Firstly, the most important piece of news to come out of the season so far... I’ve qualified for the knockout stages of the Checkatrade Trophy! A 4-1 victory over a Man City Under 23’s side, which included a certain Sergio Aguero, means I may even rest a few of the first team squad for the final group game. Starting to see why all these fans are boycotting the competition now.
October saw the Lads win five times with a draw and loss apiece with 21 goals scored in seven games. I feel like the team are really starting to hit their stride now with Reece James, George Honeyman and Charlie Wyke becoming impossible to drop, even through the gruelling pile up of fixtures. It was this form that saw me place second in the Manager of the Month only behind Karl Robinson of high-flying Oxford United.
As the table is starting to take shape, I currently sit in second place five points behind the formidable Barnsley - who have only lost once so far in the league. My defence is the main concern going into games against the bigger teams in this league as the team are conceding over one goal per game on average. Like in Jack Ross’ Sunderland team, I may need to scour the market for a robust centre-half to give Loovens and Baldwin a bit of competition.
Finally, I’m delighted to have tied down Bali Mumba to his first professional contract and although I haven’t really used him too much, he could well be an important player later in the season.
NEWS FLASH! I won a league game!
After a truly torrid September, October was thankfully a little more successful. A credible one-all draw with Peterborough was followed up by a one-nil win at Bradford City (my first win in six games). A win and a draw came from the next two games, and after a 3-1 win against Southend it seemed like it was all coming together and I would finish October unbeaten.
But alas, this is Sunderland, so we got thumped three-nil off Blackpool instead - oh happy days!
Overall, improvements were certainly shown this month and, despite losing on penalties to Mansfield, qualification to the next round of the Checkatrade Trophy remains in our own hands. In the league I’m sat in mid table - seven points off the play-offs, fourteen points off the automatic places and fifteen points off top spot.
November sees us play only one of the top six, so it is entirely possible that we could be further up the table this time next month - hopefully even breaking into the play-off places.
Finally, there was also some movement on the transfer front as I was happy to let Netflix Star Robbin Ruiter leave in a £95k transfer to FC Utrecht after he complained of a lack of first team football. The transfer will go through in January, so I will be looking to bring in someone on loan, or on a free to allow Stryjek to leave on loan.
Similarly, to the real-life version of Sunderland AFC, I am simply drawing too many winnable games.
October proved to be a stop-start month as I was faced with an injury crisis in the attacking positions. Duncan Watmore, Jerome Sinclair, Lynden Gooch, George Honeyman and Josh Maja all suffered injuries leaving me with few options to choose from.
On top of that, neither Jon McLaughlin or Robbin Ruiter have been performing consistently, meaning I will be in the market for a younger goalkeeper who I can develop going forward throughout my tenure as manager. Ideally Max Stryjek will be sold in January and Ruiter will not be offered a new deal so there will be money available to invest.
I suffered late equalisers against both Peterborough and Blackpool losing four points. On top of that, the team were once again punished for not killing games as my offensive tactics away at Shrewsbury backfired. I was very impressed to see the team score four goals away at Bradford, but we have kept just two clean sheets out of eight games in October which is shocking.
I managed to qualify in the EFL Trophy by beating Morecambe 2-0, but my Carabao Cup journey was finally ended by Liverpool through a Divock Origi goal. In my next EFL Trophy fixture against Carlisle I plan to hand first-team debuts to the likes of Jack Bainbridge and Jack Diamond to see if they can replicate Bali Mumba’s progression into the first-team.
Looking at the table, I am six points behind Charlton in second place. In November, I need to eradicate the draws and hopefully go on a winning run that can push me to the top of League One. With January fast approaching, let me know the players I should be looking at signing to take the team to the next level.
September was another great month - a record breaking month no less. We maintained our position at the top of the table after 4 wins and a draw in the league (Which also leaves us unbeaten in League One). That draw came away at Bradford City but that minor blip was greatly out-weighed by a resounding 3-0 victory over Peterborough along with another 3-0 away at Doncaster (Chris Maguire hat-trick!) and an easy 4-0 dispatching of Southend.
I did mention it was a record breaking month, well that is down to the fact that we have now gone 20 matches without losing and that is a new club record. Unfortunately during this month’s run we lost Lynden Gooch to injury and still have a few notable names on the sideline. Hopefully November will see a number of those players return and make us even stronger.
On the cup front we got past Grimsby 1-0 in the Checkatade Trophy to ensure qualification from the group after just 2 games despite a complacent performance from the lads. Sadly however our Carabao Cup run came to an end as Manchester United had to rely on Marcus Rashford to secure them a 1-0 victory. It was still an impressive performance where we were able to match them throughout the 90 minutes but just couldn’t get a goal. Another side effect of this loss is that the 20 match unbeaten run in all competitions I just mentioned will stay at 20.
No awards for myself or my players this month; however, an honourable mention goes out to Lee Cattermole who is averaging the highest match rating at the club from his new regista position, and big Charlie Wyke has notched 7 goals to be our leading scorer in the league. We’ve got a game in hand and are 5 points clear of Portsmouth already anyway in League One and now we have one less competition to worry about. Onwards and upwards.