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Roker Roundup: Sunderland full back explains what it was like to defend against Lionel Messi

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Adam Matthews has explained what it was like when he played out of position and marked Lionel Messi, whilst former Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce has told a story about when Jordan Pickford was at the club.

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Matthews discusses marking Messi

Lionel Messi was the star of the show again last night as Barcelona beat Liverpool 3-0 at the Camp Nou in the Champions League Semi-Final first leg and prior to the game, Sunderland defender Adam Matthews was speaking about what it was like to face the Argentine forward.

Matthews came up against Messi during a Champions League clash between Celtic and the Catalan club, when the Scottish side triumphed 2-1:

I was a bit nervous before the game, I’m not going to lie but we didn’t talk about him all that much. We didn’t do much preparation. If you build a player up too much beforehand, you might freeze with nerves. The manager [Neil Lennon] just told us to give everything and to enjoy it.

When asked what it was like to face Messi, Matthews explained that it was quite weird due to how he floated around the pitch:

It was quite weird, he was on my side some of the time, but he just floated around, going where he wanted. If the ball was nowhere near, he’ll just be walking around. Then seconds later, you would turn around and, ‘Where the hell has he gone?’

You’ve got to stay very close to him, very tight, but not dive in. As a team, you’ve got to be ready to track the runners because he’s so good at finding them with a one-touch pass and those little one-twos. That’s the biggest thing, even more than his dribbling. He’s the best dribbler in the world and the best finisher in the world, but he’s also the best passer. It’s his brain. He knows what he’s going to do even before he gets the ball.

During the game Matthews played at left-back, rather than his usual right-back position, and says that made it easier for him:

I hadn’t played there too much before, and it can be difficult when you’ve got the ball, but you’re not going to get much possession against Barcelona anyway, it’s probably easier for a right-footer to play at left back against Messi.


Egan thought his career was over

Academy product John Egan was promoted to the Premier League with his Sheffield United side but has been looking back at a time when he thought his career was over.

While the Irish defender was at Sunderland, he had a horrific leg break during a loan spell at Bradford City and while he was being stretchered off, he wondered if that was it:

People think being a footballer is all great and that there’s no downs to it but I can assure you it’s a long road.

To be a footballer, you have to be mentally strong.

When I broke my leg, coming off that pitch in Bradford that night, I was in a world of pain but half-thinking, Jesus, is that it?

I kept my belief all the way through my rehabilitation at Sunderland, wrote down by goals and what I wanted to do.

Thankfully I just stuck to the plan and kept trying to get better.

Talking about Sheffield United being promoted, Egan is confident that his team will have a good season:

When we come back, the goal will be to take to the Premier League like we’ve taken to the Championship.

It hasn’t really sunk in yet but even thinking about it there, it’s unbelievable.

When we come back, the goal will be to take to the Premier League like we’ve taken to the Championship.

We can’t be afraid of it and we’ve got to try and attack it.

The Premier League is like a world league now, so no doubt there’s going to be some tough games.

If we keep to our principles though, I think we’ll have a good season.

York City v Sunderland - Pre Season Friendly Photo by Paul Thomas/Getty Images

Allardyce praise for Pickford

Former Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce has been talking about Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea’s recent poor form after a string of mistakes and has praised Jordan Pickford.

Big Sam told Talksport that Pickford has been helped due to the amount of confidence he has, while he believes De Gea should be taken out of the side for a while.

He’s Mr Confidence.

He has so much confidence in his own ability. At such a young age, even when I first met him at Sunderland when I brought him back from Preston, ‘I am going to be the number one goalkeeper at Sunderland’.

He played a couple of games for me and then went on to play more games then went to Everton. If it happens here and there, it’s not a confidence loss. But it’s happening too regularly for De Gea at Manchester United. I think that’s why you have to step in and say ‘you have got to come out for a while’.

Chelsea v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images