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Roker Roundtable: What do you want to see from the friendly today against Gateshead?

Whilst ultimately pre-season games are all about testing your fitness, WE’VE HAD FIVE MONTHS WITHOUT FOOTY MAN! Are we allowed to get excited about it? What do you want to see from Sunderland in today’s match?

Sunderland Training Session Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

What do you want to see from the friendly against Gateshead?


Phil West says...

After such a long gap since our last match, and a summer where all things Sunderland have been turbulent, to say the least, I’m just glad that we’ve got a game of any description to look forward to. The new League One campaign is visible on the horizon, and we’ve got to get up to speed quickly. To that end, I think the Gateshead fixture is a decent place to start. They ought to be up for the game and I’m sure they’ll be keen to turn Sunderland over, which should make for a reasonably feisty affair.

While this match is not a ‘glamour’ game by any stretch of the imagination, it is a good chance for the wider playing squad to stake a claim and to show Phil Parkinson why they should be in his thinking for the first league game of 2020/2021.

In terms of personnel, I would expect the likes of Will Grigg to be involved, as well as players such as Jack Diamond, Conor McLaughlin, and Anthony Patterson. Our squad as it looks right now is extremely shallow, and I’m sure Parkinson will be keen to utilise as many of the players at his disposal as possible. You get the sense that everyone has a blank slate and a new opportunity to stake a claim. Some deserve that, others, in my opinion, don’t, but that’s for another day.

He should also use the Gateshead game as a chance to experiment with the formation, to perhaps ditch the 3-5-2 and switch to a 4-4-2 or a slightly more fluid 4-3-3. We must develop a ‘plan B’ this season, after teams began to work us out towards the end of the curtailed 2019/2020 campaign, and we will have to be able to adapt as and when it is needed in order to ensure that we don’t repeat the same mistakes that led to sub-standard results last time around. Time is short, and there’ll be precious little breathing room once the season begins. Every friendly game, starting with Gateshead, must be used wisely.

Sunderland v Heerenveen Pre-Season Friendly
Connor McLaughlin
Photo by Iam Burn/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Jack Howe-Gingell says...

I think some of the interesting things for me is what tactical approach Parkinson will go for, where O’Brien will fit in and if Grigg has turned a corner.

Tactically, Parkinson might take the chance to try a few systems out. He favoured the 3 centre halves with wing backs, but other systems could be available with the addition of Aiden O’Brien.

Speaking of O’Brien, it will be interesting to see how he is deployed. He has played a lot of games in a wider role for Millwall, but their supporters feel he should have been used centrally, and was their most natural finisher. Hopefully, he will live up to the billing from his former supporters.

Moving on to Grigg - he has reportedly been stepping up in training and has moved to the area permanently. Will he finally show us the prolific striker he is meant to be? Will Parkinson try to use him more prominently? We may get answers from this one.

All in all, it’ll be nice to just see the lads back in action but I’m hoping we give it some oomph, and we can see where we’re at. Would be excellent to also see the likes of Diamond and Embleton involved, which could be the dawning of something new for the team.

Sunderland Unveil New Signing Aiden O’Brien
Aiden O’Brien
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Malcolm Dugdale says...

I largely agree with Phil’s comments.

We need to confirm at least 2 effective playing styles and strategies/formations, and test as many options in those layouts as we can. We haven’t had a flood of new blood, but we have a larger squad than many so let’s see what options we have. Parky was way too one dimensional at times last season, and in my view he has no excuses this time if he fails to have a plan B and C for each opponent, even when they change tack on us we need answers ready.

I agree that Diamond, Embleton and Patterson need minutes, as well as Scowen and Wright who will want to cement their places in the side. We cannot expect the less involved players (young or old/new) to drop in and just work, they need to learn how the players around them play and move, what they prefer and what they can bring to add to that.

Ideally I’d like to see Patterson in goal and him us get a clean sheet with a few variations of defence in front of him. We know Burge well, he has little to prove but if he gets injured and we sign no other experienced keepers, Patterson needs to be ready to slot into what Parky will hopefully make a solid rear guard. Willis and Wright need to be our brick wall, but they had 5-6 games last season, so again let’s try other options and blends.

Up front we need goals, as goals breed confidence and I really want to see us out of the traps fast for once. I honestly don’t care who gets them, ideally several players from midfield/up front, with O’Brien as an attacking wide man/new striker and maybe Grigg with a new spring in his step. Hopefully they can show some promising signs, Millwall were seemingly sad to see O’Brien go. Be interesting to see who is skipper too... maybe they will give it to Grigg to show they are vested in his success? If not him I’d give it to Willis, as if Burge is our main stopper, an ex Coventry connection at the back may help too.

Not sure if I will get to see anything of the match, but Haway lads, let’s give it a bloody good go from here on eh?!

Oxford United v Sunderland AFC - Carabao Cup Round of 16
Will Grigg
Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images

Jimmy Lowson says...

Young players acting like they belong. As the lads touched on, our squad is threadbare and with the salary cap we’re highly restricted in terms of how many more first teamers we can actually bring in.

Jack Diamond is the big one. He played well in the National League play-offs, which is huge. Being the man of the match in the biggest game of your career and getting on the scoresheet is super impressive, even if it came two levels below League One. Also, we currently lack obvious alternatives to Lynden Gooch and Chris Maguire, meaning Diamond has a credible claim to be an impact sub for us this year, depending on how he gets on in preseason.

We’ll hopefully address our depth issues at centre back before the season starts, but if we play three at the back there’s a strong chance, we will need Brandon Taylor over the course of the season. Taylor looked decent technically, but too lightweight for League One in his fleeting first team opportunities in cup matches last season. So, I’m highly intrigued as to how he will look physically against a National League team.

I echo the lads’ curiosity about which position O’Brien plays in and whether Parkinson sticks with three at the back. Beyond that what I’m really hoping for is that Sunderland look like a fit, competent football team that can win well against non-league opposition.

The off the field malaise that hasn’t been addressed this summer has left me really gutted when I’ve been reminded about my football team throughout lockdown. A good performance and a good result could be the perfect distraction, from the supposed progress of the club’s sale, and lack of leadership at executive levels that still plague us.

Sunderland v Carlisle United - Checkatrade Trophy
Jack Diamond
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images