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Piper: Sunderland Fans Best I Ever Experienced

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With Leicester City v Sunderland approaching, Roker Report guest Danny Roberts caught up with former Fox and Black Cat Matt Piper. With a couple of cracking derby day memories thrown in, it's well worth a read.

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Sunderland head to the King Power Stadium on Saturday as the club hope to continue their steady, yet not so spectacular, start to the season against Leicester City.

Ahead of the game, we've spoken to former Sunderland and Leicester City man Matthew Piper to talk all things Sunderland, life after football and Leicester City.

DR: Hello, Matt. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today. You retired from football back in 2007, what have you been doing with yourself since?

MP: I've stayed in football as a youth coach at Leicester City and I'm running my own football academy (footballandsports), as well as taking my UEFA coaching badges.

I am also a qualified personnel trainer and enjoy doing after dinner speaking from time to time. I will also definitely pursue coaching at a pro level when I gain more experience.

DR: You got to take part in Jody Craddock's testimonial back in May. How did that come about?

MP: I got a personal invite from Jody. We talk quite often and I own and keep a big interest in his artwork.

DR: As a fan, to see so many past SAFC greats on the pitch together again was a joy to behold, but as a player, what were your own personal highlights from the day and why?

MP: Just seeing all the guys again and rekindling friendships with some of them; the likes of [Julio] Arca, [Niall] Quinn, [Kevin] Phillips etc. It was a great day.

DR: Moving on to your career, although you had an extremely unfortunate time at Sunderland, you still have a strong bond with the club. Why is that?

MP: The strong bond with Sunderland is really just based on the fans! They're the best fans I've ever played in front of.

DR: You managed to score the last ever goal at Filbert Street, which I'm sure is your career highlight. However, have you got any moments during your time at Sunderland that you're also fond of?

MP: Beating Arsenal at Highbury! We were 2 down at half time and came back and won 3-2! It was one of the most special nights I had in the game.

DR: Staying on the subject of your Sunderland memories, who was the most comical player you ever got to play with at the club and why?

MP: Jason McAteer. Simple really, always playing pranks or telling jokes but he was also nicknamed Trigger because how stupid he was and that stupidity always made the boys laugh.

DR: What was the best changing room prank you've ever been involved with/witnessed?

MP: It's not from my time at Sunderland, but Garry Parker at Leicester City once aimed a training ground sprinkler through the sunroof of Robbie Savage's brand new yellow Ferrari. Water was pouring out of the windows!

DR: Hardest half-time/full-time team-talk you ever experienced?

MP: It's from when Howard Wilkinson was at Sunderland. It lasted about an hour and most of it was aimed at me!

For some reason he was telling a story about a wildlife programme on geese and how they fly in formation. It was very long and very strange. He later made us watch a 30-minute DVD regarding this.

DR: Talking about managers, you were bought and played for - albeit only for a few months - one of club's most popular managers in the club's history, Peter Reid. What was he like?

MP: Peter Reid was one of my favourite managers; very funny and very loyal to his players and a great all round manager.

DR:  When the club attempted to sign you, were there any other clubs interested in you, and if so, how did Reid - or club officials - sell the club to you?

MP: Southampton & Tottenham were rumoured to be interested also, but it was Reid's presence and character that made me choose Sunderland.

DR: During your time with Reid, you played in a Tyne & Wear derby. Personally, although we lost 2-0 that day, do you have any good memories or stories from the day?

MP: I got spat in the face from a Newcastle fan on the way in!

I also kicked a ball in the crowd in anger and knocked out a Newcastle lady fan! I apologised to her at the end by sending her an SAFC shirt!

DR: Talking about present day Sunderland, how do you think the club will get on this season?

MP: Sunderland will stay up. I think they'll finish mid-table.

DR: We've got a number of talented players at the club, but which do you think is the club's most important asset?

MP: I think it's Steven Fletcher. If they can keep him fit and supply him, he will score the goals.

DR: What do you think about Gus Poyet? Do you think he's man to finally establish the club as mid table Premiership team?

MP: I like, Gus. If the club can give him enough time I think he will do a great job!

DR: Moving onto our opponents on Saturday, Leicester City, which players should we watch out for during the game?

MP: Anthony Knockaert and Riyad Mahrez. However I don't think either will play.

DR: After an impressive start to the campaign, the club has failed to record a victory since their 5-3 win against Manchester United back in September. They now sit 18th in the Premiership. With the club now sitting in the relegation zone, do you think the club can stay up?

MP: I hope we can survive. I think it'll be tough, but there's no reason why the club can't do it.

DR: Finally, what do you think the score will be?

MP: I think it'll be 2-2.

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Big thanks to Danny Roberts and Matt Piper for this. For those who are Twitter-inclined, you can follow Danny HERE and Matt HERE.