RR: You’ve had a pretty decent start to the campaign and just like us, you’ve started with a win followed by a draw. What were your expectations going into the new season and have they changed at all after what you’ve seen so far?
MB: Despite falling short of our ultimate aim of Promotion back into the Championship, we’ve had two relatively successful seasons. However, this summer we have lost four key players and I think it going to be tough for us to reach the play offs for the third season in a row. We’ve lost two of the League’s most exciting attacking talent in Duane Holmes and Hakeeb Adelekaun, who have joined Derby and Bristol City respectively and also lost two key defenders in Murray Wallace to Millwall and Conor Townsend to West Brom.
The fans were obviously a little worried at a lack of quality incomings ahead of the opening game at Coventry but we’ve since made some good signings to replace the outgoing players. Ryan Colclough has joined from Wigan, we’ve got James Perch who has played at a higher level for the majority of his career and some really exciting young talent in Steve Humphrys and Andy Dales who have already shown they could be real assets.
Whilst a play off finish is still clearly the aim, it is difficult to know whether this squad are as good as the previous two seasons and as yet have been unable to gel. When they do, I think we will be a real handful for any team in this division but I am worried that our defence may let us down when push comes to shove.
RR: It’s quite interesting to look at Nick Daws’ time at Scunthorpe as an outsider, given he has been caretaker twice before the second spell was made permanent. How do the fans feel about him? Is he there to just steady the ship or will he make the job his own now and push the club forward?
MB: I hope he can take us forward. He’s a really likable character and comes across as very knowledgeable and calm. He’s assisted by a club legend Andy Dawson and I think all Iron fans want to see the duo do really well.
Daws did well in temporary charge and was definitely deserving of the chance to make the job his own. His record is very good and with the right backing, he can be successful in this division.
RR: I noticed that there were rumours of the club being up for sale, leading to chairman Peter Swann having to come out and state his commitment to the club. Is a sale something the fans want to see? If so, why?
MB: The chairman has denied the reports and his son has told the fans on twitter that we are not up for sale. We have spent a fair whack on wages over the past three or four years and there is a worry that this is simply not sustainable.
There are a couple of fans that have given him a bit of stick regarding the failed stadium relocation, but on the whole the fans are behind the family and appreciate the money they have pumped into the club.
If they were to leave, it would certainly be a worrying time for the club.
RR: Being perfectly honest, this season is going to introduce us Sunderland fans to a lot of new faces in the opposition ranks! Who from the Scunthorpe side should we be playing close attention to for this game and for the season as a whole?
MB: Funso Ojo, definitely. If he is fit he is a really classy player. We managed to sign him on a free transfer last season from the Dutch league and he has been a revelation. He’s a former PSV youngster and he instantly became a fans favourite after a string of impressive displays last year.
Andy Dales is a young lad with a point to prove following his release from Derby and a spell in Non League and looks to be a tricky customer, whilst Steve Humphrys is another the fans have warmed to because of his work ethic.
We’ve not seen much of Ryan Colclough yet as he only joined last week, but I’ve seen enough of him in the past to know he can be a key player and an able replacement for the outgoing Duane Holmes.
RR: On that note, who from the Sunderland side will you be hoping suffers an off day on Sunday? Anyone in particular that you’re worried about in our squad?
MB: I’ve always liked Max Power. He’s a good player and did well last season, getting promoted with Wigan.
RR: How will Daws approach this game and what do you expect his starting line up to be?
MB: It’s a tricky one as there are a few players returning from injury and it’s going to be touch and go as to whether they will make it.
It’s likely he will play one up front, with three in behind and two holding midfielders. I’ll go for Watson, Clarke, Goode, McArdle, Borthwick-Jackson, Perch, Ojo, Morris, Colclough, Humphrys, Novak.
RR: Finally, can we have a score prediction please?
MB: We tend to perform fairly well on the big stage so I’m hopeful of at least a draw. I’ll go for 2-2.