RR: How do you feel about James Vaughan coming back to Gigg Lane? How have Bury dealt with his departure, and have you been keeping an eye on his progress here?
PT: I think every Bury fan is looking forward to seeing James Vaughan come back to Gigg Lane. The way the club seem to have responded to his departure is by not directly replacing him, which I actually think is the right decision from a tactical point of view.
I’ve listened to the Roker Rapport podcasts since and I’m a little dismayed that some seem to be dismissing him already. Granted, he didn’t score in pre-season and snatched at his best chance against Derby County last Friday evening, but he will come good for Sunderland. He wants to play for the Black Cats and that is in stark contrast to some ‘bigger’ names they have had in recent years.
RR: We only played each other about a month ago. What were your thoughts on Sunderland in that pre-season friendly?
PT: I didn’t attend the friendly but from everything I’ve gleaned about it, the two sides were well matched in the first half before the usual slew of changes occurred. I wouldn’t be at all surprised that if fit, that he plays some part in proceedings on Thursday night.
RR: You’ve just brought in Jermaine Beckford on a free transfer following his release by Preston - good move or a journeyman striker? What are your initial impressions?
PT: It didn’t work out for him under Grayson at Preston North End but my initial impressions are positive. On the pitch, he doesn’t look as though he has lost much, if any, of his pace, even at thirty three. His game centres around playing on the shoulder of the last defender but his general movement and willingness to work in the channels when necessary has been impressive. He missed a penalty early on Saturday, but made amends by scoring the winner just before half time.
RR: You opened the season with a win against Walsall on Saturday. What are you hopes for Bury this season?
PT: Of course, Vaughan’s goals and tireless work-rate were massive in escaping demotion to League Two. However, the stated aim from the club this season is at the very least to gatecrash the play-offs. My own personal hopes are for a top ten finish and for a cup run in either of the two main competitions.
There is certainly potential for a higher ranking in the league but it will also be contingent on making a good start whilst the new-look squad knits together – eight of the starting XI on Saturday were debutants.
RR: Which players in the Sunderland ranks do you worry could cause you damage on Thursday night?
PT: Lee Cattermole was mightily impressive on Friday. I think he has a reputation for being a walking yellow card but I’ve always thought there’s been more to him than that. You don’t play as many games (and seasons) in the top flight if you’re just a ‘destroyer’. He can pick out a pass. If he plays, the battle he’ll have with Stephen Dawson will be intriguing to say the least – neither of them will give any quarter on the pitch.
There’s also Aiden McGeady. If he starts on the left hand side, he ought to have the beating of Craig Jones. I expect him to be Sunderland’s main outlet if he starts and other than Vaughan, the likeliest source of a goal.
RR: On the opposite side, which players have started well for you? Which one’s do we need to look out for?
PT: Obviously, it’s only one game in but the defensive unit has been impressive. Joe Murphy’s command of his area and level of accurate distribution both from throwing and kicking are excellent. Tom Aldred and Adam Thompson seem to have forged a good understanding already at the back but will be given a tougher examination by Vaughan and Lewis Grabban. Further up the pitch, Chris Maguire is deadly from set pieces and has already provided for Beckford from a situation where Bury were absolutely woeful in 2016/2017. Tsun Dai has just turned 18 and might start on Thursday. He can play almost anywhere across the middle and even fill in at right-back. He’s positive on the ball, two-footed not short of skill and always looks to play or receive a pass.
RR: Finally, how do you see the game going and a prediction please?
PT: I think it hinges on how strong a side Sunderland put out. It will be a real battle and the pressure is all on Grayson and his players to continue from the encouraging performance they had against Derby, regardless of how they line up. I wouldn’t be too surprised if Bury took the Black Cats all the way into extra time but eventually lose out by the odd goal in three.
Thanks to our friends over at Bury Me In Exile! You can find their site here.