Was Tuesday’s performance a step forward?
As a night, I think most people enjoyed it who were there. Very rarely as a manager do you fully enjoy games, for various reasons. But, Tuesday night was one of those where I enjoyed it. I was obviously frustrated that we didn’t win the game, but there were so many good things about our performance at different times of the game.
I just think the atmosphere and feeling around the game on Tuesday, it was a really good night. There were people there as neutrals that I knew, and they commented on that as well. I think in terms of our overall performance, for different reasons at different times of the game, very much more positives on Tuesday night than there were negatives.
On Aiden McGeady’s performance...
I thought he did very well because he has been out for close to four and a half months, which is quite a long time. Obviously, he’s had a few brief appearances from off the bench. I spoke to him prior to the game to see how he was feeling physically and we both felt that even starting the game would be better for him because sometimes that, in a strange way, is easier. I think you sometimes find the pace of the game quicker than you do if you’re coming on as a sub.
I thought his overall contribution given the period he’s been out was very good. He’s a very good player, we know that from previous displays at Sunderland and what he’s achieved in his career. I thought his impact on the game and what he gave us was really good. The great thing is, he’ll get better and stronger. For him to last the 90 minutes, or 96 minutes as it turned out, was very encouraging. It’s testament to his desire because that will have been tough for him, in terms of where he was at physically. But, I’m really pleased with him, overall.
On Jerome Sinclair’s goal...
It’s always important for strikers, ultimately, they’re judged on that and they’ll judge themselves on that a lot of the time. He’s been incredibly patient, it’s been very stop start for him. Also, when you add into the mix that he was very disappointed not to take the opportunity in the first half. So, he’s still a very young man and it would have been easy for him to dwell on that in the second half. But, we encouraged him a lot to believe that his performance level at that time would give him other opportunities.
So, delighted that he got it and took it, but also disappointed for him that it didn’t turn out to be the winner. But, I think psychologically for him it’s a big step forward, performance level, getting that goal and I’m not sure if that’s his first in senior football, it might be. But, I certainly think even psychologically for his Sunderland career, it was an important step forward.
On making more changes at the back...
Yes, it’s been challenging because we’ve obviously varied between a back three and a back four as well. I can’t criticise the players work, approach and the work that James and John do particularly with them in defensive areas. They work very hard at it and they take the information on board and it has been difficult to have that continuity, both in terms of shape and personnel within that shape.
It’s not an excuse because sometimes we’ve made individual mistakes that have probably led to goals and they’re ones that you always look to try and avoid. A lot of the time the general defensive shape has been ok, just these one or two lapses in concentration have cost us. Sometimes they come with that lack of continuity and lack of regular game time for a lot of them because we mentioned about it being stop start for Jerome and it’s the same for a number of those defenders. With the exception of Jack Baldwin, who’s played since the second game against Luton, he’s played every game.
But, the other ones have all been in and out for various reasons. But, we’ve got to keep trying to get better and it and I think there’s enough within the group to do that. Hopefully they’ll stay fit, healthy and available and they’ll help us find that defensive consistency as well.
On available players that didn’t play on Tuesday...
Obviously, Lee’s suspension is over. George we’ll see tomorrow, and he’ll probably be fine in terms of the criteria for the recovery from his concussion, so George should be back available. Luke O’Nien is still ill at the moment, he was in this morning but we’re about to send him away again, so hopefully he might recover enough to take part in some training tomorrow.
Other than that, as we were and obviously we have Bryan’s suspension to add to that as well.
On the game with Bradford...
Again, Saturday we’ll obviously take a big away following and I keep repeating myself with that, but with that the intensity around the game increases both for the home team and the home support. That will be the same for Bradford again on Saturday. Obviously, they had a good result during the week away from home, which will help them as well. It’s still early days under their new manager.
I’ve said often enough, I do feel as if we’re getting better and I think Tuesday night was another sign of that. We’re obviously scoring regularly, it’s just important that we then improve, as a team, defensively. We feel at the moment that clean sheets will win us games because of how many goals we’ve scored. But, again, looking forward to it and I think the group of players on the back of large parts of Tuesday nights performance, are in a good place.
I think they understand that they are improving individually and as a team and they believe that they’re on the cusp of putting together a really good run of results. I think we all feel as if it’s getting ever closer.
On advice for Bradford’s manager, David Hopkin...
David’s obviously different to me in the respect of that he played the large part of his playing career in England, at a very good level. I’ve actually come up against him quite a lot because his Livingston team were in the same division as Alloa in my second season as a manager. Then achieved promotion from the championship with St Mirren and obviously got promoted at the same time.
So, I’ve had a lot of games against him as a manager and what he achieved at Livingston was outstanding. To achieve consecutive promotions with a relatively small team in the grand scheme of things in Scotland was testament to his ability as a manager. I think it’s a slightly different challenge for him coming in when the season is underway, and I think at the moment it will probably take time for him to imprint his own style upon the club. But, I’m looking forward to seeing him on Saturday, I enjoyed some competitive matches in Scotland, so I’m looking forward to Saturday.