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Roundup: Wilson on life at Sunderland; updates on strikers Grabban & Maja & Chimbonda reflects

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Today’s Roker Roundup is jam-packed with all sorts -injury returns, Marc Wilson reflecting on his time so far at Sunderland and even Pascal Chimbonda having positive things to say.

Sunderland v Bolton Wanderers - Premier League Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Wilson Reflects

Since signing on deadline day from Bournemouth on a free transfer, Marc Wilson appears to be settling in fairly well to life in Sunderland.

In a chat with the Evening Chronicle, the Irishman shared his thoughts on the club, his transfer, and Sunderland captain John O’Shea.

Speaking about his fellow defender and countryman, Wilson said:

I’ve known John for a long time – what can you say about him? He’s such a nice man. You don’t meet many nicer guys.

He’s been a great player. This is his seventh season at the club and I don’t think he wanted to walk away after relegation.

And though he’s only been here a short time, Wilson feels he made the right choice when he left the Premier League to become a Championship player:

It’s got great character, the club. From being here a short time I’ve already noticed that. You’ve got a mixture of young lads and some older boys. They all seem to click in the dressing room.

I’ve only been here a short time but already I know I’ve made the right move. I’ve got no doubt in my head. I feel happy in the place.

Marc Wilson
Image: Sunderland AFC

When talking about where he prefers to play, Wilson noted:

I’ve played everywhere. I do prefer to play left-side centre-half but I’m not going to complain if selected elsewhere. My main focus is just getting games under my belt and getting myself fully fit and firing.

I want to get my own career back on track and do well for Sunderland.

It’s a long old season, isn’t it? There’s a lot of games that come thick and fast so you need to have a lot of players. Unfortunately injuries do happen so you need to have players you can trust.


Pascal Chimbonda speaks on life at Sunderland

Pascal Chimbonda recently signed for local non-league side Washington FC, and since arriving back in the area he has spoken about his brief stint at Sunderland.

The former France international ended his two-year exile from the game to sign for the Northern League side, making his debut last night as they ran out 2-0 winners over Chester-Le-Street.

Sunderland v Newcastle United - Premier League
Chimbonda in action against the Mags in 2008
Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

In conversation with the Sunderland Echo, Chimbonda recalled his time in front of the Wearside faithful with fondness:

They are great supporters. The Stadium of Light is not the biggest, or the best stadium, but the supporters make it what it so much better. They are always behind the team, they are also encouraging you – even if you are losing.

When I was playing, when things weren’t going well, we kept fighting, we kept pushing forwards, trying to make something happen. The players stayed together, we went out for food together, we spoke about everything. We were a solid group, but I don’t think this happens at Sunderland now.

When I joined, it was made clear to me just how big the rivalry is between Sunderland and Newcastle, the rivalry isn’t really taking place on the pitch right now because they are in two different leagues. But when I was at Sunderland, we were in the same league. We knew how much it meant to the supporters and we knew that, if we lose to Newcastle, we can’t go out in town.

We beat Newcastle at the Stadium of Light, when Kieran Richardson scored, and the supporters were unbelievable. It felt like we could lose every other game, but winning this one game meant everything to them. The noise when Kieran scored that free-kick, it still stays with me. It was so loud. I played a lot of derbies, with Tottenham and Blackburn Rovers, but there was nothing like this derby.

Chimbonda only played 13 league games for Sunderland and was renowned as something of a ‘bad egg’ in the dressing room, with former Chairman Niall Quinn famously quipping about the behaviour of the ex-Wigan defender on numerous occasions over the years.


Jack Rodwell - defender?

Those of us who attended last night’s Sunderland U23 game against Hertha Berlin would have seen Jack Rodwell playing in a unfamiliar center back role.

The former Manchester City player has been a complete disaster since signing for Sunderland in 2014 for £10 million. But is there life yet in the career of Rodders?

Maybe. Seemingly he has discussed playing as a central defender with Simon Grayson. Perhaps this can finally be the turning point in a rotten three year spell this once promising player has endured.

Rodwell had a decent game last night against Hertha Berlin and he seems to have impressed our gaffer, who attended last nights game, and had this to say on his positional change.

I think he’s had a conversation with the manager (Elliot Dickman) and is quite keen to play in that position and see how it goes.

The two games he’s played in, I think he’s done well.


Paddy McNair is back

A lot of discussion has been had here at Roker Report - and by Sunderland fans across social media - about our central midfield problems. Some feel that Lee Cattermole has been poor, others think that we should be playing Darron Gibson. But maybe the answer to our problems has just become fit enough to play again? Insert Paddy McNair.

McNair was signed last summer by David Moyes and did okay before rupturing his ACL in our 3-0 victory over Hull City in October 2016 but the Northern Ireland international made his return against Hertha Berlin last night.

Sunderland v Hull City - Premier League
Paddy McNair getting brought off against Hull last season
Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

McNair even grabbed himself a goal and looked very good in his first 45 minutes in over a year. He too is delighted to be back and had this to say about his return and recovery.

It’s been a long ten months so to get over the white line again was really good. Playing football is what I love to do and when it’s taken away from you it’s not nice, so it’s great to be back. It was even better to get a goal because everyone likes scoring and now I just want to get back and help the team. The Stadium of Light is a great place to play so hopefully in a few weeks I’m back playing in front of a full house with the first team.


Strikers near returns to first team action

Lewis Grabban and Josh Maja are edging ever closer to returns to first team action. Maja impressed in pre-season before picking up an unfortunate injury prior to our opening day draw with Derby back in August. The return of the youngster will certainly be a boost and will provide much needed competition for an area of weakness in the Sunderland squad.

Bury v Sunderland - Carabao Cup First Round
Lewis Grabban in August
Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Lewis Grabban on the other hand is not quite as close and is still working with the club physios.

Here’s what the gaffer had to say about the situation:

Josh is back training with us now. It was a big blow for the lad, he'd waited patiently for his opportunity, worked hard in pre-season, looked very good, strong and powerful. It was a big blow for us a team when we looking short at the top end of the pitch and for him as a person. When he’s back there’ll be great competition, I’ll be able to look at my bench and have players who I can say, go and change the game. The competition for places should really come to the fore now, with players pushing each other.

Lewis is working well with the physios. It’s a procedure we’re going through.

We don’t rush any player back so we have them for the long, not the short-term, but he’s making good progress and I’m sure he’ll be back in a red-and-white shirt very soon.