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Sunderland gaffer talks of Kone’s illness, the impact of the home crowd ‘rumblings’ & more

In this week’s edition of Simon Says we look at what the Sunderland manager had to talk about in his media conference ahead of Saturday’s massive fixture at Brentford.

On Brentford:

We’re going to Brentford - it’s a tough game. They’re one of the teams in the division that handle the ball and dominate the ball and like to have lots of possession. I watched the Derby game the other day and they had 76% possession, and that’s against a strong Derby team, so it’s a tough game no matter where we go but we wanna win matches wherever it is, home or away. Yeah, we’re desperate to win at home but ultimately we want to build off the last couple of performances to a certain degree, improve them and try to get three points, whether it’s home or away so we go there and look to do that.

On injuries and having a ‘strong’ squad:

Last Monday it looked like we were going to be very strong and then we lose three centre halves in the week. Unfortunately Lamine was ill, Marc Wilson was injured and Tyias got injured in the build up to the game.

At the top end of the pitch we’re in good spirits with the players that are coming back. Lewis got forty-five minutes last week and Maja got some game time the other night for the 23s. (We’ve) still got a couple of knocks from the weekend - Jonny Williams got a tight hamstring, Tyias’ hamstring still, so we’ll assess everybody to see where we are but it’s nice to get the options available and a little bit more positive state.

On Lamine Kone:

He trained on Monday morning. He was ill overnight on the Thursday, couldn’t train on the Friday and on the Saturday was still not able to play. It was just a virus that we’ve had a problem with at this football club. (We) thought we’d cleared it all up but unfortunately one of his children came back from school or nursery and decided to share something with him that we didn’t want it to share with him.

On the ‘home crowd’:

If we get a real positive performance at home the crowd will certainly stay with us, that’s for sure. I think there was times in the home game against QPR where we played some decent stuff and they stayed with us, obviously there was the odd occasion that there was rumblings but that’s just part and parcel of football at any particular ground. Just because we’re away from home, we wanna try and win the game and put to bed when we go back to the Stadium of Light next saturday the opportunity to win a home game.

On the importance of having Grabban & Watmore back:

Anybody in this division, if you lose a couple of key strikers it’s going to play and have an impact on your football club and that’s what’s been the case. (It’s) nice to have them back now - Duncan has done his rehab this week in terms of the days that he trains, Lewis has got a full week’s training under his belt so as many options available as possible, especially, as you said, the top end of the pitch cos ultimately that’s where you win games. Yeah, you keep clean sheets but you still need to score goals and we haven’t had them options available to us for the last few weeks now.

On getting fans to come back to the SOL:

We all know that we need to win football matches, to one - improve the position where we are in the league at this moment in time, but also to improve attendances and get people back to enjoy watching successful football at the stadium of light and a connection with Sunderland. This is something that has maybe been happening over a number of years now but what we’ve got to do and I’m trying to do is improve our performances to bring people back through the gates and turnstiles.

On getting that elusive win:

I genuinely believe that we’re not a million miles away from getting the results that some of the performances have warranted. I think going to Preston and playing well and getting a point there was a good result and showed character coming from a goal down, and showed character last week against QPR by going a goal down and some of the chances we created, there was some decent play.

I see signs on the training pitch where there’s a good vibe amongst the players. They’re desperate to do well, they care about what they’re doing, it’s not a team that are trawling around the training ground with their chins on the floor or anything like that, they’ve got a spring in their step and they know what we are all doing is ultimately going to reap it’s rewards when very soon, because we are confident in our abilities as staff, players to get the results that matter.

On getting out of the bottom three:

We just need to win games to get up the table. It’s not a position that we wanna be in, it’s not a position that anybody's comfortable with being in, we’ve gotta matches to get us where we wanna be, we’ve got no divine right to be top of the division or anywhere else, we have to earn that right and we’ve got to get results to justify that.

On being worried:

I’m not worried in terms of, I know what I’ve got within the group, and we will get results to get us out of the division, we’re positive with everything that we do and I keep saying we’re not a million miles away from getting the results in to a more positive state so it’s not a situation we’re feeling uncomfortable with, on the other hand we are feeling uncomfortable with it because we don’t want a club like Sunderland or I don’t want to be in that position as a manager as well, so we’re doing whatever is required and we’ll have to keep working and raising the standards and raising the bar for to get the results.

On tweaking things:

Every manager will tell you, you like to have consistency, stability about the group that you can get a result and you can pick the same team. It’s highlighted the first four games of the season where we were unbeaten and we picked the same team, and that’s what I’d like, through different circumstances of injuries, suspensions, illness or whatever we’ve not been able to do that but also when you’re not winning matches you’ve got to try and find that winning formula, and that’s what we’re still probably searching for. Win on Saturday then it makes your decision as a manager for the following week a little bit easier than if you don’t.

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