With Steve Bruce now old news and all attention on the apparent two horse race for the vacant SAFC hotseat it has been left to Eric Black to rally the troops and prepare the player's for a tricky trip to Molineaux. This also leaves me with the near impossible task of predicting Black's most likely lineup. Who knows what the fella will do. Does he follow a similar line of thought to his departed pal or does he throw all caution to the wind?
So I try to second guess the interim manager, have a look at how Wolves could shape up, look back at a classic encounter, try and win some dosh and a flashback to the 80's courtesy of one of our friends on twitter... we best get cracking!
Sunderland Team News:
As if trying to get into the mind of Steve Bruce before a game was hard enough we are left with an almost impossible task of trying to second guess his assistant - now interim manager - Eric Black. Who knows what Black's approach will be. That is not necessarily a bad thing however but certainly makes predicting the starting eleven a bit of a nightmare but here goes...
I don't expect to see too many changes, formation wise at least, after all Black was brought in by Bruce so you would expect they share a similar philosophy on what they envision to be the best style of play. Then again he might just launch a Roy Keane style kung-fu kick at the tacticsboard, scream "f*** it" and send the lads out in a 4-3-3.
Despite his part in the almighty cock up that was Wigan's winning goal Keiren Westwood will retain his place between the sticks behind a back four comprising of John O'Shea, Michael Turner, Wes Brown and a return to left back for Keiren Richardson, I hope, although don't be surprised to see Phil Bardsley in there somewhere because, well, its Phil Bardsley isn't it.
As for the midfield I would expect the wide positions to be filled by Sebastian Larsson and Stephane Sessegnon as per the Wigan game, but feel Eric may well be tempted to shake things up in the middle with a return to the fold for David Vaughan alongside Lee Cattermole.
As for the forward line, following the lack of penetration and willingness to get in behind the opposition defence I just have a feeling that Ryan Noble may finally be given the nod. There has also been talk this week of Ryan departing on loan in the new year, so this could be a chance to put him in the shop window. Alongside Noble, who else but Nicklas Bendtner. Well there's no-one else is there with Fraizer Campbell still a fortnight away from a return.
Wolves Team News:
Mick McCarthy has been somewhat a creature of habit with his team selections this term but not necessarily through choice due to a number of injuries to some key players in his squad. Sunday will also see the influential and often reckless Karl Henry missing as he serves a one-match ban after picking up his fifth booking last time out at Stamford Bridge.
Good news for the former Sunderland boss arrives in the return to the squad of Kevin Doyle, Richard Stearman who were both suspended last weekend and Jaime O'Hara and Stephen Hunt who were suspended. You would expect all four to figure if they can prove their fitness.
SAFC: Westwood, O'Shea, Turner, Brown, Richardson, Larsson, Vaughan, Cattermole, Sessegnon, Bendtner, Noble.
Wolves: Hennessey, Stearman, Johnson, Berra, Ward, Jarvis, Guedioura, O'Hara, Hunt, Doyle, Fletcher
Back to September 2009 and a 5-2 win over the Midlands side. A truly remarkable game got going thanks to a controversial penalty that was dispatched by Darren Bent in the 9th minute. Wolves took the game to Sunderland but were unable to make their advantage count and made their job more difficult by conceding another penalty just after the retake, no controversy this time, well apart from the penalty taker as Bent stepped aside and allowed Kenwyne Jones to tuck the spot kick away. Sunderland then gifted Wolves a way back into the game, first thanks to an unfortunate own goal from John Mensah before an awful back pass from Keiran Richardson forced Craig Gordon into palming the ball clear and conceding an indirect freekick, which was blocked only for Doyle to latch onto the rebound.
Sunderland then piled forward with Jones re-establishing the lead for the home side with twenty minutes remaining, before Michael Turner put the game beyond doubt with his first goal for the club with a header from a corner and the fifth came courtesy of a Darren Bent shot which took a deflection off Michael Mancienne.
Get Rich Quick:
The outcome of this game could well rest on whether or not SAFC have appointed a new manager before kick off. The potential added incentive for the squad to impress the new gaffer, especially if he is in the stands could work wonders.
That said I am feeling a little more confident following Bruce's departure and our superb away following could make the difference, so I'm tempted by a score draw and 2-2 is available at around 14/1.
Also, depending on his selection, Ryan Noble is available for either first or last goal scorer at 7/1.
Song For Whoever:
David Ruddock, @streakyrudd, was fairly insistent this week on twitter with regards to our selection so you can blame him as he takes us back to 1983 with Orange Juice's "Rip It Up"
Rip it up and start again says the song which pretty much sums up Ellis Short's actions this week.
Midweek on the podcast I couldn't see any chance in hell of Sunderland taking anything from this game. However, now we're in the post Bruce-era with either O'Neill or Hughes' appointment seemingly imminent there seems to be reason to believe again. That said I'm not getting carried away and will go for a 2-2 draw.
Be sure to check out this week's Roker Report Podcast. Even though it was recorded pre-Bruce's departure we pretty much predicted the future like the time travelling sons of bitches that we wish we were... Anyway, get your hands on it here!