Sunderland will play their first home night match of the season tonight, with recently relegated Rotherham United making their first visit to the Stadium of Light in many years.
The lads moved back into the playoff positions following a convincing 3-1 away at Accrington. On the other hand Rotherham have had an inconsistent start to their League One campaign, but the Millers ruthlessly beat strugglers Bolton 6-1. Both sides are favourites for top six positions, making this fixture a real must-win for Jack Ross’ men.
Ahead of the match I spoke to Rotherham fan Will Daniels to discuss how his team have started their season, as well as finding out what we can expect to see from them during the game.
MC: Rotherham smashed their transfer record in the summer with the signing of striker Freddie Ladapo from Plymouth. It is known that Sunderland were interested in the player - do you think he is already starting to repay that £500K price tag?
WD: Ladapo is clearly a gifted individual, and on his day he can bully a defence. He’s quick, strong and good in the air, however has been somewhat inconsistent so far. He has the potential to be one of the leagues top goal scorers if he applies himself.
MC: Although he did score in a Tyne-Wear derby, Billy Jones enjoyed a rather underwhelming tenure at Sunderland. How has he performed whilst at Rotherham and can we expect to see him return from injury on Tuesday?
WD: When we first took Billy at the club, we’d heard Sunderland fans weren’t exactly waxing lyrical about him. Unfortunately, last season seemed to be blighted by injury, and he picked up an knock at the start of the season meaning we’ve not seen a great deal of him. There’s definitely a player in Billy Jones - he’s an experienced head, and it would be ideal to have him back to deputise for our first choice right back Matt Olosunde. That said, Olosunde has had an exceptional start to the season, but we could slot Jones in to his position to allow him to play in a more advanced role.
MC: Sunderland fans have frequently documented that our squad is lacking a strong and tall centre back with a physical presence. How important is your captain Richard Wood to Rotherham’s success on the pitch?
WD: Woody epitomises everything about Rotherham United. He works hard, is extremely strong and an even better human being. He reads the game well and although he may not play every game this season, his experience will be invaluable.
Admittedly, Clark Robertson is our best centre back. He’s started much of the season at left back due to our long term left back Joe Mattock being out with a foot injury. He, and the rest of the Rotherham defence will have to be at their best to prevent three points for the Black Cats.
MC: Rotherham secured the signature of Lynden Gooch’s USA international teammate Matthew Olosunde from Manchester United on a free transfer in the summer. How impressive has he been so far and were you surprised he decided to join the club?
WD: Matt has become a hero at the club in such a short space of time. He’s got his own song relating him to ice cream, so what’s not to like? He’s got a great engine, looks a threat offensively but is equally defensively astute. Definitely a rough diamond for us.
MC: Paul Warne has managed Rotherham since November 2016 - were you surprised that he kept his job despite the club being relegated from the Championship last season?
WD: Of course it was devastating to be relegated from the Championship, but in the end, we were competing against clubs with a budget 20/30 times ours, sometimes more. We were competitive in every game and I feel we can hold our head high. In the end it wasn’t quite enough.
MC: On the topic of your manager, do Rotherham play in a certain style under Warne in which Sunderland can expect to see during the game?
WD: Of course Rotherham are known for their long ball football philosophy, however this season has seen Warne switch to a 4-3-3 formation. It’s a work in progress so it’ll be interesting to benchmark our progress against one of the leagues strongest sides. Expect a high press, pace, strength and tough tackles, and dare I say it, a goal or two in either net.
MC: Rotherham currently sit 13th in the League One table, with poor home form being the root cause of your inconsistent results. What are the main reasons that led to disappointing results against Lincoln, Doncaster and Tranmere?
WD: There was much optimism as we started the season, with many fans anticipating a push for automatic promotion. We’ve been slow to start admittedly, as we settle into a new system. A key area of opportunity for us will be our home form, which was so key to us having a chance last season. Having smashed Bolton on Saturday, confidence will hopefully on a high and we can go into this one with a real belief we can take something from the game.
MC: The last time Rotherham visited the Stadium of Light was all the way back in 2005 with Sunderland winning 4-1, are you expecting many fans will make the trip up to the North East?
WD: Is it really that long?! Madness! It’s disappointing the game is on a midweek evening, it would have been nice to have a few bevvies in the north with a few fans who have been through it over the last few years, and boy, we know how that feels! It’s a new ground for a lot of our newer fans so I fancy we’ll fetch a few and hopefully get behind our lads!
MC: Lastly, Sunderland posses an impressive home record under Jack Ross at the Stadium of Light - what do you think the final score will be?
WD: You guys have started really well and there’s a real quality to some of your play - just see the Gooch goal on Saturday! Given the fact you’ve mentioned that you’re missing a real commanding centre back, I’d fancy Freddie to have a go at the heart of that defence. I think Chris Maguire will come back and haunt us. Fancy a 2-2 draw.
Will Sunderland beat Rotherham tonight?
This poll is closed