There’s a distinct lack of anticipation in the air for tomorrow’s 3pm clash with Millwall. Sunderland’s hunt for a manager has now dominated headlines for two-and-a-half weeks and shows no sign of concluding.
But with Robbie Stockdale set to stand in for his second Championship fixture since Simon Grayson was dismissed, it should be interesting to see how the Black Cats caretaker lines up his Sunderland XI to face the Lions.
Stockdale and the now-departed McKinlay erred on the side of caution last time out for the trip to Middlesbrough, with a packed midfield hampering rather than aiding the Sunderland cause.
But with a home game against mediocre opposition, the Black Cats simply must go for the win which could propel the side to the dizzy heights of fourth bottom if results go our way.
The back-line which has failed to keep a clean sheet all season unfortunately picks itself. Lamine Kone is out until the new year and Billy Jones will not be seen much this side of Christmas either.
Deadline day signing Marc Wilson has so far failed to impress in a Sunderland shirt, and looks a shadow of the centre-back who used to turn out for Stoke, but the 30-year-old is likely to remain alongside would-be boss John O’Shea.
Bryan Oviedo featured twice for Costa Rica, with a 90 minute outing and a half hour in games against Spain and Hungary, and appears to have come through unscathed and will feature at left-back, with Adam Matthews set to start on the opposite flank.
The middle pair of Darron Gibson and Lee Cattermole hindered Sunderland at the Riverside and surely Stockdale will stick Paddy McNair in alongside Catts, with Jonny Williams pushed ahead of them to offer some life to the red-and-white engine room.
Duncan Watmore has been in training after missing out against Middlesbrough and Aiden McGeady will line up alongside him in support of front man Lewis Grabban.
Something like this, then?
We’d love to see Elliot Embleton on the bench alongside Lynden Gooch to freshen things up if the game pans out as a tight affair and the home crowd’s interest begins to wane.
Visiting boss Neil Harris will be picking from a relatively fit squad for this one, but his side are pretty sterile and have only scored 3 on the road this season.
If Cattermole can get himself on top of George Saville in midfield and nullify the Millwall supply route, this should be Sunderland’s best shot yet of keeping the clean sheet that has alluded them for so long.