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Roker Roundtable: Should Chris Maguire & Kaz Sterling be given a chance for Sunderland tonight?

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Sunderland’s toothless attack still looks like it needs a boost, and Duncan Watmore won’t feature tonight. Will the unfancied pair of Chris Maguire and Kaz Sterling be considered for a start? Our panel of writers offer up their thoughts.

Sunderland AFC

Q: Chris Maguire has barely featured recently for Sunderland, and Kaz Sterling has yet to start a game. With other players out of sorts, Jack Ross confirming that Duncan Watmore won’t feature and the side obviously lacking something - both from an attacking perspective and from a character perspective - would you consider starting either (or both) against Accrington?

Damian Brown says...

It’s a tough decision for Ross to make. The last time I spoke about Sunderland it was to say that the team needed consistency in order to gel and become an efficient unit, and so for me to say that we should bring in two players who haven’t recently had game time seems to be spitting in the face of that argument.

I do recall however, with vivid clarity, the way I felt immediately following Tuesday’s result; disappointed. Not purely with respect to dropping two points but mainly with the poor individual performances from half of the squad.

I remember noting that the efforts of the younger players surpassed most of the senior players, and concluding that attitude was the key factor in this whole shebang. So while I wouldn’t necessarily be at ease changing this team that I believe needs consistent playtime together, I can’t wholly ignore the possibility that introducing the relatively unknown quantities of the dressing room onto the pitch might pay off dividends for us.

But as I say, it’s tough. It comes with the risk of being a tinker man; of being ostracised for attempting to quell the ire of the fans by doing everything in your capacity to do, but still failing. There are no guarantees.

Maguire has many detractors and it’s not hard to tell why, if you’ve watched him play more than a few minutes this season; he’s mercurial. His performance varies from man of the match to outright liability. Of course we want man of the match Maguire to turn up but how could we guarantee that? We can’t minimise risks that we aren’t even able to assess.

Sterling is equally challenging to comment on because he is a completely unknown quantity. We’ve watched him for brief moments and though he clearly has potential, he’s come here to be forged into something more closely resembling the finished article and ergo is nowhere near being it. No guarantees at all.

Following this line of argument I’d be forced to conclude that for all that we need ‘fresh ideas’, they need to come from the mind of Jack Ross and his assistants, rather than throwing our last gasp options into the fray and hoping they come good for us at this critical stage. We should be in a position to bring both of those potential stars into an environment we’re already controlling, not depending on them to turn our fortunes around. Treat the disease instead of the symptom.

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Craig Davies says...

I’ve found recent team changes a little hectic and almost anarchic to some extent. Consistency seems to have given way to ‘let’s hope it works.’ It’s not a massive criticism as such, as it could have worked should a few more footballing stars aligned and if Grigg had put his chances away we’d be hailing the changes as a bonafide success.

But alas, the shaking it up, looked suspiciously like making it up. At least that’s what individual performances indicated as Gooch disappeared and Watmore flattered to deceive. Should another shake up of playing staff occur, Ross runs the risk - certainly if we lose - of being accused of uncertainty and confusion at a time Luton and Barnsley appear to have an exceptional understanding of who they are and what they can do.

We still seem to be ‘finding ourselves’ which is odd considering the unity of previous months that hurtled us towards the top end of the table.

Should Sterling be given his chance? I’d like to think I was a football psychic with intimate knowledge of players I’ve barely heard of, let alone seen much of. Sadly, guess work is all I can offer.

His situation perplexes me a little. Surely Spurs sent him here to play, otherwise what is the point of the loan? What will he learn on the bench or in the players lounge should he not even make the squad?

With Watmore out, Ross may be tempted, but for an unknown gamble of the sheer unpredictable, he has Kimpioka at his disposal. Does Ross have the reckless cajonas to take such a risk with crowd anxiety rising uncomfortably? I don’t think so and besides we were doing very well earlier in the season without Sterling or Watmore.

Maguire? You can’t play him and McGeady together. Not as wide men. Too slow. There may be an argument for playing him as a roaming no.10, behind the striker, but McGeady himself could slot there should the formation change.

Neither seem to have impressed Jack Ross to the point of him thinking ‘goodness they could be the one to save our season.’

He doesn’t trust them - enough, yet. Perhaps desperation changes his mind and they both play. But Jack is a pragmatist and as such he should put all his energy into bringing the best of of those he does trust. Neither have shown they are the magical missing link yet, so personally I wouldn’t play either from the off. But if Ross selects them and they star in an amazing win, I’ll be the first to eat humble pie and congratulate them.

Sunderland AFC

Morgan Lowrie says...

Maguire seems to have been unfortunate not to feature in place of the also disappointing Gooch over the last few weeks. Both had tremendous starts to the season, but both have also seemed to have hit a form brick wall simultaneously. That, or teams have figured a way of suppressing two of our most creative outlets through understanding the workings of Sunderland’s system.

The team clearly needs a spark, and Chris Maguire is exactly the character to provide it. If there was ever a fixture for a man who seems to thrive in the limelight, it’s a Friday night game in front of over 30,000 on Sky Sports.

That said, Accrington have been very poor and are yet to score a goal in 2019, so Ross might be tempted to stick with the 11, or as close too as possible from Tuesday, which could see Gooch move more centrally and Morgan in on the right.

I’m confident Grigg and Wyke could form an effective partnership with Maguire and McGeady providing the quality out wide for them both to thrive, but that would mean a change in shape and style, and a massive shift from the managers philosophy. So in all likelihood, Grigg will lead the line, and it would benefit him to get a frustrated, motivated Maguire in to feed him.

Sterling is an interesting case, unless the club have an injury crises, I’d be shocked if Sterling played any kind of major role, and I don’t believe Ross will want to upset his new League One record signing, or throw in the towel on Wyke just yet.

I expect Maguire to line up on Friday, I expect him to have an effective, positive performance, and if Leadbitter and Honeyman continue to grow more and more into this team as they suggest they are capable of, I expect we see the best of Chris Maguire heading into out crucial run it, starting at home to Accrington Stanley.

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Jack Ford says...

The problem for me is that Maguire’s form dropped off severely before Ross ultimately dropped him, and he contributed so much to the lack of intensity and direction in attack we’ve suffered from for so long.

Yes he’s a big character, and scored some pivotal early goals, but too often he was guilty of exactly the same things as McGeady, playing little triangles and trying the sublime when a simple cross into the box would be far more effective.

I’m sure he’d love to play in front of the TV cameras, and he is more than capable of scoring a blinder, but for me it’s not going to fix the clear problems we have going forwards. He’s also been nowhere near starting for a while now, and I’m not sure I’d trust him to be fit and firing at this point.

Sterling may well help with the speed and directness of attacks judging from what little we’ve seen of him so far, but it’s a big risk to drop a proven player for him, especially as he’d likely end up in his unfavored position on the wing. Given the importance of these coming games, it might not be time to gamble on youth.

It’s perhaps a big call, but Id love to see us give McGeady a rest and try Morgan and Gooch on the wings with instructions to attack quickly and with intensity, and really focus on making chances for Grigg. Too often this season we’ve had attacks stop dead with wingers trying to cut in and beat full backs instead of making chances and causing problems for defences.

Maybe the best decision would be to keep the starting XI that’s been decidedly lacking. If it is down to a lack of confidence, dropping players and tinkering with the system might actually have a detrimental effect, especially if we’re waiting for the team to gel. Accrington have been in awful form in 2019, so surely this is the best opportunity to finally score that second vital goal in a game.