On Last Week’s Game...
I think (if) we win tomorrow, we’ll say it was a turning point. I think the last two performances, I can’t have too many complaints with the players really. At this stage of the season, when the games are so important for one reason or another depending on where you are in the league. So, crazy things happen, score lines, incidents like we saw last week.
In terms of them being committed to the game in the 90 minutes, I was much happier with what I saw and what we got back. OK, we didn’t get three points but we got something, we got a performance. It was a positive.
The First Half of Last Week’s Performance...
It was great, yeah. When Jake gets sent off we’ve got to reshuffle and in the first half I can’t really say they troubled us too much. They’re a strong team Boro, but we were set up fine, we were OK. Once we change formation and go down to ten men, yes, they had a man sent off but I think it probably suited them more than it suited us. We were never in any difficulty when we had eleven men on the pitch, in the formation we had.
Once it was ten versus ten in the second half it looked like every time the team in possession were going to create something because the spaces were big and both teams were going for it. Fatigue set in and then mistakes happen, but it was end-to-end, a really good game, plenty of fire. The only criticism I had of the lads was ten minutes on the restart, where we sank deep and invited pressure. We’re trying to hold on to 1-0 rather than trying to get another goal, 45 minutes is a long, long time. Once we went 2-1 down, we went back for Boro, put them on the back foot and we scored more goals.
So, that was my only little criticism, we should have done that straight after the break. But, a little bit of human nature as well, you try to protect. Overall, I think the last two games the performances have been a lot, lot better.
On the Commitment Needed Away to Millwall...
Yeah, I’ve had some great games down at The Den. I think we’ve all got stories about our experiences there. I think playing here in our circumstances is much tougher for us than playing at The Den. That’s the way it is for us at the minute here, there’s pressure on us. It will be a hard game, they’re all tough games in the Championship, they’ve won three games back-to-back. Neil Harris is doing a super job and it will be a tough game for us.
But, I can’t say it’s a game you look at and think we can’t go there and take the goods, of course we can. We’ll have to continue in the same vein in terms of our personality and our input into the 90 minutes, as we have done in the last two games. The more we continue to do that, the better chance we’ve got of getting away from where we are.
On How Quickly Things Can Change...
They can, yeah. I’ve said all the way along, I’ve only been here for three months, you guys have been here a lot longer and you’ve seen it all, endured it all. But, it doesn’t last forever, it doesn’t, the club will turn around, it will turn around, sooner or later. I’m hoping and praying it’s with me and I’m here when it happens, but sooner or later the club will turn, I promise you.
Look what’s happened, you’ve seen a cup final four years ago, Premier League and now we’re scrapping to stay in the Championship. Where are we going to be in four years? Who knows, who knows. It won’t always be bad for Sunderland Football Club. You think it’s going to be like that when you’re in that moment, because its so tough, but it won’t be, it will turn around. I don’t know when, I’m hoping it’s going to be soon, but it will turn around I’m pretty sure of that.
On Jack Rodwell...
No, Jack picked up an injury to see his foot which kept him out for a little bit. But, at the minute I don’t even know whether he’s fit or he’s back training, I have absolutely no idea.
Has the Weather Affected Preparations?
Yesterday it was brutal but we had everybody on the pitch, you might have seen some pictures with everybody out of the offices. All of the ground staff we’re here from half six in the morning, we had the Chief Executive with me, Lois our Sports Lawyer was on the pitch, Karen our secretary and we had everybody from Black Cat House here. Name a level at the club and there were people from that level clearing the pitch and that sums this club up.
Even though we are where we are and it’s gloomy and really tough, the people here are unbelievable. Just keep going, keep fighting, they muck in and get on with it. It was freezing cold yesterday clearing the snow but you’re all together and you’re all mucking in and that’s what a football club should be about really.
Was it Good For the Players to See Everyone Come Together?
That’s it, we’ve all got to get our hands dirty. I think the last two games the players have got their hands dirty, it was the four games before that where they were getting their hands dirty for 45 minutes and you can’t survive like that.
It was great yesterday, you know this is such a great club, it’s a big, big club in difficulty. But, on a day like that, it can work in your favor when you see that little bit of harmony and unity, that can work in your favor. Certainly yesterday, it was a good feeling because everybody was out there having a bit of giggle, the pitch was great, we cleared it and had a real good session yesterday. The players trained really well and we can turn that into a positive.
On the Players Motivating Themselves...
For all the pressure that comes with where we are, there is still an element of ‘every game we play is massive’. You can enjoy those moments depending on how you look at it. If you’re afraid of giving everything you’ve got because there are no guarantees of taking everything then these moments are not going to be for you, they’re going to be uncomfortable. If you’re not afraid of defeat and failure on the back of you absolutely maxing out and emptying, what you’ve got you’ve given it, then these moments are for you and you’ll enjoy it.
It’s an addiction, football. Even in these dark days for us where there’s loads of pressure, we’re bottom of the league. You’re always changing that next happy moment, that relief of a win because you know it will change your life, it changes everybody’s life. We’re always chasing that and that win will come, it will come. Whether its tomorrow, I hope, yes, positive it will, we have to look at it like that, you’re always chasing that.
I know about the past, even the past for me is last week and we’ve got to cut it loose. We can talk about the positives, great, but we’ve got to cut it loose. Its only what’s in front of us, that’s all we can affect now. Concentrate on what’s in front of us and attack it, have a go, just have a go, that’s it. You’ll be amazed where you can reach and what you can achieve with just having a go. Not missing the moments, not missing the challenge and those are the constant messages I give to the players, whoever’s playing.
The squad now is thicker since I’ve been here than it’s ever been. So, there will be disappointed faces because I can only choose eleven, but they’ve all got a huge part to play. Maybe in tomorrow, maybe not in Tuesday, maybe back in Saturday, it will depend on who we’re playing and how I see it. Huge, huge part to play, so now is not the time for people being a bit insular and thinking about themselves, it’s about what’s important for the team, 100% that’s all that counts.
There’s a next game in front us, what’s the most important thing? We get the three points, how we go about it, that’s it. Once we overcome that, we have another game in three days, then that’s the biggest one. We can’t really afford to look at it any other way.
Kaz trained yesterday, but this weekend is probably a little too early for him. Still no Marc Wilson, no Paddy McNair, Ovie Ejaria trained yesterday and came off fine, felt it a little bit but got through the session, it was a tough session as well. Providing there is no knock on affect this morning and I’ve not received any calls so that should be OK.
Joel is OK, he took a little bit of a whack last ten minutes, he’s trained once this week. So, we play Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, so we might have to be careful with Joel. He trained yesterday, got through the session, but we’ll see with Joel, but I think he should be available.