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Roundup: Grayson’s new assistant in the Sunderland dugout & O’Shea still the answer at the back?

In this evening’s catch-up: Centre-back options, a new temporary assistant manager, Jonny Williams on the illness that kept him out of action prior to the international break and Under 18s manager Mark Atkinson discussing the young Black Cats season so far.

Watford v Brighton & Hove Albion - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

New assistant this weekend?

Simon Grayson will be assisted by a new face in the Sunderland dugout tomorrow as Glynn Snodin continues his recuperation from illness.

Billy McKinlay will be alongside the Black Cats boss for Saturday’s visit of QPR and will be familiar to many on Wearside.

The 48-year-old Scot came to Sunderland with David Moyes and has been working as a scout for the club. A former midfielder with Dundee and Leicester, McKinlay has previously worked as a coach at Northern Ireland and Fulham.

McKinlay holds the distinction of managing Watford for a whole eight days in 2014 when the Hornets were churning through managers at a rate of four a season. The Glaswegian was also assistant to Moyes when he was at Real Sociedad a few years ago.

Grayson discusses dropping Lamine Kone

A few eyebrows were raised when Lamine Kone was dropped for the Preston game before the international break but Simon Grayson says the decision to play John O’Shea ahead of the Ivorian has so far been vindicated.

The gaffer spoke to the press about his centre-back options heading into this weekend’s clash with Ian Holloway’s Queens Park Rangers:

Marc Wilson has been out for a couple of games, Lamine was left out at Preston purely for tactical reasons, and we decided to go with John and Tyias and they played very well. It was no reflection on Lamine really. We went for a team to get us a result and a performance, and we got that – unfortunately we just didn’t quite get the win.

Sunderland v Derby County - Sky Bet Championship
Lamine Kone earlier this season
Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Grayson suggested Kone took his dropping philosophically and the player will be keen to show what he can do should he be restored to the side:

He’s been good. He’s trained all this week – he came back from Mali on Monday or Tuesday. He’s been fine, I spoke to him about it all, he accepts the decision like every other player. I make a decision on what I think is best for the team. I think it was proved right to a certain degree. All he needs to is keep working hard and, if he gets picked on Saturday show what he can do. I don’t think he’s been to blame for many of the goals, to be fair. Individually, we’ve made mistakes and collectively we have to be better and harder to play against.

But Grayson dropped a big hint that O’Shea will continue to get the nod at the heart of the Black Cats defence tomorrow:

With John O’Shea, you know what you are going to get. He’s an experienced player, he’s played at the highest level at international and club football, and I just felt his experience and his voice would be a big help to everybody and that was proved on the day.

Welsh-wizard Jonny Williams is raring to go this weekend

Jonny Williams has looked pretty decent since signing for Sunderland on deadline day, but he has missed the last two games due to illness.

Williams played midweek for Wales in their defeat to the Republic of Ireland, replacing Joe Allen early in the first half. The Welshman is keen to get back into the swing of things this weekend against QPR and he told the Sunderland Echo that his absence was due to a bout of migraines.

Missing two games with illness, it’s something you can’t expect, I’ve probably had two in my life [migraines]. To get one and be up all night throwing up, then to get another one on the way to the airport for the Ipswich game and have to turn around. I ended up throwing up in the taxi, I couldn’t even drive because my vision went, it’s one of the worst things I’ve ever had. I’ve put it behind me now, my body feels good which is the main thing.

I came here having not played much football for a long time, I was delighted to be put in straight away and get 90 minutes as a base for the rest of the season. It’s really helped me, I feel stronger in games, in the second half of games, which when I hit my best form at Ipswich I was able to do. Mick McCarthy was giving me minutes and I was able to impact the later stages of games which is important.

Sunderland Under-18s

The under-18s entertain Everton tomorrow and gaffer Mark Atkinson has talked about how the international break will have helped them.

The young Black Cats have had a poor season so far and sit second bottom in the Premier League North table with just one win to their name but Atkinson reckons his troops are refreshed and refocused on the run-in to Christmas.

A lot of the lads went home over the period so it is good for them to see their families. We are glad to be back in and we have been working hard all week and we are ready to go. It has been a stop-start season but we have got a lot of games till Christmas now.

There is plenty of football to play, everyone is beginning to get back fit and that gives us plenty of decisions to make.

Mark Atkinson with the Under-18s
Image: Sunderland AFC

Sunderland’s academy side were comfortably beaten by Manchester City in a 6-2 defeat last time out but picked up a couple of wins before that against West Ham and Stoke’s Under-18s. Atkinson’s Lads face Everton tomorrow.

The City game for 70 minutes was pleasing. We did what we wanted to do and the lads did really well. We sort of lost our way when we conceded the fourth goal and fatigue began to kick in. Obviously, it is another opportunity this weekend against a good Everton side. It is another game where we can get more of an understanding of where they are at.

In the Stoke game we were good in and out of possession, we controlled it for large periods and we always looked a threat going forward. We have got to build on the performances we have shown recently.

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