent 
Bridcutt was our man of the match against Liverpool
But not good enough this time?Gus you silly old  fool

What about Seb he's our best player by far
He's one cool Swede and should be our star
But Catts is the man everyone raves on about
He gets all the praise of that there's no  doubt

Poyet's  frustrated because  every game is a draw
Hope next weekend we can at least manage to score
We just wonder when we will get our next win
Cos Sunderland winning  is like  a deadly sin

No worries though Christmas will soon be here
Hope by then we've got some goals to cheer
It's such a wonderful life being a Sunderland fan
But seriously Jozy as our striker ?... haway man

Santa's miserable little elf

Dear ALS

Yet another match with 1 point where we could realistically have had 3. Another couple of points would have put us comfortably clear of the relegation zone. Louise Taylor in today’s Guardian is only saying what thousands of Sunderland fans are saying: “For heaven’s sake get a striker who can actually strike.” She bemoans a lack of creativity, too, but I think unfairly. Larsson and Wickham have both created decent chances this season, but there hasn’t been anybody to put the ball in the net.

Altidore’s failure to take advantage of an open goal against WHU is symptomatic of what’s wrong. As a well-paid, and for him, an overpaid professional, he should have the grace to waive his match fee. O.K. - anybody can miss a sitter, but in his case it’s like somebody with ‘O’ level maths being unable to count up to 10.

All the best
Dave
(Sheffield)

Dear ALS

I've had it with Jozy. I don't care how well he played at Liverpool or at Newcastle last season. If you can't score a tap in from 5 yards out you don't deserve to play. And it's not the first time either. He stands on his heels for every cross and never looks like he'll score.

I've supported him through thin and thin and hoped with all my heart that he would come good, but it's never going to happen. And he knows it too. It was written all over his face when he missed that chance today. If Gus is serious about winning games then I don't understand selecting a striker with the worst goal scoring record we've ever had at our club for a home match that we want to win.

For God's sake, play Fletcher or Wickham in the middle and let Alvarez start a game. He really looks a player. Pace, good touch, vision, what more does Gus want? If he ever plays Jozy again I seriously won't ever forgive him. Enough is enough...

David

Dear ALS

How appropriate that the subject of bubbles has come up again just before the West Ham fixture!

It’s no surprise that opinions are divided about the arrangements for the Tyne-Tees derby (according to my Radio Times). Lots of people made such a fuss last year about our rights to civil liberty – even I wrote to the Chief Constable and to the Commissioner. I think last year they reacted to the Police horse incident. This time they reacted to the adverse criticism they got from many quarters last year.

The vast majority of people who attend football matches are decent law-abiding citizens (just mirroring the population as a whole really). Yes they want to see their team win, but more than that they want to come back next week feeling safe. So my advice would be:

To those going to the match – take care of your own safety, and remember that the police react to situations, they don’t create them; let’s show the world that we are indeed decent and law-abiding. This is a magnificent opportunity.

To those intent on causing trouble – stay away, we don’t want you. In these days of hyper-intelligence, the police should know who you are.

To those who fear going to the match – watch it on TV, if you haven’t got Sky, everywhere will be showing it legally.

To the shoppers – what’s different to any other day there’s a match at Sid James? if you’re worried, do your shopping on Saturday for once.

Trying to be the voice of reason,
Redders
West Sussex

Dear ALS

Had to work all week-end and didn’t see MOTD but thought I’d catch up with what the press thought of a possibly decent defensive performance at Liverpool. I bought the Independent on Monday.

Found the report on page 9. 15 paragraphs. Good I thought; let’s see how Bridcutt got on in place of Cattermole and if Larsson was as good as a mate said he was. No chance. Liverpool get mentioned by name 11 times, Sunderland 3 times, once to mention that we were the opposition, once that Liverpool failed to score against us, and once in a quote from Rogers saying that Gerrard was phenomenal against us.

That’s it, not a single Sunderland player is mentioned by name and nothing is said about how we performed. It’s just lazy journalism that can’t be bothered to say how one team, of only two after all, actually performed. It’s not good enough, especially as Sunderland fans are identifiable by always looking a bit more knackered than everyone else, because they have to wait until the end of MOTD before the Sunderland Aces appear.

To finish on a positive note, I’m really pleased to see how much the Rev and the Verger look like accomplished footballers at full back. And Christmas is coming. They can only get better.

Dave
Oxford

Dear ALS

No use complaining really, we were outplayed by a team that cost a fortune compared to our team.

It’s like putting my Mazda 6 up against a Ferrari California or whatever, it would get beaten out of sight by the Ferrari in any competition and unfortunately some people have got the money to put 11 Ferraris on the pitch (with don’t know how many in reserve) and the Financial fair Play rules don’t really seem to rein them in in the way they do us. Ellis short has been very good for Sunderland but unless and until we get someone like the sheik in charge of Man City we are destined to be also rans with mid table about the maximum we can achieve, suggest we urgently approach the Sheiks of Bahrain, Dubai, Qatar, Oman etc to see if they are interested?

Bob Todd
KTF, FTM

Dear ALS

I said in a letter last week that what we needed against Chelsea was for all of our players, many of whom are potentially great players but who never turn it on all together all at the same time, to do just that in order to do well at the weekend, and Blow Me: that's exactly what we got. No need for lubricant. Even Altidore came on and had us all out of seats at least twice. Wow!

Right, now lads, you just need to do it all again on Wednesday. Well done.

KTF
Alan Fenwick

Dear ALS

Tough one for a change, hard to ignore Vergini taking the pee out of Hazard in the best Len Shackleton style but it has to go to the crowd's brilliant support for Altidore.

In watching Sunderland for over 60 years I’ve seen some right puddings playing up front for us and I’m afraid Jozy fits into that category. However the less fortunate have been generally booed and jeered and worst of all had the dreaded “ironic” cheers when they managed to do something good. But with Jozy the crowd are actually willing him to do well, God knows how they’ll react if he ever does actually score.

Second good is “no, wait for it” Kevin Friend, no friend of Sunderland, sent more of our players off than any other referee. Normally he books Catts for coming onto the field in a red and white striped shirt but yesterday he got through the game without booking Catts and without sending a Sunderland player off so that has to be good, doesn’t it?

Now the 2 bad, Yes I’m contradicting myself and the first is Kevin Friend, who balanced not sending a Sunderland player off by not sending a Chelsea player off either. That was a pathetic display of refereeing by KF yesterday. We all know Costa should have walked for the kick on O’Shea before he tried to decap Big Wes (who I thought played well ). He seemed to miss the most obvious fouls when both Terry and Cahill went through Fletch as he was attempting to hold the ball up yet stopped the game for the most petty of offences. The less I see of Mr Friend at Sunderland games the better, unfortunately the Prem League will probably allocate us Andre Marriner instead and I don’t even want to get started with his record of officiating our games.

Finally when did we start this Stoke City way of defending corners? We fielded 7 players over 6 foot including a goalie who’s so tall he could plodge from the Cats and Dog steps to Denmark without getting his knees wet. Yet we resorted to blocking opponents rather than trying to head the ball clear or let Pants catch it. Vergini the tallest of our back four actually faces away from the corner kicker while he takes the kick and doesn’t watch the ball coming in at all. How’s he supposed to head it clear doing that? It would have been a shame if our sterling defensive work had been undone by giving away a silly penalty at a corner. Only the inept Kevin Friend knows how he gave Sunderland a free kick when O’Shea decided Cahill needed carrying from the pitch under his right arm, I honestly thought he’d given a pen at that moment. If we keep this up we will concede a pen at corners, let's just defend them properly and try to head the ball clear!

John Briggs

Dear ALS

So, it is Chelski at the weekend. Played at a time convenient only to the armchair supporter, they arrive with 19 more points than us and a 23 Goal Difference advantage. I don't know whether or not to suggest we pass around the KY Jelly to the lads and prepare them for a right old rogering or ask them at long last to put aside the "potential" we talk about (like Wickham, Johnson and Cattermole will play for England one day) and have them deliver excellence in every department all at the same time all in one match. We know we have some potentially great players in the team but we also know that they show this greatness for only a precious few times in a season and have never yet all put in a star performance at the same time.

Get them to look at Nedum Onuoha's goal at Stamford Bridge a couple of seasons ago to see what's possible. He was another player with great potential who scored a goal that Lionel Messi would be proud of on that great day, but who also only showed his skills in spits and spots over his time with us - just like the rest of them. So, it is time for the Sunderland Greats to Stand and Deliver or alternatively they might have to Bend and Receive when the London big boys come into town.

Keep the Faith
Alan Fenwick

PS. Maybe the 5 goals last night will have got it out of their system.

Hi ALS

Beg to differ with the previous suicide note but Catts is a much improved player and without him we'd be up shit street.

We should offer our heartfelt gratitude to SB who brought this magnificent footballer to us from his old club, nice one Brucie.

Furthermore as footballer of the year in the whole of the North East then surely we can enter him for next year's Ballon D'or, he's definitely good enough, it's just a shame he can't get in the England squad he's miles better than any of those southern softies that Roy keeps picking.

He never misses a tackle and his passing is simply the best, he's just brill.

Keep up the good work Lee we need you man

Regards
LC appreciation society

Dear ALS

At the risk of being totally controversial and receiving a deluge of abuse on Facebook, I feel it is time for some home truths about the capability of our so called best player Lee Cattermole.

Yes his attitude is better and yes he has balls of steel and lots of "so called" passion, whatever that actually is, but apart from that there really is not much else to crow about.

His is too slow, he can't pass accurately, or defend without getting booked, his disciplinary record is dreadful, even though it's got slightly better recently, and he is still an accident waiting to happen.

Our manager is obviously totally obsessed with him and proceeds to build the whole team around Cattermole, which in my view is to the detriment of more gifted players.

Larson is a different player when Cattermole isn't playing, as for Bridcut, Gomez, and Rodwell they aren't even getting a chance to play in their natural positions because Cattermole is king in Poyet's deluded eyes.

He is definitely not creative in any way, shape or form, just compare his passing ability to that of other Premier League counterparts, and they are worlds apart.

What bemuses a lot of us older supporters is that he is now being touted by some fans and journalists as a club "legend" and worthy of an England call up! We really are living in cloud cuckoo land if people believe that.

Is he really in the same class as Gary Bennett, Kevin Ball, Porterfield, Monty, Philips, Quinn? I honestly don't think so, they were true club legends.

Let's get real and stop deluding ourselves about Cattermole, he is at best an average player with average ability, it's time Gus stopped picking the whole team to suit him, and time we devoted less column inches to him, and more to some of our other players who need a bit of help to boost their confidence.

We need to make the rest of our players feel like they belong and that they and are just as important as Lee Cattermole

Regards
Tom

Dear ALS

I’m not going to duplicate the same description of the game everyone else has covered instead I’ll steal “2 good 2” bad from MOTD 2.

First off I’m glad to see us at last utilising Whickham’s long throw as an attacking weapon; it could well be useful especially in the last 10 mins of games, Oh and how I’d love it if we could score from it away at Stoke!

Second good point was Cattermole’s reaction after being taken out by a horrible 2 footed tackle from Vardy, previously he would have sought very swift and violent retribution but he didn’t which hopefully shows he is getting control of that temper.

The first “bad” is that had that tackle been the other way around you could bet Catts would have been sent off but when Catts did get booked the same player (Vardy) did his level best to get Catts sent off by haranguing the ref and trying wind up Catts, not nice to see from a player extremely lucky to still be on the pitch.

The 2nd “bad” is why do we persist with negating our advantage by playing the first corner we win in a game short? It invariably never gets into the centre, what’s the point of moving all your bid defenders forward if you are going to play it short? The first corner of the game should go straight into the heart of the opponent’s box, it’s early doors, they haven’t settled and we have a height advantage over most teams. We did it today, we did it against both Everton and Arsenal it's an opportunity lost!

John Briggs

Hello ALS,

Before every season, I try to make rational and considered predictions about how we are going to perform in the approaching season, and every year those initial predictions are blown clear out the water.

I'm not from Sunderland, but purely for reasons only football fans could understand I did choose to study there. In my first year in the north east I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a season ticket. Unfortunately, it was the year we broke the record for being the crappest team in the Premier League (15 points). Tough as that was I have subsequently seen the team bounce back with Roy Keane, stabilise under Quinn, and more recently plateau with Bruce and O'Neill.

During this time, there have been brief moments of sheer ecstasy dotted amongst the prolonged spells of uninspiring performances.

The point I want to put forward to you and the fans is that we have seen the likes of Reading, Wigan, and Stoke come up and do well - even compete in European competition, before fading away into relegation or relative obscurity. At the moment (and this remains to be seen), I would suggest that Southampton and Swansea might be the next clubs to follow this pattern. But would you take it? Would you take a top six challenge for a season or two, if you knew that it wasn't sustainable?

This is might seem like a narrow minded position, but I believe there is something to be said for coming up and staying up for this many seasons. I also believe that we are not that far from pushing on to regularly finish top ten instead of bottom ten. I think that Gus is a capable coach, and I think that the 8-0 defeat lies 100% with the players. Wenger had a similar experience against Man Utd but I would argue that Arsenal's success, as well as other clubs, has been largely due to backing their manager. Stability is key. We might not be naming stands after Gus in 20 years, but I think he can progress the club if given time. Everton did it with Moyes when they were in a similar position.

I think Ellis Short knows nothing about football, but I think he is genuinely invested in the club (not just financially), and I can't comprehend what it must be like to have a man like Mike Ashley in charge of your club. Or Vincent Tan. Or that mad bloke running Leeds at the moment.

Frustrating to see other teams appear to achieve more with less time in the top flight, but I'm hoping it's a marathon not a sprint. If Gus gets two more years and we are finishing top ten, the theory will be vindicated. If not, I'll stop trying to put a positive spin on what happens at the club.

I would prefer to see more of the likes of Michael Mandron, Ryan Noble and Martyn Waghorn ahead of Jozy Altidore, Nacho Scocco or bloody Danny pissing Graham. However, I see more in our squad than in those around us.

If I sound naive, fine. I'll take naive over negative. I believe in SAFC.

Keep the faith.
Jack Cousin

Dear ALS

In the great debate over whether a glass is half full or half empty, to quote Toby Ziegler from the great drama ‘The West Wing’, at least we can agree the glass is certainly not full. Whilst I welcomed with open arms (and mouth) the three points on Monday night, we could quite easily have lost and when Palace equalised I bet I wasn’t the only only dreading another bout of deja vu. I don’t think we played well at all. I thought Buckley looked out of his depth even against average opposition and still has Championship player written all over him (on a good night). Wickham looks like he’s sulking at not being played through the middle and didn’t seem to want to make much effort. Everyone could see that and they must have been virtually everyone’s nominations to be subbed. I just wonder why it took Poyet so long to do it. At one point the TV cameras panned to GP and he shrugged as though he had no idea what to do. About 3 seconds later, over his shoulder, Taricco did the same.

I know it all came good in the end but it could easily have been all so different. If they had got the justified penalty in the first minute I don’t think we would have recovered. If Poyet wants us to do well/perform better he needs to make sure that the extra two players who sometimes make up the 5 in the middle actually contribute something (like passing a ball to a team mate) otherwise we’ll always struggle. Let’s home some of those players currently missing through injury are back soon.

GDB

Hi ALS

Following on from Chris's letter earlier Gary Neville did also compliment us and say that we showed more desire a put more effort in to win the game which is encouraging.

Neville also said we need to play at a much quicker pace but some of our passing last night was piss poor particularly from Cattermole and Wickham who gave the ball away 50 % of the time. What Cattermole lacks in skill he tries to make up for in passion but doesn't really cut it as playmaker in midfield, and got yet another booking which now rules him out against Everton.

Does it really matter what style we play? Surely the substance and quality of what we do is more important and if we just cut out all the mistakes and sloppy passes we would be in the top half of the table.

We are still waiting to see the what the new additions can bring but last night there were some encouraging signs and Van Anholt stepped up his game and performed well but sadly he had to go off and be replaced by Brown who really is accident prone, hope VH isn't out too long. Revelliere did reasonably well as did Gomez and Bridcutt when he came on, Pantilimon, OShea and Larsson were excellent and Pants made a fantastic save only for Brown to spoil it all. Fletch in a class of his own and the rest need to step up to his level he scored two great goals and worked his socks off all night.

It was a great win away and hopefully it can give us the impetus we need to go on and beat Everton on Sunday, we are all quick to criticise when things go wrong but let's give credit for a solid performance last night. We need to up the pace though and get Johnson back playing his best against Everton.

Haway the lads
Tom

Dear ALS

Commentating on Sky last night Gary Neville stated that he doesn't know what style of football Sunderland play.

He said we don't play on the counter attack because we don't have really quick runners, we don't play direct with crosses despite having two potential target men in Fletcher and Wickham, and we are not a possession team who play keep ball.

I thought this was an interesting comment; might other readers know the answer to the question what type of team is Gus developing?

A Counter Attacking Team
B Direct with Crosses Team
C Possession Team
D All of the above at any time during a game
E None of the above

Chris Cummings

Dear ALS,

Michael’s letter may well his a few nails on the head. It leads one to reflect that Sunderland have had some very good players in recent years, who having left the club, do better elsewhere.

Sessegnon is a good example and it’s not difficult to see why after a very successful loan spell, Borini wouldn’t touch us with a bargepole. Steve Bruce was heavily criticised and mocked whilst at the SOL, but now he’s with a more ambitious (and better run?) club he’s taking them into a fairly comfortable spot in the Premiership. Bruce and O’Neill have decent managerial track records. Keane was a mistake and Di Canio was a wild card who was, well, just wild.

Poyet seems to be a decent manager, but this squad is pretty thin and if Michael Cartwright is correct about some players joining the club for as much pay as they can get for as little effort as they can get away with, then it could be curtains at the end of the season. It must be hard for players like Cattermole, who plays his heart out every week, to look around and see four or five skivers on his side. Sunderland still lack a striker and haven’t been well provided for in this position since the days of Kevin Phillips. Even at his age, Phillips would have more to offer than what is on show at present!

Living in Sheffield, one sees the plight of two once great clubs. Neither have much prospect of Premiership soccer in the foreseeable future. Young Clough seems a decent man and manager at United, but he has a fair amount of dead wood on his playing staff: a bit like us, really.

David B

Dear ALS

As a member of the Manchester Section of the Sunderland Supporters club who is exiled in Yorkshire I am a regular at Bradford City games as my son is a city supporter having been born in Bradford.

This has given me  a lot of opportunity this season to see Jordon Pickford play and having seen recent horror shows by Mannone (and I am equally unimpressed by Pantilimon) I can honestly say Pickford is the best of the three .His shot stopping and reflexes are fantastic but his logical , highly accurate left or right foot ball distribution and calmness are amazing for such a young keeper. Naturally his decision making on crosses will improve with experience but Sunderland have an excellent young keeper and all the City fans know are very impressed.

When Gus talks about young players I hope he is not overlooked.

Best regards
Adam Thompson

Dear ALS
 
I think the majority of fans share the grave concerns that Michael has expressed in his letter.
 
As a club we do seem to constantly stumble from one crisis to the next and yet it only ever appears to be us fans who express any concerns about what is going on. We never hear from anyone in the club apart from the manager who at the end of the day is not responsible for how the club's business is run.
 
Not wishing to openly criticise our owner but he does appear to have very little to say about our affairs, not really surprising for an ex GE man and entrepreneur with over a billion in assets. I am not sure he fully gets the importance and magnitude of what SAFC means to us fans, he probably doesn't care about that anyway.
 
I am sure in his mind this is just another business opportunity, nothing wrong with that as long as it is being successful, but if it's failing then you need to address the problems and take action at every level, and that means more than just sacking the manager and finding a replacement who will inherit the very same underlying issues.
 
Any CEO who is appointed by the owner in a normal business would be fully accountable and take their share of the responsibility for spending the clubs money and seeing it wasted. In business if you invest money in assets you expect to get some payback and a return fairly quickly, otherwise you would be deemed to have failed and most likely be replaced.
 
Undoubtedly we have invested money for example in a new academy which so far has succeeded in producing zero in the way of new talent on the pitch, so to date this is a failure and needs reforming. When you add it all up over the past 2 to 3 years we have also invested tens of millions in players & managers who have failed, again this is down to collective bad judgement and mistakes.

Sadly the great team spirit and confidence that we plucked from nowhere at the end of last season seems to have truly evaporated and Poyet is clutching at straws just waiting for the axe to fall, you have to feel sorry for him. Plan A has failed and the newcomers GP has brought in have contributed nothing positive so far, and it doesn't look like we have a plan B. Why can't we emulate what West Ham have done?
 
The football has been riddled with mistakes on the pitch of late but is that just a reflection of the malaise across the whole of the SAFC organisation?
 
Please Mr Short do something positive for us before it's too late!
 
Regards
Rich

Dear ALS

I am writing with grave concerns over our fantastic club. There appears to be an entrenched cancer in our club which will not allow players or managers to succeed. I am now hearing of ex players saying it's a well known fact players join our club to pick up decent wages for doing very little. I honestly believe we need answers and wonder if your group could arrange some sort of meeting with club representatives?

Is Ellis Short happy for us to finish 17th in the PL year after year and risk our top flight status? What is Margaret Byrne doing and what the hell happened in this recent transfer window? Why are we not investing more heavily in our paper thin, quality starved squad? Starting the season with five defenders!

As fans we are clueless to why players can't/won't perform but can move on and be successful. Why can't Bruce, O'Neill, Di Canio or Poyet take us up a level? I am petrified that we are the next Leeds, Sheff Wed or Forest!

Do you think it would be possible to facilitate some sort if informal talk, much like our friends up the road do?

Thanks in advance
Michael Cartwright

Dear ALS

Last week Vergini this week Brown
Who be next to play the circus clown
Will it be Gus who gets the sack
Wouldn't be surprised to see PDC come back

Yes when we thought things couldn't get worse
That pesky black cat has unleashed another feline curse
Supporting our team's a real roller coaster ride
At the moment we've lost all feelings of pride

Gus dismantled the heroic great escape team
And he's turning this season into another bad dream
He's replaced them with a bunch of second rate losers
And made us drown our sorrows down the local boozers

So what do we do now we're all at a loss
The players just don't seem to give a toss
Refunds are no compensation for our feelings of shame
We just want our team to perform and win a friggin game

Bring back the confidence from the end of last season
Don't know where it's gone there's just no rhyme or reason
So lads get your arses in gear and make us feel proud again
No more comedy of errors we've all suffered enough pain

TKW

Dear ALS

I only saw the highlights on MOTD and of course everything is heavily edited, but what I saw was disquieting and gives little scope for optimism at present. Arsenal were professional, though rather pedestrian and that was all they needed to be. There’s a malaise at the heart of Sunderland and it’s difficult to see what it is. Yesterday, Sunderland seemed timid, toothless and amateurish - qualities which could see them playing in a lower division before long. There are plenty of big clubs in the Championship and League One including Leeds, Middlesborough and Birmingham and in League one, Sheffield United. Look at League Two and there we see Portsmouh. Ask any of these clubs how hard it is to get back to the Premiership and they’ll tell us.

Sunderland were better organised and, defensively, kept their shape much better than against Southampton, but they lacked dynamism. Much of their tackling was half hearted and Arsenal were subjected to insufficient pressure. Sunderland can’t even buy goals these days and their tally for the season so far is pathetic. Good teams turn in a few performance every season where they score four or five in a match, but this is beyond our wildest dreams with the players available. Getting a goalscorer is an imperative: come back Kevin Phillips, you are needed despite being forty!

There really is a need for the stiffening of sinews at the S.O.L. I think the manager is OK, but he really does need to find out and act on those who aren’t giving their all. They are all paid more in a week than many working men get paid in a year. As I said earlier, some of their play is amateurish and perhaps they should be paid like amateurs. Their malaise is on going and some decent managers have failed, for example MO’N and Stve Bruce who seems to be making something from limited material at Hull.

As for Wes Brown’s comical error and Mannone’s comic error which gave Sanchez another goal - well I jumped out of my chair when I saw them. I don’t think Mannone’s necessarily a bad goalkeeper, but he needs a bit of time off, some intensive coaching in the basics and perhaps he’ll get his form back. Right now his confidence must be low. Brown is a good player, but he can’t afford to do things which are obviously wrong and costly as yesterday.

It will be interesting to see if they can at least score a goal or two at Palace next week.

Cheers (though muted ones),
David B

Dear ALS

Another game and I’m thinking what will go wrong today? Well it started badly with the news Jones is going to be out for longer than we thought. I have to make the point if we are desperately short of defenders what was he doing playing in a meaningless behind closed doors friendly?

Then hit number 2 , I see Kevin Friend is ref, well he’s been no friend of Sunderland in the past, his record of Sunderland red cards is just ahead of the imbecile we had last week, putting him in first place as the ref Sunderland don’t really want. I note the Prem League have kept him away from Sunderland games since he incorrectly sent of Wes at Stoke last season, maybe they should have kept him away a bit longer.

I believe Gus got his selection correct although I’m no lover of the inverted winger's policy. If we are going to play one up top we need balls into the box and wingers playing on their natural side can do this easier.

I think he basically set up to stop Arsenal from scoring and hoped we’d nick something; it was a correct policy as we obviously played very nervily and with a fair bit fear. It would have worked too if not for the individual errors

So we all know what went wrong. I think Vito needs a break, certainly Palace will throw high balls into the box and Pants could well be of more use to the defence there.

Should Vergini replace Wes with the new lad coming in at RB? It's a big call, I’m not a lover of Vergini at CH it means JOS has to play left side and he’s not comfortable there. Of course the new guy is totally untested in the Prem so a big call there for Gus.

I think Rodwell and Catts should sit in front of the back four and let Larsson get forward as out of the three he’s the morel likely to get in the box and possibly score. The other point I’ll make and I may get some stick is that if Fletch is out I would really consider Graham ahead of Altidore, he deserves at least a chance as the other strikers aren’t doing it.

John Briggs

Dear ALS

I posed the question that Gus and the players needed to respond against Arsenal before we collectively press the panic button.

I am afraid the performance made me far closer to the panic button than I would like.

Aside from a few minutes when we were ahead against WBA in the first game of the season and in the game against Stoke (where universally we were accepted as rightful winners) we have not taken the lead against any team this season and therefore have not been on the front foot in games.

I read about the comments about tension and anger in the dressing room after the Arsenal game. I see this as symptoms of a larger malaise.

We seem incapable of performing in accordance with a game plan and even if we do appear to be delivering the plan (20 minutes vs Arsenal) teams are aware that we are so fragile that it is easy to knock us off whatever plan we have very easily.You can blame the players individually (Brown, Mannone) or collectively (Southampton) but at some point you have to ask is there another reason because most of us think we have a better squad than last year.

What made last year's squad perform heroics?

In my opinion I think there are two reasons; Firstly it was clear that tactically we played on the break last year with Borini the free runner expanding the pitch in which others would follow up; Secondly I get the sense that the players are waiting for something to happen rather than trying to make it happen.

What's the cause of this - in my view preparation, tactics and management.

It's no good having players angry in the dressing room Gus - I want you in there to get them focused on what needs to be done and I need you to make sure that the players understand what you want and why. If the performances and results continue as they are then it may not be long before we are forced to conclude that you cannot get the players focused and understanding of what's required.

Maybe the players through their performances no longer "Trust in Gus"?

Chris Cummings

Dear ALS

Well what can you say about today? Yes I thought they would be nervy, but I thought one thing they would do would be to make sure there were no horrible mistakes like last week. How wrong could I be? We started brightly and had a go for the first few minutes but then went back to our 10 men behind the ball routine, which is very disappointing since you have to create some form of attack to score, and unfortunately Fletcher is not the quickest, and needs support. Again this was lacking and we only seemed interested in passing the ball backwards, sideways and generally any way which looked none threatening to the Arsenal, but I also thought Arsenal weren't playing to well and did not look like they were going to score. But up step Wes Brown. I personally think he should stop worrying about a new contract, since I believe he is not worth it now, since he has been making too many mistakes. In fact it might be better to tell him it's time to think of retiring. Half time then seemed a long way away but thankfully it came.

Whatever Gus said at half time though did bring about an improvement in the second half. Finally we got in there faces and tried to win the ball back further up the pitch, and played some good stuff. Unfortunately, that killer pass was still missing and it always fell to an Arsenal player or not quite right for one of ours. I thought oh well another mistake again cost us points with only a few minutes to go but again another horrendous mistake by Mannone and Sanchez scores again.

After some reflection after the game I think to myself how are we in this position again? OK we are better off than this time last year but still it seems to be the same old problem. Poyet has been there a year now and had two transfer windows. Some of the rubbish has moved on but has been replaced by very little. You look at the starting line up and there are three players who were not at the club last year in Rodwell, Buckley and van Aanholt, and to be honest they have not done a great deal to say there are better than the players who left. The defence looks old and slow, and why O'Shea has been given two more years is absurd. The midfield still lacks creativity and pace, and for me Larsson is no centre midfield. This then creates problems up front since very little back up arrives to assist our attack. The lack of pace in the team in general is what I believe is making us play what I call negative football, since no cutting edge occurs since no one has the ability to currently create that spark and cause space to get in round the back or side of teams. Pace and quick thinking does. Like last year we are only playing with attacking thoughts in the last 25 minutes when we were generally losing. I would like to see that aggressive attacking football from the start. It's harder to play like that if you have not started on the front foot.

Poyet and Congerton to my mind messed about to much in the summer transfer window. They pinned their hopes on Borini but he did not want to come. It seemed all the players we wanted went elsewhere for whatever reason, and we ended up with nothing. Of course I can only get behind the players we have and support them since they are our team, but I just wish they had some believe and think yes I want to be that player that gets on the end of that cross. Who takes that chance that the opposition player will make a mistake and gift us a goal. I want to be part of the team that gets in the face of the opponents, but currently it seems they don't take these opportunities. If you don't try you will not know, so please just take a chance and maybe luck will be on your side.

Scotty

Dear ALS

I don’t like the idea of a refund although I admit I might be keener if I’d gone to Southampton. But really the reason is this – if we get money back when the team plays poorly (well worse than poorly but the right words fail me just at the moment), what happens if they win 8-0? Do we have to chip in to add to the miserly pay of a professional Premiership footballer? Where does it end? Would 7-0 count?

Oh no forget all that. I haven’t been thinking clearly since last week-end. An 8-0 win isn’t going to happen is it? What I would like though is a committed, professional performance against Arsenal. I haven’t even said a win but just something that shows they care about what they do at work. I think we’ll find out more this week-end than we did last. And if it’s not good I fear for the rest of the season.   

My hot tips for relegation this year were QPR and Southampton. Could we please have a season that doesn’t just involve me worrying about relegation all the time. Bring back Peter Reid.

Dave
Oxford    

Dear ALS

We've all seen fall out now of the Southampton disaster, and the subsequent disputes on how the fans should be repaid for their loyalty while having to watch such an embarrassing performance - whether it be paying money right back to those fans that made the trip to and from the south of England, which I don't think should happen, these things happen in football, to teams and their supporters, to repaying the mass sum of the cost of travel and the game to local charities, which I am all for in any case, it's a nice gesture by all after all.

In one or two comments about the game I saw the 8-0 scoreline only being comparable to a game of FIFA, which in turn reminded me of a time I destroyed a friend 7-1 in an online game and issued a term to him known to many FIFA players - 'the FIFA Apology' - a practice performed when you have just been that bad against an opponent. Some of these range from casual and funny - telephoning your opponents parents and apologising for your showing, to the costly destroying your game CD after a very heavy defeat, more examples of these can be seen here - http://fifaapologyrules.co.uk/?page=apology-rules.

This got me thinking, what if football, in real life adopted similar rules to this to be used widely? Every time we got hammered 8-0, a charitable donation, a team losing by five goals? a club apology on all social media platforms. It can even extend to the 'player rules', Catts gets himself sent off? Everyone gets a beer token for the next home game! It might sound all in all a bit daft to be honest but it would be a good way of making players and teams on a whole more accountable for the 'performances' they put in. While the donation that comes from the 18th October Massacre will be provide a little comfort to those that need it, it should not comfort the club and players into making it a regular practise.

Cheers
Resident funny SAFC photoshopper guy,
Tony S

Hello ALS

Still coming to terms with the loss on Saturday. I'm lost for words really.

In my time at primary school I remember a match our school team played against one of the better school teams on the Wirral. We already knew it was going to be a really hard game and we were worried sick before we started. We did not play much and we were an average side.

We tried and tried but were outclassed. We lost 9-0 and I was in tears after the game. It was at this time that I knew (despite my surname: Charlton) I was never going to make it as a footballer. I simply wasn't good enough and never would be. But that day me and my school mates had a bloody good go. We ran our little hearts out for the cause for the whole hour (we only had to play 30 minutes each half) and we managed a couple of shots on goal.

That memory lives with me today never to be forgotten.

Lads, that day we had a go. We tried so bloody hard and even at 5-0 down felt we could sneak maybe one goal. We ran, we passed, we tackled, we had a corner.

On Saturday lads, you didn't have a go. You didn't do any of the things I and my mates did on that fateful school match. SHAME ON YOU ALL.

I wear my shirt with pride each and every day. I love the club no matter what. Kick me when I'm down, piss on me from a great height, it doesn't matter because I pick myself up, dust myself down and realise that despite the shite I just can't help falling in love you. It's been that way for 57 years now.

Lads, pick yourselves up, dust yourselves down and prepare yourselves for Saturday. All I ask is that you ALL have a go please.

Thank you
Eddie
Wirral

Dear ALS

Like one of your previous correspondents I live in the south and was indoctrinated by my father who came from Sunderland, while he had the ignominy of going to Yeovil I had what is possibly worse I went to Southampton with my wife and one of my son’s.

Well as my son said we won’t forget that one for a long time. Yes it was awful and we were totally humiliated but I was a bit surprised not to see Gus on the edge of his technical area all through the second half trying to help his bunch of players going through hell. I sincerely hope the club has some top quality sports psychologists working in the club this week, if not it will get worse. While we all moan at overpaid players they are still human beings and if we want the best out of them then we want them playing with confidence especially in the style Gus wants them playing, just giving them a good kicking will not achieve that. By the way I wore my ALS beanie with pride Saturday, I didn't realise it stood for "at least seven "

Keep the faith, I will
Derek Tate

Dear ALS

I live in Sussex so I look forward to the long-trip away games. QPR was sold out to season card holders. Southampton probably the only opportunity this season, happy memories last year holding on for 1-1 with Giacherini’s towering header (PDC), 1-0 previous year (MON).

OK decent start, GP seems to know what he’s doing, tickets available let’s do it. Can’t be worse than watching a dodgy stream at home like every other game. Joined by younger son and fiancée both decked out in colours, like me. And mag step-son, popping over from Uni in Portsmouth.

Estimated cost: Tix £92 (bargain discount!) Rail fares £36 (rail card bargains and off peak fares) KFC in Over Bar St, £22 (bargain bucket), Bella Italia after to drown sorrows before trains back £96 (no bargain but good value IMO), beers for the train to numb the increasing pain £~8. Total around £254. I don’t begrudge it and I bet some of those families attending from Wearside forked out more.

Others have covered the events between 3pm and 4.50pm. I can report complete embarrassment at persuading my children ever to support SAFC, but at least they provide sympathy. SAFC supporters were well-behaved (apart from the drunk nutter in the next row who screamed abuse from a standing position on his and any other seats nearby and who mysteriously disappeared at half time). Family of six in front of us trooped out at 0-6 – can’t blame them, they looked as if they’d travelled half the night to get there. Surprising number stayed and chanted. I was one of those who stood to applaud goals 7 and 8, they were peaches in anyone’s book. As for the rest of the comedy-tragedy...

Maybe we’ll beat Arse with a flooky offside goal. Can’t wait for Saturday.

Cheers
Geoff Thompson (aka Redders)

Dear ALS

Without being melodramatic, and factoring in the relative ability and resources of the two teams, Saturday was quite possibly the most disgraceful performance in our history!

I’ve seen us tonked more times than I’d care to remember over the last 25+ years by huge score lines but I can’t ever recall anything coming close to the school playground level of patheticness served up by a Sunderland team as was witnessed at Soton.

Individual mistakes (or even all-time howlers) can be accepted but you can’t just lay down tools, stop bothering to make even the most basic of runs and half-heartedly amble around the pitch with your head down as the collective did on Saturday. The most effort I saw were the sprints to get off the pitch at the end of the game that the majority did; bottlers that they are.

I think it’s time the players got real with the fans and would do worse than to make a financial gesture to those in attendance. £100+ is no joke for us and again without being melodramatic we really do deserve a refund for the whatever you’d call it was that was delivered.

Win, lose or draw and without smashing up the town or staging mock funerals we’ll support the team against Arsenal, even though they haven’t earned it, as long as they put the effort in. (And I’m talking bare minimum levels of effort required of any professional footballer here not the above-average work rate that you’d expect a second rate team such as ourselves would have to put in to get results). There also needs to be a firm commitment from the players to put in 100%, 100% of the time from now on. They should resolve never to have a lack of commitment thrown at them ever again; not that praise should be given for such a resolve as it should ever be questioned in the first place.

And please, no more angry cupped ear goal celebrations when you turn up for a game for the first time in a year! It’s time to be a little humble and be grateful for your privilege, build some bridges having the right attitude and being respectful to the fans and the shirt. Either stop taking the supporters and club for granted or let someone have a go who’ll play for the team! Now if we only had the squad numbers to carry out that threat.

Carl

Dear ALS

Churchill described his depressions, famously, as the "Black Dog".
 
I have no geographical reason for being a life-long lover of The Lads...in fact; I was hatched deep in Magpie Land where, to this day, the Northumberland branch of supporters leave from outside my Mam's local in deepest Ellington for The Stadium. 
 
Blame Dad. It was Dad's fault. Just like it was having the family cat put down and leaving our mam with a mortgage and three kids. They were forgivable, relatively speaking. But being lumbered with The Lads.
 
I rarely get to games. As a kid, raised in Yorkshire, I was surrounded by Leeds, Liverpool and Man Utd scarves, bags and car stickers. As a supply teacher, called Bell, I've been called many things - but never a glory supporter.
 
Loving SAFC is like surviving clinical depression, divorce, or filling out job applications for five hours only for the laptop to crash. I know, I really do.
 
It's Like 'A Boy Named Sue' - where your dad leaves you with something that'll either force you to develop some self-found psychological resolve, or will have you waiting outside Wetherspoon's before the shops have opened.
 
There's a Zen saying: Thank you Master for teaching me nothing. Or, more accurately, to expect nothing.
 
I'm 50. My best mate complains that he's overworked; that his love-life's descended into dreaming about Fiona Bruce while his wife glares at him in Cotton Trader sweatshirt and jogging-pants. He dreams of her turning up in hold-ups and too much make-up (his wife, I mean). I dream of my team losing less that 65% of home games.
 
What you get as a Sunderland fan, is the ability to laugh. Lots. To smile when the rest of the world's becoming more absurd.
 
August, 2014. Holiday. Rhodes.
 
Existentially, you also get a bizarre appreciation for the ridiculous - and take comfort from such delights. See, for example, the lilo I saw gathering dust beside a bar that was full of Man Utd shirts as I celebrated the 1-1 draw against them via a grainy website and a wobbly screen.
 
After the match, with breath reeking of tzkiki, I punched the Grecian air as The Voice of Reason tutted, taking a rare break to look up from her facebook. She's seen it all before, when I've sat, like Jim Royale feigning apathy and cursing each wayward pass and half-time capitulation.
 
"Well done, mate!" the other Brits chipped, paying for their Mythos in Wiltshire accents. I celebrated a draw. That's what Sunderland AFC do for you.
 
On a parting note, while you're waiting for the next game, which one of these SAFC-related unbelievably personal teasers could possibly be true?
 
1: Marco Gabbiadini gave my baby brother lines at the same school Steve McClaren went to.
2: For my 10th birthday, I was taken to Roker Park and locked in a Mark 2 Cortina car with my (later-to-be-confirmed-as-our family's-token-gay-though-already-a-superlatively-camp-Geordie-even-at-12*) cousin, a bag of Tudor crisps and a warm bottle of shandy. 
3: I washed Ricky Sbragia's hair in a York hairdresser's, the week after he equalised for City in the FA Cup, 1984.
 
Surprisingly or not, all three are true, the second being prior to a 2-1 Bank Holiday win over Carlisle, and in fairness to my dad and Uncle, we were probably only left for two hours. And, it may have been a Vauxhall Viva.
 
* I mention this because I'm proud of him, and how he survived schoolhood as our own Northumbrian John Inman 'AND' a Sunderland fan in 1970's.
 
That's all...back to that bl**dy application form.
 
GB

Dear ALS

The American military have an acronym they use when faced with a tactical disaster. It is FUBAR, that is "F**ked Up Beyond All Recognition". Saturday was a perfect demonstration of FUBAR. The Southampton game heralded the first anniversary of Poyet at SAFC. So, he had no excuses, it was his team, his purchases, his tactics and he Failed Beyond All Recognition. At work you are given a written confirmation of a Verbal Warning when you don't perform, then a first written warning etc. The only exception to this process is when the employee's failure is Gross Misconduct i.e. a catastrophic failure to do what you are paid to do, in which case it is Instant Dismissal.

Surely in Poyet we have yet another manager who isn't big enough for the club, who is totally out of his depth and who hasn't been able to make the transition from the Championship - just like his players. Apart from that weird 4/5 match spell in April his match stats are awful. This guy makes Pardew look competent. The problem is we are so desperate for him to succeed we seem willing to forgive him almost anything - just look at the other correspondents - however, we must be firm, and get rid.
And why do the Saints get Ronald Koeman and we get a Urugyan who still can't speak good English?

Alan Fenwick

Dear ALS,

As a Mackem in exile currently living in Essex, I met up with some pals from home who are dispersed over Southern England. Spirits were initially very good on the journey down on the train to Southampton.

We had a very good drink and sing song in Yates Wine Lodge and things were going well, however that all changed after getting into the ground witnessing what can only be described as the most inept performance I'd ever witnessed as a Sunderland Fan. Up until half-time I still thought we could pull a goal back and had the ref sent off Forster for his foul on Fletcher and awarded a penalty it may have been a different match.

At half time though under the concourse me and my mates witnessed the oddest sight, a Sunderland Fan eating her pie with a fork (whats that about), and then even took her pie to the toilet, it brought a smile to our faces.

Que. 2nd half and meltdown, 4-0 down and team give up, 5-0 and you're thinking Christ almighty how many more goals can Southampton score, Sunderland Fans try to raise the spirits of the team but the players heads had gone. At this point we decided right lets away and get on the drink, whilst walking back to Southampton Town Centre we were even verbally abused by a group of young kids playing football in the park who took great steps to laugh at us for supporting Sunderland....well what can you do 8-0 down it just summed the whole day up.

We drowned our sorrows with some other Sunderland fans and the Southampton fans just said what the hell happened there?

If Vito wants to refund my day out, I itemised it below:

Train fare from Stansted £53.50
Match ticket £24
Beer £68
Taxi to ground. £5
Pre-match burger £3.50
Programme. £4
Coffee on way home. £3.50

Roll on the next away day in the south as we'll be there again and hopefully we won't take another battering like the Southampton one again this season when we're on our travels.

As we departed Southampton on the train I heard one fan say in hope, "our time will come", my mates and I just laughed, I we've been saying that for over 25 years to which one bloke said I've been saying it for over 40 yrs.

Still keeping the faith!
Mal Hughes.

Dear ALS

After my rant on Saturday I wanted to bring some optimism (blind faith?) to proceedings. Our previous 0-8s were followed by big wins 3-0 and 4-1. Even the 1-7 at Everton was followed by a 1-0. Either of those scores against Arsenal would go some way to restoring some confidence, if not faith.

Wholesale changes in the Team are no good (he doesn't have the options anyway) but Poyet needs to think twice about bringing on Bridcutt at right back. Lord.

As I said in am at the SOL with the kids for the first time in an age. Here's hoping.

David Johnston

Dear ALS

...In with the Southampton fans, with my 14-year old and two of his Fulham supporting pals who we treated to a day of Premier League football - and ribbed them all the way there about it. Did we pay for it on the way home…lucky we were only going as far as Surrey.

I know a lot of people travelled further and spent more, but just one thought on the refund debate - I don’t think you go to watch Sunderland expecting a money-back guarantee on a good result. What if the players donated the money to the fight against Ebola, or the families of the ISIS hostages? At least we would all know something useful came out of it for people worse off than us, and then we can get on with building our hopes up for Arsenal.

A last comment on whether people stayed or left…the noise from the Sunderland fans at 4-0, 5-0, 6-0 still made me proud. And Gus Poyet didn’t try to hide.

Peter

Dear ALS

Santi's been away over in Hong Kong
Pity he came back and got his clearance all wrong
Vito's let in all 8 goals & should get the sack
But never mind cos he's promised to pay us all back

Gus is too embarrassed he's lost for words
Sick of making excuses for his useless turds
Ellis is incandescent full of anger and rage
Doesn't think the useless buggers are worth their wage

We all thought Di Canio was a crazy clot
But most of our players seem to have lost the plot
I blame it all on that pesky little black cat
As a lucky mascot he's a bit of a useless twat

So roll on Saturday we'll try & beat Wengers men
Let's just hope to god they don't score ten
We hope Gus is prepared with a better game plan
It's just sheer bliss being a Sunderland fan

Tom

Dear ALS

Having given our skipper a 2 year contract extension in return I feel he should be looking at curtailing his International activities. He’s no longer a young man, he can’t play a couple of mid-week games and give his best for us the following Saturday. He is fit and a good pro that doesn’t miss too many games and I know he has his heart set on playing and possibly even leading his country in the European Championships but we pay his weekly wage and we should come first.

As he’s a good reader of the game and a good organiser, his game is based on snuffing out danger before it occurs by making interceptions and not Bardslyesque last ditch tackles. To do that you need to be right on top of your game and its patently obvious he wasn’t on Saturday. I made the same point about Larsson in a previous post, after each International break Larsson’s performance in the next match is poor and he’s usually subbed quite early on. We don’t have a big squad, we can’t rest players and we are very short of defenders. We can’t let O’Shea soldier on playing every Premier League, Cup and International game and still expect him to give us 100%.

John Briggs

Dear ALS

Now we have all vented our spleens and management and players have been overwhelmingly apologetic we need to quickly address the horrendous mistakes made yesterday so we don't have a repeat performance next weekend.

Yes it was a piss poor performance from the players with the exception of O'Shea, Larsson and Fletcher but Poyet also made some horrendous tactical errors that need analysing.

Firstly, the minute Cattermole got booked he should have been taken off, this happens every time after he's booked he then just lives in fear of being sent off so is subsequently pretty useless, whether he deserved the booking or not is open for debate.

Secondly expecting Wickham to track back and cover Clyne on his runs was a fundamental error; Wickham is just way too slow to do this job. Furthermore Wickham is not the same player he was at the end of last season and should be dropped.

Thirdly why take Larsson and Brown off and replace them with two inferior players Bridcut & Rodwell who are not up to scratch, that was simply asking for trouble as was proved in the catastrophic last 20 minutes when they scored 5 goals. Bridcut is simply not a premier league player and Gus needs to accept that he's made a mistake bringing him in , the jury is still out on Rodwell and he needs to get going soon if is going to prove Poyet right.

Lastly Poyet's decision to play Vergini was always risky given he'd travelled half way round the world days earlier to play for Argentina in Hong Kong. Give him a break though he would been knackered after a 13 hour flight back, I've done it many times and believe me it takes several days to get over the jet lag. Yes he made a bad mistake but if he's good enough to play for Argentina then he's surely good enough for us and in normal circumstances I am sure that wouldn't have happened.

It's disappointing to witness such shambolic schoolboy errors from both players and manager but Gus is still tinkering around and still has his moments of madness so must take his share of the blame.

Hope to god we learn from this total humiliation and bounce back quickly.

Rich

Dear ALS

Quick brief history I am 62 years old and supported Sunderland for over 50 years but have never lived in the North East. I support Sunderland because my Dad who comes from Monkwearmouth raised myself and brother to be Sunderland Fans. Point is we are Sunderland daft but don’t watch many games so maybe as “armchair” fans our opinion by Sunderland local regulars will count for very little.

Saturday Geoff and myself went to St Mary’s to watch the 8-0 farce. We were not in the Sunderland end and so where surrounded by gloating Southampton Fans who could not believe that Sunderland just gave up after about an hour. To listen to that was humiliating and to witness Sunderland’s abject performance was embarrassing. We all know that players and teams have off days and freak results can happen but what happened against Southampton was inexcusable. As “professional footballers” they should be ashamed but I simply think they do not care. The whole tone of the game was set by Vergini’s own goal. What was he thinking of? We where sat behind him when he curled the ball in the bottom left hand corner of the net. His body angle as he approached to clear the ball was bizarre to say the least. But the thing that hurt was that he appeared not to be bothered, he simply trotted back to the goal and picked the ball from the back of the net. I thought that Sunderland where unlucky to be 3-0 down at half time but what they got in the second half they deserved and more.

I am not going to go through the whole game what’s the point? The only good thing I can say is that the Sunderland fans where terrific. Chanting and cheering throughout, you all deserve better but sadly won’t. Sorry but the overpaid spineless players who contributed to the farce should pay for all the supporters who made the trip but that’s not going to happen either. I don’t believe I am being fickle I now the score, an 8-0 defeat.

Charlie Cruikshanks

Dear ALS

I agree with the sentiment of the letter written by John Briggs. I too remember the 8-0 defeats at West Ham and Watford.

We just have to get over it. If you need therapy as a supporter, I recommend a viewing of “Golden Gordon”, one of the “Ripping Yarns” series by Michael Palin available as downloads. His team loses 8-1 and his reaction to the agony and frustration is all too real to all of us. Enjoy, remember that we can only look on and support our team, and let’s take it out on the Arsenal next week.

Charlie Brown

Dear ALS

Living a long way from Sunderland and not having the wherewithal to attend games, I have to follow from afar. MOTD was my medium yesterday. Southampton are a good side and looked it. Sunderland are, when at their best a reasonable side who shouldn’t be relegated.

But yesterday’s game was something else and the lads looked as though they were auditioning for a comedy football match. Vergini’s OG was the best I’ve ever seen. Struck like a thunderbolt, the keeper had no chance. No wonder Mr. V. buried his head in shame. Bridcutt’s o.g. made me wonder why they try all of that dribbling the ball between a row of posts if it only leads to somebody like poor Bridcutt getting his left foot mixed up with his right. Then Mannone seemed to think that because Southampton’s colours are like Sunderland he might as well throw the ball to the red and white jersey worn by Tadic who gratefully accepted the gift and scored with Mannone way off his line. Mannone won’t enjoy looking at the replay. Credit, though, to the Saints who played well and scored five well made goals.

What’s to be done? Facing Arsenal next is a stern test and Sunderland will have to play well to get even a point. They have to regroup.

Players getting the wages they do need to be forcibly reminded of their professional responsibilities. There might be several theories about the way they played yesterday, but for my money what we saw was a perfect storm of incompetence where one error compounded another. Even Cattermole failed to shine. Gus needs to get his big stick out this week.

David Bacon

Dear ALS

My old mum used to say “always do your best” and it's an adage most Sunderland supporters understand. If players try their hardest the supporters can accept defeat. Yesterday was a catastrophic chain if events starting with the failure to bring in enough defenders at the transfer window. The International break at the wrong time after a good win then Jones being injured before the game with no replacement added to the tale of woe. If he’d been fit, in all probability Vergini wouldn’t have played, anyone who has suffered jet lag knows its effects and Southampton had a full squad so they were able to rest their jet-lagged players. I’ve also noticed that in the first game after the International break Larsson plays badly and that’s something that needs to be investigated.

The next problem is the appointment of Marriner as referee, as soon as I saw that I felt Cattermole would be sent off or be very quiet. Marriner’s record of officiating Sunderland games needs to be looked at we invariable lose and have players sent off when he’s in charge. Southampton have a good side and they certainly don’t need any help to win games but that’s exactly what happened.

So we started well in fact we played well right up until the penalty appeal which to me was the tipping point in the catastrophic chain. I cannot understand how that is not a penalty and a red card. You can bet your life savings if it had been Cattermole Andre would have had him off in a flash. So possibly 2-1 down and the Saints with 10 men and its a different game, you don’t lose those games 8-0. After that the players seemed to give up and that is unacceptable. Losing Brown didn’t help and I felt sorry for Bridcutt as the lad isn’t a Premier League right back, unfortunately he got no help as Buckley in front of him was having a mare too. Our leaders (O’Shea and Catts) for various reasons didn’t lead when the chips were down and that was also very disappointing.

I still believe in Gus but as a young manager he’s still making mistakes and his substitutions played a part in the debacle. He should have shut up shop and played a damage limitation game but he didn’t, Larsson and Gomez should have stayed on and the wide men sacrificed but that’s only my opinion and of course in hindsight.

The acid test is next week and how we react to the defeat, nothing short of total effort will be acceptable to the fans. We’ll learn in that game whether Gus and his players have learned anything from the defeat and are able to repair some of the damage or whether we are in for a long hard season.

In my lifetime I’ve seen two other 8-0 defeats, both under a couple of our better managers ( Brown and Durban) and both with sides containing Sunderland legends and very good players, Hurley, Monty, Ashurst, Harvey , Irwin, Porterfied, Herd and Mulhall all played in the West Ham game and Rowell, Turner, Venison, McCoist and Cummings played in that defeat at Watford. After both those games we won the next match and finished mid-table so that is why the Arsenal game is so important next Saturday. Just one final point to try and give you some hope, Arsenal shipped 8 against Man U just a couple of seasons ago so it happens to the “big” clubs too, it's how you respond that counts.

John Briggs

Dear ALS

At least we get onto Match of the Day earlier than usual and I bet the Times will include a Sunderland match report this week. But I’m filled with dread about the effect on the players for the next few games. Confidence is bound to take a big hit and with Arsenal, Everton and Chelsea coming soon I think lots of confidence is what’s needed, not none. And I’m not sure how that can be fixed in the time available.

And apart from that I don’t remember a more gutless display in the last 52 years and it feels completely unacceptable. Except there doesn’t seem anything I can do about it. Stop supporting Sunderland? Much too late for that. I do remember that when we drew away at Gravesend in the cup I was forced to punch a mate to the playground to encourage him to stop making amusing remarks. I still know where he lives and may see if he’s prepared to take another punch or two to preserve my sanity.

Dave
Oxford

Dear ALS

I see you've had a lot of these but here's some more:

We've all had a bad day at the office. Days you just want to be over and it seems like everything you do goes wrong. The subtle difference here is that our office days don't last 90 minutes and result in ruining the afternoon of 2500 fans with a 300 mile trip home.

I don't blame Poyet and I respected his comments after what genuinely seemed like the most embarrassing moment of his career. I will question his insistence of not changing his squad after the win at Stoke (except replacing the injured Billy Jones) as Southampton are a completely different team. If there's any positives to take from this harrowing experience, it's that he has learned more about his players than if we had just lost by a couple of goals.

No one should have to watch their players kick off after conceding yet another goal, only to see the midfielder that many had said is worthy of an England call-up lose the ball and jog back and do nothing to stop it happening all over again. No matter how many goals down you are, you have a responsibility to keep playing until the final whistle and at least 8 players failed to do that on Saturday.

Sunderland fans don't deserve that kind of disrespect and after what felt like a solid start to this season, I'm sure many of us are wondering if any of these players are worthy of wearing the red and white shirt. If this is just a one-off and we complete the season with a solid mid-table finish then we can forget this ever happened. However, if it goes on to define our season then once again we'll be left wondering what went wrong.

I enjoyed the gallows humour that followed and as I used to live in Southampton, I got more than my fair share of banter. I do feel that as a Sunderland fan, I am better equipped to deal with this kind of experience than most and even I would find it hard to gloat if it had happened to Newcastle.

All the players can do now is move on and work hard to repair their reputations and the team's goal difference. It'll take a good performance against Arsenal and at least a point to go some way to repairing the fan's broken hearts and trust.

Tony Russell
(@TonyRoo)

Dear ALS

My name is Peter and I write a column for the South China Morning Post newspaper in Hong Kong, where I lived and worked for many years. 

I write from a fans perspective as on returning to the UK in 2012, I returned to St Mary's as season ticker holder. Apols for yesterday. It happens, and thankfully, rarely. 

What struck me and my nine year old son, as well as many Saints around us, was the loyalty of you, the Sunderland fans. Absolutely inspiring stuff and that's what I want to tackle in next week's column - what's special about Sunderland fans, what they embody, and anatomy of the true supporter if you will.

Can you give us your views on that, how you pick yourselves up to get behind the team next week against Arsenal, and so on? 

Also, Robbie Savage was calling on the players to donate on Monday morning money to pool and give back to the fans who did the round trip to watch such disappointment.

Feel free to add in anything else/observations and so on about the club and its relationship with supporters.

I am writing this from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia as I flew out here after the game (I am covering the 30th anniversary of the 84 Famine/band Aid and all that).But right now I am struck and awe of the Sunderland fans loyalty to their club and football and want to showcase that in China at least. Link to my column here - http://www.scmp.com/sport/soccer/article/1618723/english-clubs-take-fans-cleaners-high-ticket-prices

Peter Simpson
Feature Writer & Photographer

Dear ALS

Well it isn't the first time it's happened and it won't be the last. In fact, looking at this squad, it could be sooner than we think.

If we are to avoid becoming the Premier League equivalent of San Marino where the big clubs can fill their boots at will, the big question is 'where do we go from here'? When the going gets tough, the tough get going, according to Billy Ocean.

So what realistic options do Poyet and Congerton have? Here's my opinion:
1 - Change team and tactics to suit the opposition. Yesterday was crying out for a solid, defensive 4-5-1 with Fletcher sacrificed. In the worst case, it would have limited the damage.

2 - Rehabilitate those who tried and failed yesterday from those who didn't try at all. Take a good hard look at the latter and mark them out for replacement one by one, as and when.

3 - Blood some of the U21s. If they are big enough, they're old enough. It has worked before, most notably for Villa two years ago. There wasn't a single home grown player in yesterday's threadbare 18. There isn't a single local lad anywhere near the first team squad. Enthusiasm, commitment and passion are qualities clearly missing.

4 - Sign up a couple of out of contract, experienced stop gaps for the defence on short term contracts. If they don't deliver, get shot quickly.

5 - Cut the losses on Jozy Altidore. It's never going to happen for him here, so ship him out in January.

6 - Switch on Cabral. How can a player with his skill, experience and wage packet be making no contribution? 

7 - Check the early termination clause in Coates' loan contract. He has hardly played in over 2 seasons and it's looking more and more unlikely he can do a job for us. If we can send in back and free off a loan spot, let's do it.

8 - Prioritise Congerton's To Do list for January - outs and ins. Check progress weekly. Do the business early.

9 - Abandon any notions of an FA Cup run. Our sole objective is now to stay in the Premiership.

10 - Focus on the 6 Pointers. Don't lose away to the teams around you and beat them at the SOL. Easy to say but not a hallmark of our game in recent years.

It may not be pretty nor entertaining but let's get real. Anyone who thinks that we're not back in a relegation battle, needs his head examining.

Len Shackleton's Love Child

Dear ALS

In response to Mr Ashford's letter about it being a disgrace that me and others walked out of St Mary's at 0-3 I have to point out there is a difference between giving up on the team and giving up on 'our club'.

Support has to work both ways and as others have said there was no support evident from the players today for the travelling support or 'our club'. Even the manager and local press has pointed out that those players gave up in the second half. Are we, who pay our money not entitled to do the same?

Our love and passion for 'our club' lasts a lifetime and we never ever give up on 'our club'. The same can't be said of those players who wore the shirts yesterday. Yes we may lose patience with individual or team performances but we will always be there at the next game supporting the 'team' and 'our club'. We are born into it and it lies deep in our hearts and souls.

So David I'm not one of those shouting out for a refund. I paid my money, I took my chance, and if I see no support for those supporters there from the team I make my choice of which I'm entitled to do.

Eddy in Yeovil

Dear ALS

I was at the game today and I have to say those people including Eddie who walked out at 3 0 are the disgrace. We stayed right through and supported our team and I was proud of the real fans who did that. Yes it was shambolic but you don't give up on your team when they are struggling.

The disgrace was that the players were reluctant to come anywhere near the fans at the end with the exception of Rodwell who didn't add anything when he came on but at least acknowledged the fans.

And last but not least Manone. Hopelessly exposed by a crap performance in front of him and yes he made a couple of mistakes and he made a couple of great saves and he made an absolute howler but he walked the length of the field all alone to face the fans at the final whistle. You made me proud. It's up to your team mates now.

David Ashford

Dear ALS

I didn't go to the game and could barely watch the highlights.

There is no need to panic - not yet.

On the other hand Gus, his backroom staff or one of the squad you need to look real hard into the mirror to see if the players are leaving everything on the pitch for the team after each game. Gus says he knows who gave up - he contrasts those who quit with the fans.

We could also see who quit Gus -we are not fools - now it's up to you manage the team before the crowd start to get on players backs and then yours too!

Chris Cummings

Dear ALS

I do not want to ponder on the players lack of professional ability, review certain individuals passion, ask why 80% of our passes are lateral or go backwards

Manone must have had one of the highest pass completions for the day, that and picking the ball out of the net meant he was a busy boy, or the transfer window policy - as most already know there wasn’t one - what I want is to see someone at the club make a decision to refund the money to those amazing 2500 supporters who did not give up singing and supporting despite having to watch that s**t - who gave up their day and £££££s of hard earned cash to be humiliated in front of a stadium of fans who do not deserve a side as good as the one they have.

And if that is not logistically possible, then give the equivalent to a local charity in recognition of the pathetic display we were subjected to, let something good come out of what was one of the darkest days in our club's playing history!

Alex Campbell

Dear ALS

As one of the 2500 idiots who witnessed this sorry embarrassing episode I would ask that the manager consider his position. Also that the overpaid underperforming excuse for footballers who did not acknowledge the outstanding support at the end of the game be fined two week's wages and chased out of the club at the next window.

The money could be used to reimburse the fans for their wasted journey. This was a spineless capitulation beyond description and beyond excuse so please no patronising excuses by players or management please just crawl into your expensive mansions and reflect on what an inept bunch of failures you are and don't reappear until you can put it right on the pitch.

John Robson

Dear ALS

It's a hat trick for me. I saw WHU away when I was a boy; Watford away 20 odd years later and now today. The difference? Today we gave up. I would like to say it was at half time but I think as soon as Vergini scored that spectacular OG the whole team switched off. It's little comfort to me that everyone is praising the SAFC fans. For Poyet and the players it's the supporters who'll they'll grovel to while absolutely refusing to accept the responsibility of basic tactics basic defending and basic creativity (passing). There will be this faux hurt they will feel then they will just carry on regardless. It's stomach churning really.

For the first time in an age I am able to get to SOL next week. Lord knows what will happen. I am regretting the £300+ for me and the kids to get there and see the match. I feel so cheated already and effort and commitment better be high on the agenda otherwise me and many will desert.

It was a pathetic cowardly display today.
David

Dear ALS

At 59 years of age I have seen some shambolic displays from our club in the last 50 odd years but nothing that compares to the heartless, weak, passionless, cheating, robbing bunch of yellow bellied useless shit that I witnessed today at St Mary's.

I left at 3-0 down because you could see what was coming. Not 1 of those 'people' who wore the shirt today are worthy of calling themselves representatives of our beloved football club.

They talk and go into print about how they care and how they will make us supporters proud to be Sunderland supporters. Don't they realise? WE are proud to be Sunderland supporters despite their pathetic display today. They still take their money and don't give a fuck no matter what they say!

Neither is Ms Byrne or Mr Congerton blameless in this fiasco. The transfer policy was disgraceful and it's all coming home to roost now. Am I over reacting? No doubt there will be supporters who will say I am. I ask, were they at St Mary's today?

How much more shame can we have heaped on OUR club by the ownership of Ellis Short? When we needed decent investment it wasn't forthcoming.

Once again it's the hope we can't stand and another battle to finish above the likes of Burnley. Palace, Leicester. QPR, Scum and others lies ahead of us for yet another season. I'm sorry but enough is enough!

I don't know who I trust in anymore!
Eddy from Yeovil

Hello ALS

Cheer up everyone.


When Sunderland lost 8-0 at West Ham on 19 October 1968 almost exactly 46 years ago, they won the following League game 3-0. Montgomery was in goal on both occasions. I was in the Roker End watching the 3-0 triumph. We even managed to survive in the top division in the 1968-69 season, ending up four points clear of relegation. It was not until the following season that we were relegated, but we did have a substitute on the bench for the 3-0 victory called Ian Porterfield and the win at Wembley was only a few years away. 

Things can only get better - I hope
All the best
Harry Barnes

Dear ALS         

The 8-0 drubbing at Southampton sums up the problem we were always going to have when we got a few injuries. We failed to get our business done in the transfer market. No matter how bad our players are they must look to the bench, see Cabral, Graham and Mavrias and think "it doesn't matter what the score is here I'm not gonna be dropped." And they are right. They threw the towel in and there'll be no consequences.
 

What riles me is seeing players like Pelle, Tadic, Sakho, Valencia, Hernandez and Ulloa hit the ground running whilst we make the usual desperate deadline day loan signings: two players who are now crocked. What riles me more is that we have a billionaire owner and a director of football to bring players into the club.

I feel for the 2,500 who spent money to get down there and Gus has to do something with the limited squad he has until January. I still think things look brighter than last season and let's hope we restore some pride, show the resilience we've shown at home so far this season and get ourselves up for the Arsenal game. 

Keep the faith
Gareth Hern, North Stand


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