Wednesday’s three goal victory at the Tony Macaroni Arena was another step in the right direction for Simon Grayson’s men as goals from Wahbi Khazri, Joel Asoro and Jeremain Lens sealed a straightforward win in Livingston. This afternoon, however, the Lads travel further north to Perth, where they will face Tommy Wright’s St Johnstone.
The Saints finished in a respectable fourth place in the Scottish Premiership - achieving Europa League qualification in the process. They will be out to inflict a first defeat of the summer on Grayson’s men, and pose possibly the most difficult test so far in our pre-season campaign.
That being said, Grayson and co. will be keen to continue their unbeaten pre-season form, and tonight’s final game north of the border will be a great opportunity to build on what has been a summer of guarded optimism.
McDiarmid Park could see Sunderland field two new players as the signings of Aiden McGeady and James Vaughan were announced simultaneously on Thursday evening. It will be interesting to see how the new additions gel with their teammates in the coming weeks, and today’s game could be the first glimpse we get of our new Lads in action.
McGeady provides another creative option and can play in several position across the midfield as well as in a more advanced role, and Sunderland fans will be keen to see what the Republic of Ireland international can bring to a club lacking in imagination.
When interviewed by the club, McGeady was quick to point to Simon Grayson as a key reason for agreeing to sign for Sunderland:
With Simon Grayson coming to Sunderland , and having worked under him last year at Preston he got the best out of me - probably the best I have played in a few years - the two factors together meant I couldn’t turn it down.
I’ve only worked with him for a short period of time but I suppose last year I felt that he took the shackles off me and allowed me to play freely. He gave me the confidence to just go and play and not care about giving the ball away. I wasn’t scared to try things, and that probably brought the best out of me.
Furthermore, with the futures of both Khazri and Lens still clouded by uncertainty, many fans will be relieved to see an impressive signing brought into the club to either fill the gap left by one of the aforementioned players’ potential departures, or indeed to simply add quality to the squad.
Vaughan too was incredibly optimistic to be teamed up with Grayson again, and believes the former Preston boss is the right man to improve our club:
Simon Grayson took me to Huddersfield a few years back and I really enjoyed my time playing with him - as soon as I found out the interest here I couldn’t wait to get the ball rolling.
He’s a great man manager and he definitely gets the most of you. He knows what you’re good at and wants you to play to your strengths. Hopefully if we all do that we’ll get successful results.
Vaughan is now the most experienced striking option at the club’s disposal, and fans will be keen to see if the former Everton player will be able to continue his impressive form from last season into the coming campaign. Anyone who bags 24 goals in a struggling side is surely worthy of praise, and Vaughan will understand that this move is possibly his final chance at proving his undoubted potential. The fans will be right behind him, and fingers crossed he gets some kind of run out in today’s fixture.
We noted in our preview of the Livingston game that young Josh Maja’s impressive displays could potentially act as a catalyst for fellow youngster Joel Asoro to demonstrate his potential importance ahead of the upcoming campaign, and it was pleasing to see the young Swede find the back of the net in his first game this summer. Hopefully we’ll see more of the same in the coming weeks and months.
Predicted XI: The entire Scotland trip has been one big experiment in terms of personnel and tactics, so don’t be surprised to see over twenty players involved in the game tonight.
Score Prediction: I went for a 4-0 victory last time out and missed out by a single goal. This evening’s game against St. Johnstone will be a sterner test, but I think Grayson’s men will have enough to see off the Perth-based side. I’m going for a 3-1 victory this time out and I’ll make a wild punt that all three strikers at the club’s disposal will bag a goal. Ha’way!