Whilst progression in all cup competitions is important, we have a huge game with Norwich on Sunday and the dilemma which Grayson must have pondered over all week is a genuine topic of discussion - do we take this game with Bury seriously and field our strongest side, or do we look to give game time to players that didn’t feature against Derby last Friday?
I put a quick one-hour poll to our Twitter followers first thing this morning posing that very question, and some of the replies made for interesting reading.
Bury tomorrow. Would you play our strongest side or (with Norwich in mind) would you make a load of changes? #SAFC— Roker Report (@RokerReport) August 9, 2017
66% of those that voted think that Grayson should make a load of changes to his team, whilst around a third of voters believe he needs to stick with a strong team - and I can see both sides of the argument, truthfully.
We’re barely out of pre-season and the players are still getting to know each other. And whilst the performance against Derby was good, we still didn’t win and attempting to gel the team that we have through playing them together as often as we can, winning games, is of paramount importance.
But the other side of the argument is that we have a number of squad players that still need to prove their worth to Grayson and in starting games could give him further food for thought ahead of this weekend’s fixture at Carrow Road.
Some of the responses to our question over on Twitter raised interesting topics for discussion, including this one from @Steve2013 regarding former Bury man James Vaughan.
Mixture like as an example I'd keep Vaughan in as a goal will do him the world of good.— steve (@steve2013) August 9, 2017
Whilst Vaughan came inches away from scoring last Friday and generally gave a good account of himself in his first proper start for Sunderland, he’s been unable to find the net throughout pre-season and missed two penalties along the way. So, in that sense, I’d agree that starting him against his old club will do him the world of good - especially if he’s able to get a goal or two.
Will Green, however, feels that changes are a necessity.
Definitely need changes. You can play the championship plus cup games with the same starting 11.— Will Green (@WillGreen1988) August 9, 2017
I’d struggle to disagree, particularly at this stage of the season. Will is right - the season is long and though it’s still young, we have a fair amount of players that need to be allowed the opportunity to prove their worth.
Side still needs match practice to gel. Play the first team.— David Conlin (@hairybreeches) August 9, 2017
David Conlin disagrees, and feels that the team need to gel - again, a very valid point. Winning breeds confidence and Norwich are a tough opponent, particularly at Carrow Road. Who knows what a rousing victory could do for our morale heading into that game?
But it is perhaps Chris Swinton that I agree with most - it’s a tough decision and perhaps the most sensible choice lies somewhere in the middle.
Tough one, but I'd go there wanting a win - give some who didn't play Derby a chance to prove their worth— Chris Swinton (@Keawyeds) August 9, 2017
For me, I’d line up as so.
Whilst Jason Steele’s performance against Derby was slightly better than the one he gave on his debut against Celtic, Robbin Ruiter impressed me immensely down at Bradford and Scunthorpe and deserves a chance to prove why he should be our number one.
At left back, we have little choice other than to play Brendan Galloway. Bryan Oviedo is back in training this week but is more likely to feature for the U23s against Tottenham on Friday night, meaning the youngster on loan from Everton is a shoe in to start.
Adam Matthews impressed me slightly in pre-season and I don’t believe there’s a great deal between him and Billy Jones in terms of ability. He should be given an opportunity to show what he can do, with Grayson presumably still undecided on what his best team actually is.
Paired up in the centre of defence should be John O’Shea and Tyias Browning. If Lamine Kone, as expected, leaves in the coming weeks we may have to rely upon O’Shea to come back into our back line to offer some stability, so getting those two familiar with one another is important.
In the centre of midfield I’d partner Jack Rodwell with Dider Ndong. Lee Cattermole showed just what he’s capable of against Derby but he’s not exactly famed for his stellar fitness record and a chance to rest him ahead of an important game should be taken. Rodwell, like him or loathe him, is going to be an important member of our squad this season and needs the minutes under his belt.
Another who missed out last weekend is Wahbi Khazri, and with rumours of his impending departure not going away any time soon it’s probably safe to assume he’ll play some part at least. He should come in on the left of our midfield, whilst on the right I’d afford another start to George Honeyman, who was one of our star performers last Friday and has definitely earned his spot.
Unfortunately for Josh Maja this game comes too soon, and he would have been a shoe-in to start - especially considering he scored twice coming off the bench against Bury at the start of pre-season. With options scarce, it’s likely that Lewis Grabban and James Vaughan will partner one another up top again, both hoping to further cement their places in the side.
What would you do - would you start a strong team or would you make changes? Leave your comment below the article and let us know.