Sunderland face Peterborough United on Saturday at the Stadium of Light in their third match of the 2020/21 League One season. Phil Parkinson’s men sit fifth in table following an impressive 2-0 away win against Oxford at the weekend, courtesy of goals from Luke O’Nien and Lynden Gooch.
In contrast, Darren Ferguson’s team sit 15th in the table after a mixed start to the campaign. Posh were surprisingly defeated 2-0 by Accrington on the opening day of the season, but then beat Joey Barton’s Fleetwood 2-1, with two goals in the dying minutes.
Ahead of the match, I spoke to Peterborough fan Jarred Farmer of The Yellow Block Podcast to find out his club’s aspirations for the season, and what Sunderland can expect to face during the match.
MC: Wycombe won promotion to the Championship after replacing Peterborough in the play-offs due to the points-per-game system. Do you think that sense of injustice will provide the club with extra motivation to achieve promotion this year?
JF: Absolutely, and so it should! We were flying at the back end of last season, but that’s done now, it’s time to build again. Having had co-owners Darragh MacAnthony and Dr Jason Neale on our podcast in recent months, I know for sure it’s lit the fire in regards to this season.
MC: Peterborough started the season with disappointing defeats to Accrington and to Cheltenham in the Carabao Cup, however, the club scored two late goals to beat Fleetwood on Saturday. How do you assess your start to the campaign?
JF: We’ve not played well yet. We managed the game on Saturday very well as once again, Joey Barton instructed his side to deploy his dirty tactics along with acting up to the referee as soon as we made any sort of challenge, so I was impressed that we managed to salvage three points out of what was ultimately a below-par performance.
MC: Posh manager Darren Ferguson is currently in his third spell with the club where he has already achieved three promotions, do you think he will keep his job if he does not deliver promotion this season?
JF: If he wants it yes. I know the owners are all huge fans of Darren Ferguson. Fergie can’t have any complaints this season in regards to recruitment, as we’ve spent over £2 million comfortably. All the success we’ve had in the last 10-15 years has been under Darren Ferguson. That’s no coincidence in my opinion.
MC: Posh sold top scorer Ivan Toney to Brentford and replaced him with Jonson Clarke-Harris from Bristol Rovers. As fans do become frustrated with the club’s policy to actively sell your best players for profit, or do you trust them to adequately replace them?
JF: It previously frustrated me, however, it’s a blueprint that is proven as it has worked magnificently over the years. Let’s not forget we get crowds of six to eight thousand at home, so to improve off the field as well as build squads that compete at the top end of the table we must sell our best assets when the time is right.
I trust the recruitment team at Posh; they replenish the team over and over again with new players who go on to be sold for millions of pounds. Having said that, time will tell with Clarke-Harris, I’m not expecting a like-for-like replacement as Toney was a cheat code at this level.
MC: In addition to Clarke-Harris, Posh signed attacking midfielder Sammie Szmodics from Bristol City. Do you think he is the calibre of signing that can propel the club to the Championship?
JF: Absolutely, that signing is one I’m very impressed with. Szmodics wanted to play Championship football, and he was on a heavy contract at Ashton Gate. For the club to sign him permanently on a four-year-contract is fabulous business and a real statement of intent.
MC: We could not discuss Sunderland and Peterborough without mentioning Marcus Maddison, are you surprised that he is still yet to find a new club?
JF: I’m surprised a player of his ability hasn’t been signed by anyone. Having said that, am I surprised Marcus Maddison hasn’t been snapped up with the reported baggage that comes with him? No, not really.
On his day, as you Sunderland fans have seen, he is unstoppable. He’s a superb player at this level. However, his attitude off the pitch and negative presence in the dressing room is a problem. He spent pre-season with Peterborough Sports - a non-league outfit in the city. The way he dealt with his exit from Posh towards our owners was nothing short of a disgrace. I know the Sunderland move is one he would jump at.
MC: Peterborough were the top scorers in League One last season with 68 goals in 35 games. What is it about your style of play that makes the team so deadly going forward?
JF: We’re loaded with attacking players, Szmodics, Clarke-Harris, Eisa and my one to watch for Saturday, Siriki Dembele. He’ll give your defence problems, his low centre of gravity and Velcro boots help us create so much. He’s a huge part of the stat you mention above. Unfortunately, he’s been out of action due to COVID-19, but he’s expected to return to the line up on Saturday.
MC: Who are the eleven Peterborough players you believe Darren Ferguson will select?
JF: I believe we’ll stick with the 3-5-2 formation, deploying wing backs as well as Szmodics in the 10 role. GK: Pym, RWB: Broom, RCB: Thompson, CB: Beevers (C), LCB: Kent, LWB: Butler, CM: Taylor, CM: Brown, AMC: Szmodics, CF: Clarke-Harris, CF: Dembele.
MC: Peterborough won 3-0 the last time the two clubs met, with Sunderland finishing the match with nine men, what is your honest prediction of the final score?
JF: I predict Sunderland to do well this season so it’ll be a tough game, I’m going with a 2-2 draw. I’d like to wish you all the best for the season and I hope your ownership issues get sorted as soon as possible!