The Opposition View: Sunderland

In an earlier Opposition View to get ahead of the Black Cats’ hunt for a new manager, Graham Falk from Roker Report gives us some insight into matters on and off-field at the Stadium of Light.

As I write, you’re in the process of appointing a new manager – with one of the candidates being a certain someone. In order to get you up this season, what will Jack Ross’ successor have to do that he didn’t? I suppose in other words, what went wrong under Ross?

I’d be very surprised if it’s Ainsworth. Whoever it is needs to get us promoted, no matter what it takes.

Jack Ross was a really good bloke and classy as they come. He did a good job, but he couldn’t seem to progress us once he’d steadied the ship (and boy, had we gone off course when he came in).

We need to keep more clean sheets as we’ve had none in the league so far, whilst also finding an identity because none of us are really sure what our style is. Managing Sunderland requires a huge personality. There’s a reason Roy Keane and Peter Reid did well here but hardly anywhere else. You can’t just have a decent League One record and hope it works; you’ve got to have something about yourself to work here.

It’s a really, really tough job for anyone coming in ’cause his honeymoon period will be non-existent and he’ll have to hit the ground running. I’m hoping for Nigel Pearson and Kevin Phillips as a combo, but it looks like it’ll be Phil Parkinson, which I’m not impressed with.

The off-field situation upstairs sounds less than ideal at the moment. Just fill us in if you can. Has that played a part in your disappointing run?

Yeah, it really is affecting stuff and the atmosphere around all areas of the club is horrible at the moment.

Basically, [owner] Stewart Donald had been wonderfully open and honest in his communications with the fans and has openly stated he is looking for investment. So when rumours of MSD (a consortium led by Michael Dell of Dell computers fame) came abound, things got exciting – especially when there were photos of them at the match and the academy. It was reported as a done deal, which allegedly came from within the club, and then it went quiet for an age and Stewart talked openly about how it’s never been reported by him as a done deal. Cue frustration, confusion, and, by in large, more silence and lack of clarity on the takeover.

Charlie Methven, our director, mentioned it was an “investment” during a talk last week, when almost the whole fan base knows it was previously leaked as a multi-billionaire takeover. It’s a mess, to be completely honest. Without this investment, we look a bit…skint? But who knows eh.

The honest communication from Stewart has been questioned in quarters due to this. He’s reacted by coming off Twitter and we now have no takeover, no manager, are out of the promotion spots and getting beat by out of form teams. I’m worried we’ll not even get in the play-offs this year.

Back onto the pitch now: just sum up your playing style (obviously bearing in mind that you ought to have a new man in the dugout come Saturday).

I have no idea. Honestly. It’s been turgid, bland, boring and lacks pace.

The two centre-halves [Jordan Willis and Joel Lynch] are alright, but we haven’t got a settled team. We change our midfield bi-weekly, our full-backs [Connor McLaughlin and Leeds loanee Laurens De Bock] are horrific, and our strikers either don’t score or are injured.

I’d love to give you a positive, but even Aiden McGeady hasn’t been doing very well and is a big Jack Ross ally, so he’ll probably be pissed off.

Luke O’Nien is lovely though. Love ya Luke.

Who have been your standout players so far and why?

Pfffft. Okay, positivity, let’s go.

Jordan Willis has been really good and has captained us in the past few weeks, and Joel Lynch alongside him has looked really strong and steady.

McGeady always has the ability to tear any defence in this league to pieces if he fancies it, but I’d like to see a bit more from him.

But I have to say Luke, who has played right-back, left-back and number ten this season already, performing well and working his socks off regardless of his role. He’s such a lovable lad that really gets mucked in, and if we could only have players with his attitude, maybe we’d be alright. People talk about his lack of ability, but I don’t agree with that. I think he’s got plenty of ability.

Outside of those four…hmm…[midfielder] Max Power has been okay on occasion, but there’s a reason he’s in League One and it looks like it’s his lack of consistency. [Striker] Marc McNulty is really good, but he’s always injured.

Lastly, how do you see the game going and what’s your score prediction?

If you could not kick lumps out of us this year, we’d be grateful. I’m not going to make many friends with Wycombe by saying this, but you were rotten last year in terms of style of play [We were, let’s be honest] and it was like playing Wimbledon in the early nineties. The injury to Watmore from Marcus Bean’s tackle was an absolute disgrace and is horrible to see. Poor Duncan had been out for almost two years with injury; he came back and scored and Bean did that and he’s been injured since. For him to say it wasn’t intentional was a joke. It’s a big reason I wouldn’t want your manager anywhere near the club.

Annoyingly it works for you though – look at where you are in the league – so I don’t expect much different to last year [I would] considering how well it worked against us in both games last season and your success so far this season.

Despite my anger at the way you played us last year, the truth is the players and whoever’s the manager need to get on with it and cope with whatever style is thrown at us and come home with three points – I’m just not sure we will.

We need to win, but I think you’ll pip us 2-1.

You can catch me on the Roker Rapport Xtra Podcast later this week, where I’ll be previewing Saturday’s game.

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