McGeady set for starring night
Sunderland’s Aiden McGeady could be handed a start for the Republic of Ireland tonight as Martin O’Neill’s men are desperate for a victory over Moldova to keep their World Cup qualification hopes alive.
The summer signing from Everton is bang on form with two goals in his last two starts in the Championship and Eire have selection issues out wide.
McGeady hasn’t started an international game in about two years but has a great chance of making the XI this evening with Robbie Brady and James McClean suspended, while Jon Walters is injured.
Meanwhile, with former Sunderland boss O’Neill fresh from signing a new two year deal to keep him at the Irish helm through Euro 2020 qualification, the curtain may come down on John O’Shea’s international career should the Republic fail to land a place at Russia 2018.
Ireland will probably have to beat Moldova tonight and Wales on Monday to qualify; and should they fail to do so, the Sunderland defender is likely to retire from international football along with other veterans like Daryl Murphy and Wes Hoolahan. The match is live on Sky Sports tonight.
Elsewhere, Joel Asoro is with the Swedish Under-21 team who play Belgium this evening in qualification for the 2019 U21 European Championships, and Lamine Kone should get a start for the Ivory Coast in a World Cup qualifier against Mali - with that game on BT Sport 3 from 8pm.
Oviedo desperate to make World Cup
Sunderland left back Bryan Oviedo will be in action for Costa Rica on Saturday night as they take on Honduras and aim to seal a place at next summer’s World Cup.
The 27-year-old missed the 2014 tournament after suffering a broken leg earlier that year and being unable to recover in time. Injury also prevented him from making the U17 World Cup a decade ago in Korea, and his Gold Cup adventure this summer was cut short by a ruptured muscle.
But in conversation with Costa Rican newspaper Nacion, Oviedo insists he is desperate to make the trip to Russia and will concentrate on giving his all for Sunderland in order to get there:
I missed much with the World Cup. The truth is that I have waited long enough and I want to get it. I will work hard to be there. I feel very good. It is very important for me to have this pace, play and now most important to me is to concentrate on my club, do it right and be at the highest level.
Oviedo will be aiming to add to his 30-plus international caps tomorrow with the game against Honduras at Costa Rica’s national stadium but he faces stiff competition for the left-back berth from New York City FC’s Rónald Matarrita.
Stats demonstrate Sunderland squad rotation
Simon Grayson’s squad tinkering has not gone unnoticed during the Black Cats recent dismal run without a win. Indeed, figures from brilliant footy stats site experimental361.com show that Sunderland have used the fourth highest number of players in the Championship so far this season.
Only chaotic Birmingham and Bolton have utilised more personnel than the Black Cats in the ten league games played to date and the bottom placed Trotters are the only other club in the second-tier to not have an ‘ever-present’ player in the squad.
Didier Ndong and Lee Cattermole are Sunderland’s ‘most used’ players in the first two months of the campaign with James Vaughan and George Honeyman closely following them in terms of minutes played.
Sunderland’s squad churn has been an issue so far this term. Whilst the optimists consider that with players returning from injury, Simon Grayson will soon settle on a preferred line-up to see his side begin to climb the table, many have scratched their heads once too often at the formations used by the Black Cats boss which have cast doubts over whether he has the nous to maximise those at his disposal.
With Duncan Watmore near to being fit enough to start and Paddy McNair closing in on a return to competitive football, their availability combined with the recovery of Lewis Grabban and Josh Maja ought to ensure Simon Grayson will soon have as strong an eleven as he’s likely to get.
Former Rokerite chaos at Darlo
Ex-Sunderland midfielder Bryan Atkinson has left his position as joint manager of Darlington just days after agreeing to replace fellow former Rokerite Martin Gray at the National League North side.
Gray departed the Quakers for York City on Sunday and was replaced by Atkinson and long-serving Darlington coach Sean Gregan as co-bosses.
Both have now left Blackwell Meadows after the club were advised Atkinson could not take up the position due to a conflict of interest with his role as director of the Martin Gray Football Academy. Gregan has followed him out of Darlo as the National League side kick off a second hunt for a new boss in less than a week.