Dear Steve Bruce
Please give Sunderland’s young lads a chance.
I don’t know how much spare time you will have over the next few days, but in the hope that you do make use of this interwebz thing and happen to search Google for anything to do with Sunderland AFC and its supporters in South Shields, then you may well come across my words, it is after all a long while since I last wrote about the love affair with my lifetime favourite football club Sunderland.
The Lads have had a bit of a torrid time during the second half of this season, and for supporters we have seen a strong promising position at the turn of the year when we were genuinely threatening to break into the top four of the Premiership, melt away as fast as a dropped Minchella’s ice cream on Shields’ beach! Yes, we have had an injury crisis that is true, we have a relatively small squad, that also is true, but I have questions, quite a few of them to be sure, about the management regime and style that you brought to the Stadium of Light. Despite our great Premier League position at the turn of the year, which we might have hoped would be sustained, you must recognise that it was not attained by playing the most attractive football in the world, we didn’t get there by playing like the Barcelona of the Costa del Monkwearmouth. We had managed somehow to get there with an ever changing back four who at times must have struggled to remember each others names, I don’t recall that we ever played the same back four for three consecutive games, and of course on the back of the goals of one certain Darren Bent. Bent gives us a clue that something was amiss, he’d already made plain his intentions to seek a move to another club during the previous season but remarkably he was persuaded to stay on the promise of beefing up the team’s attack, so out went Kenwynne Jones and in came Asamoah Gyan and before you could shout hurrah Bent was off after the sniff of a huge pay packet turned his head. Don’t get me wrong, Sunderland were right not to have been panicked into signing a quick replacement during the January transfer window, that could well have been short sighted, but in the supporters eyes there did not appear to be any longer term plan or option available either.
I was involved in a “discussion” with a rival Newcastle fan yesterday evening here in South Shields and, to his credit, he had a clear view of some of the problems at Sunderland football club, he rightly suggested that we have far too many midfielders on the books, all solid workhorses but none of them with any real pace, no traditional wingmen, and nobody with creative flare or ability, I could not disagree. It was galling to recall that we had missed out on the opportunity to buy both Stewart Downing and Adam Johnson, both now making a good impact in the Premiership and with England caps behind them. He also pointed out that your South American buys collectively had all of the impact of a cold burrito, how could I disagree? Paulo da Silva just couldn’t cope with the pace and physical presence of Premiership attackers, Marcos Angeleri and Christian Riveros would struggle to make their mark in the Coca Cola Championship, err the idea might have been right to save money by shopping on the South American continent, but it appears as if Ricky Sbragia’s scouting operation was hopelessly out of its depth – and by the way Steve, is it true that you will be inviting Bryan “Pop” Robson back to Sunderland to head up the scouting team? We do need a bit of fizz!
My “Mag” mate also asked what is up with the training regime to cause so many injuries these days? I had to tell him that you had a different work ethic to Mick McCarthy, have the lads in for an extra hour each day, run less fitness drills and play more eleven aside football. That’s the problem I was told, over training and too much physical contact during the sessions, no wonder Keiran Richardson’s stress fracture was hushed up for a while, he suggested. And another thing Steve, and my Mag mate was effusive on this point, Sunderland AFC have far too many loan players at the Stadium of Light, how can you expect maximum commitment and the fulfilling of an ambition when so many players know they wouldn’t be there to either enjoy the fruits of success or face the music of failure?
The most damning failure, so far, of your management and footballing style has been to play unadventurous teams in solid, no I think I shall say stolid, formations, which while grinding out a few wins and quite a few draws did nothing to excite the fans on the terraces. So much so that chairman Niall Quinn was forced to come out and plead for us to return to the stadium, he blamed foreign television stations beaming matches into pubs, we blamed the football for ensuring that the Stadium of Light has been all but two thirds full for most of the campaign. A little more expansive play on the ground and to feet would help engender a sense of hope for the future, but it has never been realised.
Did I just mention the future Steve? Oh yes, that’s what it is all about now, I’m sure that you are aware that we have one or two young lads playing in the reserves who ought to represent Sunderland’s future, they ought to have been ready to play Premiership football by now, they ought to be in your thoughts for next season (on the assumption that you will still be with us). So, can you please explain to me and hundreds of other Mackem fans in South Shields that whilst we have gone through a thoroughly rotten injury crisis, which has now left us with NO fit first team strikers, why you bothered pushing Nedum Onuoha up front in a desperate tactical move against Fulham? You have Ryan Noble available, you put him on the bench, he has a goal scoring track record, yet this lad of the future has still not been used on the pitch in the Premiership. I thought you were a protege and product of the great Sir Alex Ferguson Steve, a man who has done so much in nurturing young talent in the game and brought names like Ryan Giggs, Phil and Gary Neville, Wes Brown, John O’Shea, Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Johnny Evans, Darren Fletcher, and Darron Gibson to our attention. I hope you are seeing my point Steve, from being four games out from the season’s end, and now down to two, you have had the opportunity to bring a few of our young lads on to the pitch. Our Premiership survival was all but confirmed, we have an injury crisis, these lads such as Ryan Noble, Craig Lynch, Billy Knott, Robbie Weir, and Adam Reed deserve to be given a chance to prove themselves alongside Jordan Henderson and Jack Colback. The future may well be in their hands as financial constraints may prevent the club from spending all of the transfer fee received from Aston Villa for Mr. Bent, it would not have done any harm for some of them to be recalled from their loan clubs and thrown into our first team, the worst thing that might have happened would be them picking up an injury.
So please Steve, in the two games left against Wolves and West Ham, can you give the fans some entertainment? Can we please go out with a young striker or two on the pitch? Can you send out a team capable of winning all six remaining points and ensure that we end this campaign in the top ten and ahead of our rivals up the road?
Do that, and I might be happy for you to stay another season, but I’ll be honest Steve, you wouldn’t be my first choice.
Now if club vice chairman and South Shields MP David Miliband were to find time for a little chat over the summer………