Roker Reflections: Frustration cure can only come from team

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APART from a mid-season lapse when they suffered heavy defeats against Orient and Middlesbrough, Sunderland achieved a high degree of consistency last season, when they finished fifth in the promotion race.

The promotion prize would have been well within their reach if they has not squandered so many home points, for no fewer than 13 were conceded to visiting clubs, yet they were beaten in only six of their 21 away games.

Whether the quantity and quality of home support, as readers suggest, has any direct bearing upon the team’s ability to do themselves justice at home while saving most of their best form for away games, is a debatable point. Certainly, if the Oxford United crash can be overlooked, they have often looked a much better team on their travels then they have done at Roker Park.

Essential qualities in both defence and attacks have still to be either developed or injected before then can be given top rating as promotion challengers. This much is evident to the onlooker, just as it is obvious that the scope for improvement exists ... and that there is an ideal framework for the injection of fresh talent.

But even allowing for these shortcomings, it is more than coincidence that praise has been lavished upon them after most of their away games, while their home performances have persistently been the subject of adverse comment.

It will be a sad day for Sunderland and their supporters if the team should ever develop a complex which carries the conviction that they cannot produce their best form at Roker Park, where it is essential for them to enjoy a lot of success if they are to eventually win back a place in the First Division.

The Roker Park complex, if they have one, has rather less to do with the smallness of the crowds and the highly critical attitude of various sections, then with the approach of visiting teams who are happy to destroy a game in the hope of gaining one point from a draw ... preferably goalless.

Against this kind of opposition a young, and in several positions, comparatively inexperienced side is apt to lose out on two counts. They can fail to press home scoring chances against tight defensive system and the frustration arising from the squandering of chances incurs the displeasure of the crowd.

A less frustrated crowd would be a good deal more helpful to the team, but the remedy here does not lie with the paying customer. Exhorting the man on the terraces to cheer through thick and thin is a kindly but worn-out practice. The remedy lies with the team and those whose duty it is to ensure that the strongest possible formation is fielded to fight the club’s battles.

From the available resources, that course is already being taken, and while is reveals tremendous promise for the future, it leaves the present rather vague. Crowd attitudes are based to today’s game and not what may happen in two or three moths. And it is a fact of life, particularly at Roker Park, that crowd attitudes are important.

Changes in the structure of the Sunderland board, which have been under consideration for some time, were announced yesterday but club chairman Mr Keith Collings, who announced that Mr Stanley Ritson and Mr Jack Cooke, after long periods of service to the club, has resigned from the board and accepted appointments as vice-presidents.

Mr Ritson, who was co-opted to the board in 1942, held the office of chairman for the 1958-59 and 1959-60 seasons, while Mr Cooke, who lost his place on the board when his 1949 co-option was not confirmed at the annual meeting through an oversight, has been in continuous membership since his co-option in November, 1957.

Their places, together with an additional vacancy, have been filled by three local businessmen, Messrs Maurice Bewick, Alan Martin and Fred Stewart.

Mr Bewick, who has supported the team for 37 years and was well-known at one time in amateur football, is managing-director of a Framwellgate Moor firm. Mr Martin, son of a former director, Mr Bill Martin, began following the team’s fortunes at an early age, too, while Mr Stewart, a life-long supporter, who is also chairman of Sunderland AFC Supporters’ Association, an office which he assumed on the recent death of Mr Stanley Lambert, is well known as a champion of the club’s causes.

The newly-constituted board is: KI Collings (Chairman); JM Ditchburn (Vice-chairman), SS Collings, EM Evans, R Thompson, M Bewick, A Martin and F Stewart.

Manager Alan Brown reveals that Sunderland will not be applying for a place in the Ango-Italian Inter-Club Tournament which has been reorganised to run on a wider basis next year.

In view of the fact that Sunderland has played in two of three tournaments staged so far, Mr Brown said it has been decided to stand down, but that an application would probably be made for the next tournament.

Sunderland youth team, who made a bright start to their FA Youth Cup challenge by knocking out Barrow by 3-0 in a first round tie at Holker Street on Monday night, have again been invited to compete in the Eindhoven youth international tournament on June 2 and 3.

As no date has yet been agreed for a repeat of the Washington Youth International Festival inaugurated in the New Town last year, the availability of the team on the Eindhoven date is in some doubt. There is also a question of whether they will be called upon to defend the Sanson Trophy which they won in the big Italian youth tournament last summer.

Story taken from the Football Echo on October 28 1972.