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ROKER ROUNDUP: Sunderland’s promotion rival sign defender ahead of ‘two of biggest clubs’ in L1

Scotland international Russell Martin has signed for Sunderland’s promotion rivals Walsall - and his new manager says they beat two of the biggest clubs in League One to his signature.

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League One rivals Walsall signed veteran defender Russell Martin last week, as the centre-half signed a deal that will see him be a player/coach at the Bescot Stadium until the end of the season.

The Saddlers’ manager Dean Keates credited his friendship with the Scottish international for helping the seal the deal, particularly with interest in the 32-year-old from the Championship and ‘two of the biggest clubs in League One’:

I don’t think I would have got him if we weren’t friends.

I’ve been chasing him for weeks. There was a possibility of a move to a Championship club and he wanted to wait and see.

But he is a man of his word and he said if he didn’t end up in the Championship, he would sign for us.

Two of the biggest clubs in our division tried to sign him at the last minute.

But he bought into what I want him to do and his role at the football club. I want him to have a role on the pitch but also off the pitch

Jack Ross did admit last month that he would have liked to sign a free agent but was unable to due to the situations regarding Didier Ndong and Papy Djilobodji.

Now those players are out of the way, Ross has confirmed that we may be able to strengthen in the January transfer window which could have opened up the possibility of a move for Martin but it’s believed Sunderland’s manager wants a defender who can play on the left side of central defence, which would rule Martin out.

The defender will come up against Sunderland next month though, as we travel to Walsall in League One.

Rangers v Hearts - Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Second Foodbank collection before Southend game

Sunderland play Southend United at the Stadium of Light this weekend and before the game Red and White Army and the Sunderland Foodbank will be on hand from noon at the Fanzone for the second collection in their partnership.

Volunteers from both groups will be present and are calling on fans to donate food, toiletries and cash that will be distributed to those in need.

Sunderland Foodbank’s co-ordinator Kate Townsend was overwhelmed with the response to the first collection - which took place prior to the Fleetwood Town game:

We are delighted to be partnering with RAWA again. We received an overwhelming response at the last collection - a van full of food and lots of cash! I’m not a football fan myself and you sometimes hear less than complimentary things about supporters.

My experience of Sunderland fans since we started this partnership has been nothing but kindness and a will to help those less fortunate.

Some members of the Sunderland academy were on hand during the last collection, as both under-23s and under-18s players were involved with collecting donations. Their involvement didn’t stop there, as some even went along to the Sunderland Foodbanks warehouse to lend a hand:

RAWA chairman Andew Hird says supporters and players volunteering alongside each other encapsulates the philosophy the new owners are keen to instil into the club:

This partnership is a new initiative for RAWA and a bit of a new direction for us. The Club have backed us from day one without us even asking. They’ve provided the space to collect in the Fanzone and at the last collection, before the Fleetwood match, the academy came along to help.

We had members of the under 23 and under 18 squad loading food onto the van and rattling collection buckets. It was fantastic to see supporters and players volunteering together like that. It perfectly illustrates the “one club” philosophy that the owners are keen to instil.


Doncaster buzzing for Sunderland game

Jack Ross takes his Sunderland squad to Doncaster tonight as they take on Rovers at the Keepmoat Stadium.

Rovers’ manager Grant McCann is looking forward to the game which will be played out in front of a bumper crowd and revealed that his players can’t wait to get going:

I think it’s going to be a little bit like that but we’ve got characters who like the big atmosphere. The boys are buzzing on Monday morning.

It’s the biggest game because it’s the next one.

It’s going to be the first time I’ve seen the Keepmoat nearly full since I’ve been here, with 11 or 12,000 in. It’s going to be a great night.

It’ll be a tough game, a really tough game, especially with Sunderland bringing four thousand fans.

It’s going to generate a tremendous atmosphere and our boys are really keen to get going. They wish it was now.

Doncaster Rovers v Luton Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by George Wood/Getty Images