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Fan Focus: On Red Alert Before Hull

As we're facing Hull for the third time this season at the weekend, we've caught up with bona fide Friend of the Report John Uzzell to get the craic from the Tigers camp...

Chris Brunskill

Last time we met the game felt like a bit of a write off for us with Wes Brown's moment of madness leading to Sunderland playing with 10-men for essentially the entire match - what did you make of Hull's performance?

John Uzzell: I thought that we played the 10 men very well. We kept possession, pulled you around the pitch and gave you very little chance to cause an upset. We were only disappointed to have not won by more on the day.

Your January signings Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic both of course scored in that game. Are they managing to fill the (massive) Danny Graham-shaped void in your squad? With them cup-tied at the weekend, how do you think you'll fare without them - are there direct replacements waiting in the wings?

JU: I can safely say Long and Jelavic are far better than Danny Graham. Graham was a big disappointment and I actually think we are stronger without him, even when we are unable to play Long and Jelavic. I would have thought Bruce will play Yannick Sagbo up top and Sone Aluko just off him. This was our strongest strike force before Long and Jelavic signed and both will feel unlucky not to start in the league at the moment. Aluko is arguably our most gifted player, but a 2nd Achilles injury in 12 months has really hampered his season. I honestly believe with a full season with no injuries, a bigger club than us might come knocking. His potential is huge. Sagbo at times carried our attack on his own when Aluko was injured and Graham was useless. He is big, strong and quick, but his lack of goals has been his only weakness. On the bench will be Matty Fryatt, who is always likely to score a goal but may just lack the pace to be a consistent Premier League performer.

How's your league form been since we last met? Feeling fairly confident of survival?

JU: We have started to struggle a little bit at home, having lost to both Southampton and Newcastle but the big game was against Cardiff away, which we won resoundingly. We have got Swansea and West Brom to come at home in the next month and I think if we win these two games safety will pretty much be secured. I have a feeling that a lower than usual points total will be needed this season due to the tightness off the bottom half.

Curtis Davis and Tom Huddlestone seem to have been key players for you this season, is there anyone else we should keep an eye on?

JU: They are our star men along with the cup-tied front two. As I have said before, Aluko could be the biggest threat because of his natural ability and has the quality to produce a moment of magic. Also, if your old friend Elmo can get the better of Alonso like he did at your place, than he will become a major attacking focal point for us on Sunday.

A criticism of Steve Bruce when he was here was that he never really seemed to take the cups all that seriously - how high a priority is finishing this cup run off for you this season? Will he be fielding as strong a side as he can?

JU: The team has got stronger and stronger as the rounds have gone by. I would expect him to field his strongest team possible on Sunday. He has been talking up the cup run since before the Brighton 5th round game, so I would expect him to take the game on Sunday very seriously. We have no complaints, as we have only made the semi-finals once before in our history and that came in 1930.

Is there anyone in your squad you really don't rate that you'll be hoping not to see on Sunday?

JU: I wouldn’t say we have any boo boys at the moment. We understand that some of the players that got us up from the Championship are not really Premier League class, but every one of them has put in a shift when been called upon this season. Our left back Maynor Figueroa is going through a bit of a sticky spell at the moment, but he is the best we have in that position, so we are just hoping his poor form will change soon.

The turn around at Sunderland under Gus Poyet has been fantastic (though not particularly against yourselves!) to witness this season, with the obvious high point being last weekend's cup final. What have you seen of us under Poyet apart from our two league games? Do you think we'll stay up?

JU: I can’t say I have seen that much, but anything was going to be better than under Di Canio. I feel like the players want to play for Poyet and he has instilled belief back into them. By bringing back the likes of Cattermole and Bardsley, he is calling upon experienced Premier League players again, which is always a positive. I think you will stay up.

Are there any players on our side you're particularly worried about? And any you might hope to target?

JU: Alonso looked slow in our recent game so I would be expecting Elmo to be going at him at every opportunity. I think that Johnson is the player we will be looking to nullify the most. He looks to have gained a bit of confidence back and the number of goals he has scored recently has been impressive. I also thought Borini took his goal very well last week, so we will have to keep an eye on him.

Away from the game - last week, before all of our minds turned to the weekend's festivities, there was a fair bit of head-scratching at the inclusion of Andros Townsend in the England squad ahead of Adam Johnson. I imagine there must've been similar confusion down your way that Tom Cleverley and Steven Caulker were named amongst the 30 whilst Tom Huddlestone and Curtis Davis weren't given a sniff?

JU: I thought Johnson was unlucky to miss out on an England call up along with Huddlestone and Davies. It is a shame Hodgson doesn’t look up here very often. The weird thing is both Huddlestone and Jake Livermore both played for England at a time when they were not really playing very often for Spurs. To me it seems if you play 5 games for Spurs, you automatically get a call up to the England squad. I understand that players from the top four clubs get called up, but in this day and age, it is not right that there is still a London/southern bias for selection.

Of course, our fun and games in Covent Garden weren't the only "scumbag hooligan" antics on show last Saturday - what the hell was our old mate Alan Pardew up to?

JU: It was crazy and wrong but I think it has been blown out of proportion a little bit. Yes, give him a long stadium ban, but I disagreed with calls for him to get the sack. It wasn’t a full on head butt, it was a movement forward with his head that didn’t hurt Meyler at all. Players do it all the time, which again isn’t right, but if you sacked Pardew, you should sack the guilty players too. The best bit about it for us was that it took the attention away from the fact we had just been beaten heavily at home.

Finally, could we trouble you for a prediction?

JU: Cattermole to be sent off after 10 minutes and Hull City to win 2 v 0.

Thanks again to John, but contrary to his prediction let's hope for once we manage to keep 11 men on the pitch!

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