For most of last season it was a hot topic amongst supporters regarding the captaincy of the club and whether not the decision made by Jack Ross to hand the armband to relative novice George Honeyman was the right one or not.
It’s fair to say not everyone was a huge fan of George, and many fans were concerned that he seemed undroppable due to Ross handing him the armband at the start of the season.
However, Jack Ross looked to have changed his ways at the start of this season by making Grant Leadbitter ‘club captain’ after the sale of Honeyman to Hull City.
Leadbitter, despite being fit, didn’t play any minutes during the opening two games of the season, perhaps showing that Ross was content with keeping his captain out of the side, and wouldn’t be drawn into playing him just because he was handed the captaincy.
When Leadbitter did come into the starting eleven against Accrington, Portsmouth and Rochdale he performed fairly well, commanding his players and doing the jobs that you expect that a captain should.
For me though, after the performances of Dobson and McGeouch at Burnley I was shocked that neither of them made it into the team that played against Peterborough last Saturday afternoon, a game where we arguably needed more energy in midfield to counteract the sheer pace and power that Posh possessed down the spine of their team.
Instead Ross made ‘safe’ selections in Power and Leadbitter, and I think the team suffered as a result of that decision. We were easily overran through the middle - Darren Ferguson’s side played with a diamond in midfield and completely dominated proceedings from start to finish, perhaps highlighting that sometimes taking the safe option when selecting your team - or, in this case, picking the same side that had won the last league game and ignoring the performances of players in the cup - can be detrimental.
It’s maybe a bit too early to tell if Jack Ross has made a ‘rod for his own back’ by making Grant Leadbitter captain. I’d initially say he hasn’t, however he does need to start making selection decisions based on merit, in my opinion.
We spent good money and invested in the talent of George Dobson for a good reason, and his time will come. Similarly, Dylan McGeouch has never let himself down in a Sunderland shirt and whilst he’s primarily a defensive player, he’s perhaps the best we have in that role for not only covering ground, but winning the ball back and getting our attacking unit to move ahead at pace again. And just on the fringes of this conversation is Luke O’Nien, who whilst being our best right back had a really good game at Burnley in midfield, reminding the manager that he can be useful when played in his favoured role.
The way forward could be to possibly try out different combinations of the midfielders from what we have already seen this season in an attempt to find the most suitable partnership - playing Leadbitter and Dobson, for example, or Power and McGeouch together just to mix things up and see if any of these players compliment each other well and, most importantly, can give this team the solid core it needs to not only start keeping clean sheets, but also continue to score goals and get the most from our attackers.
Ultimately, it’s a good thing that we’re even having this debate, because it means that we now have places in the team up for grabs in certain positions and a number of talented players who can fill them which, for me, is always a positive.