It’s yet another big game – well, they all are now – as the Blues make their way north-east this Saturday. While we’ve endured this dip in form, things look like they might be on the up for Sunderland after a fairly turbulent few months. With the lowdown on the Lads, here’s Jake Deane.
Clearly, the season is not going to plan for Sunderland. Were you confident back in the summer that you would go one better and win promotion, or does what we’re seeing at the moment come as little surprise? I think that most Sunderland fans were confident of promotion automatically at the start of the season, despite the lack of spending in the summer transfer window with only £200,000 (including add-ons) being spent on midfielder George Dobson from Walsall. However, League One is a tough league as we can see with the success of teams such as Wycombe who, in pretty much everyone’s mind, are overachieving. One last problem with Sunderland is that we didn’t strengthen in the areas that we let players go from. For example, left-back Bryan Oviedo left for Copenhagen, so we loaned in Laurens De Bock from Leeds who has underperformed and ultimately been sent back because of this.
Our last meeting saw Phil Parkinson take charge of you for the first time. What do you think of him as a manager and were you happy with the appointment at the time? I don’t think I’ve come across a Sunderland fan who was so far. I don’t think many fans were happy with the appointment of Parkinson. However, from the first few games, we did try and stay optimistic as we all believed that it would take a few games for him to get started however – but his record so far (four wins in 17 games in all competitions) has made Sunderland look like an embarrassment to the other teams. From the recent performances, the team does look as if they are slightly improving with seven points from three games, but it will be important to see what he does in the transfer market to improve the team.
Despite the struggles, who have been your standout players and why? I know Luke O’Nien continues to get a lot of praise up there! As you say, Luke O’Nien is a fan favourite for a number of reasons – mainly because of his dedicated work rate in most games and also his partnership with the fans in comparison to the other players. Other than him, centre-back Jordan Willis has improved the defence compared to last season with his pace and strength. His role has been predominantly seen as a sweeper so far, and he has been able to cope with any balls over the top or through.
With the transfer window now open, where do you need to strengthen and how much business might you be able to do? Who would you expect to leave/do you think needs to leave? We need to strengthen a lot and in quite a few positions: left-back, centre-back, central midfield and out wide – as well as bringing in a proven goal-scorer. Owner Stewart Donald said in a recent interview that he had not spent any of the £10 million loan that we were given, so we clearly have the money to improve. Currently, we are lacking in left-backs with our only one being Denver Hume, so that should be a focal point during January. We also need to let go of some players such as Aiden McGeady and Will Grigg, while Dylan McGeough has left for Aberdeen.
Finally, how do you see the game going? Feel free to make a score prediction! As strange as it might sound, I’m quietly optimistic about the game and have a feeling that we might sneak two goals, so I’m going to go for a 2-0 win. This entirely depends on the way that both teams set up, though, as we could set up with full-backs or wing-backs. However, I have no doubt that it will be an exciting game for both sets of supporters.