Has the weight been lifted from Tuesday’s win?
No, not for me. I think that I’ve been quite consistent through some of the hysteria, because that’s what it is at times.
Whereas, the reality was, we’ve had a decent season all along. We were going through periods where we were frustrated. Not just by the draws, but the manor of the results. A couple of them came with us conceding late equalisers and a couple where we felt as if we’d played well and should have won the game.
More satisfaction for the players getting their rewards for their performance the other night, rather than feeling any sort of relief.
Has the atmosphere changed within the group from the win?
Not amongst the group. The players have been, to their credit, they’ve remained consistent in their approach to training. Their mood has been good, it’s been positive.
The initial feeling after these games is that the frustration is evident and tangible within the changing room, but it subsides. We’ve been fairly level headed through the whole season and you have to be like that because likewise when you’re in a run of winning games it’s important not to get too carried away with that.
Like everything, when you win games, it does help. It sounds very obvious to say it, but it always helps, and it makes your job easier, to a degree.
On Maguire’s injury...
Chris has a fractured fibula, so he’ll be out for probably between 6 and 8 weeks. Hopefully towards the 6-week period of that.
He has another appointment next week just to confirm that he doesn’t need any surgery, but we don’t think that will be the case.
It’s a blow for us, a blow for him first and foremost, but a blow for us as well because he’s been important for us over the course of the season in terms of goals and assists. Over the last game and a bit, he had looked as if he was back at those levels that had made us so productive earlier in the season.
So, it’s another thing for us to deal with, but it’s just what happens through the course of a season.
How has he taken it?
He’s frustrated because how Chris is, he just wants to play all of the time anyway, it’s just how he is as a guy. So, he knows he’s going to be out and not be able to do much for 4 to 6 weeks anyway.
Obviously, he wants to contribute on the park. Through the last two or three weeks where he hasn’t been involved, he obviously wants to play a part in things.
He knows what lies ahead of us at the moment. We’ve got an exciting end to the season in two competitions and at the end of the season it could be really enjoyable.
So, he’s already setting targets for when he thinks he could be back and when he thinks he could be back involved. He’s OK just now, he’s still upbeat just now and we’ll give him some time off which will help him in terms of clearing his head.
It just goes with football. It’s an unfortunate thing for us and I’d prefer not to have it, but I can’t do anything about it now. We’ve just got to find a solution to winning games in the meantime and then hopefully have him back before the end of the season.
On Bristol Rovers...
I think when Graham was in charge on a temporary basis, he had a reaction from the players, and we saw that when they came and played at the Stadium of Light in how difficult they made the game for us.
Their recent form has been good and probably similar to quite a lot of the games we’ve had recently, where on paper people have the wrong idea that it’s a straight forward game because of league position. The reality is, not only are these teams, as you mentioned, fighting to stay in the league, but a lot of them are actually in good form.
Bristol Rovers are another team that we saw during the week against Portsmouth, the form they’re in and the results they’ve achieved.
Any game away from home this season for us has been challenging, so it will be the same again on Saturday. It’s about for us, trying to maintain large parts of the performance level from the last few games.
Does playing them twice in a short space of time change anything?
It’s not perfect. I’m glad that we have the game in between. Although we’re playing them in two of the next three fixtures, I think having the game in between helps.
We saw this season that we had Walsall Saturday, Saturday at the time and it’s not great going and playing the same team in two consecutive games.
So, I think having the game in between will help to a degree. Having that little bit of freshness and the fact that there’ll be so much at stake in the second game as well will help that.
On your experience at St Mirren helping you here...
I suppose the bulk of a managerial career is either avoiding relegation or trying to achieve promotion, I’ve never really had any spells in between. So, that’s good in one way because I’ve pretty much dealt with constant pressure.
I’ve spoken about the fact that when you’re Sunderland manager, you live with pressure every day anyway.
I do think that it’s probably just a consistency in behaviour. During any period when you come under pressure to either achieve or avoid failure, you’ve got to maintain a pretty consistent approach to ensure that you shield your players from going too high or too low.
Undoubtably between now and the end of the season, we’re going to have some high points and we may have a couple of low points as well. So, it’s important that the emotions they feel, they’re going to feel them, but its important that we bring them back to that middle ground as quickly as we can.
I would say probably the benefit of managing in general helps you during what we’re going to face in the next few months.
On focusing on the league game against Bristol Rovers...
When it comes around it will be an important game for us, but because of the significance of each and every league at the moment, it’s not something that we’ve really given much consideration to, or any consideration to at all. We will do when it comes around.
Even the Plymouth game isn’t given any consideration at the moment. It’s all about the challenge that we’ll face away from home on Saturday.
On every team having something to fight for...
I think it’s an important point to recognise. I probably looked at it a couple of weeks ago and felt the same, I felt that was the way the league was looking like it was going to pan out.
Naturally, as we edge towards a conclusion, there’ll be more teams within that bracket, if you like.
Certainly, at the moment, there’s very few teams as things stand that have little or nothing to play for. That just increases the demands of every fixture. It increases the challenge for us, but as you mentioned, it will increase the challenges for each and every other team that’s trying to achieve promotion as well.
On McGeady letting Grigg take one of the penalties...
Psychologically, it’s always important for strikers to score their first goal for a club. What Will has had to face here is a lot of attention and a lot of responsibility placed upon his shoulders.
We lose our top scorer in January and we recruit one that we feel can score goals for us regularly, and he will.
I think it was good for him to do it. In the circumstances of it coming around, I wouldn’t have predicted it. When we got the penalty, I wouldn’t have predicted that he would have been given the responsibility to score.
Pleasing for him. It removes that stigma around him not scoring, in what was only 3 games, wasn’t it? Such as the nature of football in the North East, that can feel a lot longer.
On this week being a ‘glass half full’ week...
You don’t get many of them, do you? Every week is a ‘glass half full’ week for me.
It’s been interesting and I pointed out after the game and you can always point these things out after a win because you come from a position of strength and it can change again very quickly, but the reality is we’ve only lost 2 games, we’ve scored in every league game, we’re 3rd in the table, an opportunity to achieve promotion automatically or any other way, we’re in the semi-final of a cup, there’s a lot of good things about this season so far.
It’s just when you’re involved at Sunderland, you must win every week. When you win, it’s always going to be half full and if you don’t, then obviously it goes the other way. It’s fine, I don’t mind it, I’ve got used to it very quickly.