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Dear ALS

So quite rightly, Jermain Defoe has been recognised by the North East Football Writers. The campaign needs to start now to push the little fella for the big awards: Players Player of the Year, National Football Writers Player of the Year, heck, why not Sports Personality of the Year!

That last one is a long shot obviously, but I genuinely feel there is a rational argument for the others. Defoe presently sits 4/5th in the Premier League goal scorers list, joint with Harry Kane. Above him are Lukaku, Zlatan, Costa and Sanchez. Combined cost of those four, arguably justifiably, adds up to gazillions. Jermain cost us peanuts in comparison, is as fit as a flea even at his age, and looks after himself to make sure it stays that way. The strongest rationale though, is of course the fact that he plays in a poor team, with little in the way of service, whilst the opposite is true of the other strikers in the Goal scorers list. It pains me to make that argument, but it's a fact. He punches so far above his weight given our league position.

Defoe fronts up, doesn't shirk interviews or comment, and has nerves of steel: evidence of that being the Liverpool penalties. I haven't even mentioned Bradley Lowery. If ever any of us long suffering Sunderland supporters needed reminding what is truly important, it's seeing that little lad smiling his way through adversity. Jermain would seem to be helping with that.

And of course, in the manner of Niall Quinn, he 'gets it'. He understands what it means to be a Sunderland icon, which is why we should be pushing him for the big awards. He's one of us.

Best wishes, get the campaign rolling ALS, Sue Holden Taunton, Somerset

Dear ALS

The performance against Crystal Palace was a joy and signified light at the end of a very long tunnel.

This turned out to be the light on a Southampton train which ran over and demolished a feeble and once again spiritless inept bunch, (with few exceptions).

Terry Reilly
Burgess Hill Sussex

Dear ALS

A trip to New York You have to be joking.

After the most inept performance I have witnessed in a generation, to send the players on a jolly to New York is yet another bizarre decision by the people who run this club. It is a reward for failure and will do nothing to help the fight against relegation.

John Robson

Dear ALS

I was chosen to be a Sunderland fan over 50 years ago, on the day I was born. Red and white runs through me.

During that time I have had many heroes. All of the 73 winners. Monty, Bobby Kerr, Billy Hughes, Porterfield et al. Rowell, Bennet, Gurney, Shack, Quinn, Superkev, Ball, Reid on and on and on.

Latterly I have despaired of the modern footballer, what with the excess of money and the paucity of loyalty and values that we as supporters used to respect from our lads. We lavish huge amounts of our income, time and emotion in the name of our club and rarely see any kind of understanding from the bodies lucky enough to be draped in our legendary stripes.

Today that has changed for me.

I care passionately about the success of this football club. Success does not simply need to be measured by trophies, cups, or merely surviving in the all conquering Premier League. Singlehandedly Mr Defoe has ensured that our football club has succeeded this year. Our club is about community. About love, devotion, and supporting each other.

The photograph in the press today with Mr Defoe with Bradley shows he gets it. That is a show of compassion and love that little Bradley will always remember.

Thank you Mr Defoe and welcome to a family of thousands that will revere you forever.

Mark Whittaker

Dear ALS

I went to West Brom last weekend but had to sit with home fans as I now live in Oxfordshire and can't get a ticket from Sunderland because of the fantastic support we deliver away from home.

I have supported Sunderland for over 60 years since I was seven. On a positive note, the Baggies fans around me were saying that they would like to see us remain in the Premier League as we have such great fans!

Some years ago I used to take my young grandson to see Swindon play simply because they are our local team. I was regularly impressed by the enthusiasm, work rate and skills of Matt Ritchie to the extent that I wrote to Martin O'Neil suggesting that he was worthy of consideration for Sunderland. I didn't receive a reply or even an acknowledgement but, hey, I am only a fan whose watched hundreds of games so what do I know!

It broke my heart when he scored such a great goal for Bournemouth against Sunderland, now plays for Scotland and, just to rub salt into the wound, signed for that lot up the road!

Brian McCutcheon

Dear ALS

I started this letter four times, and then deleted it and edited as I genuinely could not express the desolation I feel watching my club disintegrate before me.

Short has to go. He has done his best, and I am not going to slaughter him as he invested, just not wisely, he recruited, just poorly. So for that, I can’t feel any hatred like some fans at other clubs like Hull, Blackpool (the list goes on) towards him, just an honest request he move on, and thanks for the years he tried to govern us to better things.

The squad is a mish mash of journey men, never has, and a few has beens. This is a sad indictment of the fact all we have ever seem to achieve is just enough to stay in the Premiership. There are exceptions, well I can only think of one or two. PVA has stood out more because of the dross around him, and of course Defoe! He has been a legend and fit to be compared with Phillips and Quinn. I salute him and he is always going to be one of us, but other than that we have been like a person at the sales buying clothes that do not fit, or are out of fashion, but affordable. Look at our squad of players, and if you were to wear them on a night out you would never be allowed in any nightclub in town!

On the other hand, the promise for the future is clear, the likes of Watmore (still a long way to go), Pickford (class and I would never sell him no matter what), Gooch (so much promise) and several other prospects are all from our own development and internal structure. When will SAFC management recognise that as probably the most unfashionable club in the Premier, we will never attract the class needed to deliver what we the fans (and we are the ones that count, not those half bake pundits who seem to judge all and sundry) expect and deserve.

If I had a business plan for SAFC, it would be simple. Produce a team like the one that won the European cup in the 60s, wrong side of Glasgow for me, but Celtic’s team of winners, who all came from within the city, should be pour blueprint. I am not xenophobic, but until we try and develop what’s on our doorstep instead of buying mercenary players with no passion or commitment we will always be like a bloke waiting at the bus stop in flares, a stripy jumper and a top hat!

KTF and FTM!
The Munich Mackem

Dear ALS

It is great to see ALS stocking the book on Fred Spiksley that has been co-authored by Sunderland fan Mark Metcalf.

I have just finished reading Flying Over an Olive Grove and it really brought to life a character of whom I have to say I had never heard.

It was all the more enjoyable to learn that this footballer was considered at the time amongst those that saw him play to be one of the finest players in England if not the World.

He backed this up with achievements such as his two hat tricks for England. Yet because of the bygone era (late 19th and early 20th century) he was doomed to a poorly paid life of a club footballer. 

The social and historical context of the book also illuminates a life and career, which taken out of that context could be likened to a modern footballer’s problems (gambling and women).

There are many amusing passages regarding the players of the time. We also learn about how the post-industrial revolution was changing the world of work and how Fred with his apprenticeship and football avoided the worst of the drudgery. 

 In the wider world of football we see the forming of the football associations and Sheffield Wednesday moving to their state of the art new stadium which would become Hillsborough. Fred's life after he gave up playing was just as colourful, coaching across Europe and escaping from a POW camp. For a historical look at football and a footballer’s life and times you could not wish for a better read

Nick Burnikell
London based Sunderland fan

Dear ALS

Yes, we want to be in the top league.

But I’m wondering, would it be so much worse for a while to go to Barnsley hoping to win rather than West Brom knowing we'll lose, or coming away from Rotherham having won instead of Swansea having lost?

Barry Conlin

Dear ALS

I sense now a certain inevitability about our relegation from the Premier League.

We started the season with a squad relatively low in quality which was very quickly compounded by some appalling misfortune in respect of injuries.

It is true that our net investment in the squad over the summer ranked tenth overall but we need to keep in mind that a net expenditure of twenty some millions does not buy a lot of player these days. Sadly, our poor recruitment of recent seasons has finally caught up with us and FFP leaves us very little scope for a January rescue act.

On the brighter side the injuries to established players and the thinness of the squad has created opportunities for some of the younger players to break through. Setting aside Jordan Pickford, who is destined for greater things sooner rather than later, that means that we will very likely be opening our Championship campaign with Watmore, Gooch, Honeyman, McNair, Love and at least one Robson wearing and earning their stripes. I think that is not at all a bad prospect and maybe it will prove to be a solid foundation for our team in the future.

Ideally, I would prefer to see the next four or five months spent on preparing for life in the Championship, rather than more desperate signatures on short term contracts for the “unattached”. That will only serve to waste the opportunity to blood more youngsters and it is extremely unlikely to impact on the inevitable.

Like many in the East Stand I am beginning to think that life in the Championship will not be as bad a prospect as watching our club fail in the top flight season after season. True we will not see such high-quality players in the visiting dressing room but we can hope, at least, that our squad will be able to genuinely compete and will treat us to some winning football for a change.


Dear ALS

The team started the season with 25 squad members, and before today’s match have eight injured. Is there something wrong with Moyes's training staff and training methods? When Moyes was at Manchester Utd the story was similar. Should the club management start looking at the quality of the backroom staff and their competence to train?

As it stands the original 25 are now includes 9 injured (Rodwell today), 3 in ACN matches and Papa going to be banned for the punch in the match against WBA. Last year I saw the U23s play and saw a lot of hope for SAFC. With the likes of Pickford, Gooch and Honeyman, who played like it meant something to wear the red and white stripes. Perhaps Moyes should start the next game with more of the youth side rather than players like Djilobodi, Januzaj, Denayer and Mannone!


Deal ALS

Our beloved club is going to end up in ruins and Short's governance of the club has been disastrous from the start, if the man had any dignity whatsoever he'd leave now and sell the club for the same price he paid for it.

Short and his cronies have no idea how to run a football club and have made so many incompetent decisions and wasted endless amounts of cash on sacking manager after manager, appointed people like Byrne, De Fanti and Congleton who wasted even more money on buying useless washed up players, Defoe being the exception, oh and by the way his stewardship of our beloved club has ripped the heart and soul our proud history and heritage, he has turned us into a basket case.

Now he wants to sell up and recoup all his investment and punish the club for his failures, it seems incomprehensible that this guy could be a successful business man. But people still say he's kept us in the premier league, but when he took over we were mid table and winning a decent proportion of games, now we are expected to be thankful that we survive by the skin of our teeth each season with a threadbare squad of has been players because we've sold all the ones who were any good.

Niall Quinn's legacy has been squandered by a man who knows nothing about football and only understands one thing, money. mind you he's made a right mess of the business side of things too we've made no profit during his tenure and his wreckless actions have got us into eye watering levels of debt. Short has done this all by himself and no one else is to blame and whoever takes over next will have to sort out the unholy mess he has created.

Personally, I can't wait to see the back of him and I'm sure the players and management feel the same because it can't be much fun working for an owner who has no leadership skills whatsoever, no strategy or vision and no clue as to how to improve anything.

We'll try to keep the faith but this is a sad state of affairs for our great club


Dear ALS

I've read a lot of comments on various websites, including the local press, expressing amazement at our apparent offer of £10m for Robbie Brady when we are supposed to be skint. Well don't believe everything you read or hear. Anyone who thinks Ellis short is just going to let our club sink into the Championship really needs to think again. How much interest do you think there will be in paying top dollar to buy a Championship club next season? Very little believe me. Just ask Mike Cashley.

That cameo appearance by Martin Bain in December, with a supporting role by David Moyes, could well be nominated in this year’s Oscar awards. I'm not suggesting we will splash fifty million in the next two weeks but it's clear that there is a new strategy from the club hierarchy to paint the worst picture possible and lower fan’s expectations whilst holding back the real truth in terms of what we can do in this transfer window.

Or possibly this 'pleading poverty' strategy is simply a way to squeeze the best possible deal out of any potential transfer situation. Or maybe they just intend to sell one of our better players to raise transfer funds to buy other targets and are fearful of a fans backlash as we saw in the summer with the Kone saga. Personally, I don't have a problem with any of these strategies if it gets us the best deal possible for the maximum number of transfer targets to improve our squad.

Anyone who disbelieves my analysis only needs to look back to the summer transfer window when a £7m bid for Vincent's Iborra fell through at the last minute and the next day we agreed to pay double that for Didier Ndong. I firmly believe that for the right player at the right price Ellis will provide the cash somehow. He's a billionaire because he invested the right amount of money at the right time in the right deals. Just because he's lost money in our club overall doesn't mean he doesn't see the sense in investing in an individual transfer deal with a good potential return, whether that's another season for us in the premier league or a profit when we sell that player on.

Just like last year the next two weeks will likely make or break us this season. I hope we get it right again as I for one don't want to risk trying to 'bounce back' from the Championship next year. Any NUFC fan would tell you from the heart that they'd rather be where we are right now than where they are, a league apart. Who cares about beating Burton Albion when you could be drawing with Liverpool.

I wish David Moyes and Martin Bains the best of luck in this window and hope they surprise us all as I think they intend to. I'm looking forward to getting January over and done to with and having a stronger and hopefully refreshed squad to follows from Feb 2017 onwards.

David Pout

Dear ALS

I wasn’t at the Burnley Cup replay like Eve Sayers (her feature on the ALS website). I have however been to all the recent home games and whilst I agree wholeheartedly with Ms Sayers criticism of Januzaj (whose body language, attitude and energy levels remind me of Harry Enfield’s teenager Kevin – I think the word ‘indolent’ is an eminently suitable epithet for him), I don’t agree that Borini should be lumped into the same category. It’s true Fabio had a poor game against Stoke but so did virtually all of the others so he shouldn’t be singled out for that. Borini’s effort is still there to see (unlike the wastrel Januzaj). He (Borini) is also being played out of position. I bet he’d give anything to be allowed to play just in behind or alongside Defoe and I suspect he’d make a better fist of it than the Belgian.

Just my humble opinion (and we know what ALL opinions are like – an orifice at the lower reaches of the alimentary canal and everyone’s got one….).

Sooty the Harrogate Black Cat   

Dear ALS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know which I'd sack first.


Dear ALS

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

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

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

Terry Reilly
Burgess Hill West Sussex

Dear ALS

Magical Mystery Tour Again?

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

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

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

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

John Robson

Dear ALS

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

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

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

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

all manner of random stuff