Sunderland’s 3-2 victory away to Bradford last Saturday was a tale of two halves. The Lads raced into a three goal lead before half-time, but then took their foot off the accelerator after a raft of changes and allowed Bradford the opportunity to claw back two poor goals. However, despite the lacklustre second half performance, many fans were left seriously impressed after the opening 45 minutes.
Simon Grayson has regularly noted that pre-season fixtures should be regarded as fitness exercises that help him to better understand the players and what they can bring to the club, but that could change during tonight’s game.
With Derby County travelling to the Stadium of Light for the opening fixture of the season in little over a week’s time, perhaps Grayson thinks now is the time - with two games left to play before the campaign’s opener - to give his preferred side a little more time to play together competitively. Tonight’s jaunt away to Scunthorpe could be a great opportunity to do just that.
One player keen to remain on Wearside this summer is Adam Matthews, who spoke recently about his future at the club in the wake of Saturday’s victory:
I haven’t spoken to him (Grayson) about anything yet. I’m not sure if he’ll speak to a couple of players this week and see what he has to say. I’m just looking forward to working with him, training hard, getting as much time as I can and hopefully being part of his plans.
If not, I’ll have to look somewhere else, but I’m 100% committed to Sunderland and trying to get into the team. He’s given everyone a chance, he’s given a few of the youngsters a chance so he’s been brilliant, he’s been good because I think if (David) Moyes was still here I wouldn’t be.
I’m thankful to him for giving me a chance and hopefully he sees something in me that one or two of the other managers haven’t.
Matthews has been solid enough so far this pre-season and certainly doesn’t look out of place in the Sunderland line-up, but whether he’s done enough to persuade Grayson that he deserves to be a part of the manager’s plans this season remains to be seen.
Matthews’ comments regarding David Moyes were particularly interesting, and have shed some light on the impact Grayson has had since taking over at the club. The team seem to have taken a liking to their new manager, and improving displays have done much to create a cautious sense of optimism on Wearside.
He’s given the place a buzz and spirits are up, we’re looking forward to working with him.
Jereman Lens’ recent performances have also been noticeably impressive, and the Dutchman also spoke recently about his role at the club:
I’m feeling fit so hopefully I can continue my performances. The most important part of pre-season for the team – and also myself – is making sure you’re fit so you have to keep working hard to become as fit as possible.
I’m a Sunderland player and because of that I’ll do everything for the club, so I’ll keep fighting and work hard for the team. And hopefully keep scoring goals!
Lens has been nothing short of superb this pre-season and Sunderland supporters are intrigued as to whether the talented attacker will remain on Wearside ahead of the coming campaign. With previous for having a poor attitude, fans have been equal parts shocked and delighted at the enthusiasm and quality Lens has demonstrated in recent weeks.
Grayson has managed the situations of the likes of Lens and Khazri well in the press, and certainly has appeared totally in control of the situation. He seems liked by many of the playing squad and has given opportunities to those dismissed in the past. Matthews, Lens, Khazri and Maja are but a few names to have been given the chance to impress this summer - and all have given their all for the shirt. For fans - that has been wonderful to see, and bodes well ahead of the coming campaign under Grayson’s tutelage.
Robbin Ruiter could find his place between the sticks once again this evening after a great performance against Bradford last weekend. The club are apparently interested in securing the Dutchman’s services with a permanent contract, amid speculation that Blackburn goalkeeper Jason Steele is another target.
Aiden McGeady has been training with his new teammates this week and is expected to play some part at Glanford Park - with the new season just over a week away, Simon Grayson will be keen to maximise the Irishman’s minutes in order to have him ready.
SAFC.com posted a video of McGeady working out yesterday at the Academy of Light, which you can view below:
Bryan Oviedo, Duncan Watmore and Paddy McNair remain long-term injuries and won’t make the squad, but Brendan Galloway, Lynden Gooch and Jack Rodwell could potentially play some part.
SAFC’s Starting XI: Ruiter, Matthews, Browning, Kone, Jones, Ndong, Cattermole, Khazri, Lens, Maja, Vaughan.
Score: I think Grayson will be keen to put out a strong line-up this evening with the Championship starting next week. Scunthorpe will struggle against that dynamic attack, and I’d like to think our defence will be able to continue improving; therefore, I’m going for a pretty big win and I think Sunderland will run out 4-1 victors. Ha’way!