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Sunderland v Wigan Athletic - Sky Bet League One

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Play the Sunderland way

“It’s a different sort of test this afternoon, but if we play our own game we can emerge victoriously”, says Jack Shields.

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Is it just me or is everyone really looking forward to Sunderland matches now?

One refreshing aspect of this season’s performances so far has been the attacking impetus we have shown in each match.

Even in defeat at Burton, we played at such an intensity and with such fluidity, we created chances for fun and were perhaps unfortunate to lose the game.

I think a major part of the early enthusiasm for the new season has been watching the exciting style of play develop. Regardless of who the opposition is, we’ve been able to play our own game and done very well.

On the horizon next is a ‘football’ match against Wycombe Wanderers.

You will notice the inverted commas, that is not a grammatical error. I have done that deliberately.

At the risk of sounding like an arrogant, big-for-my boots Mackem - I never enjoy matches against Wycombe. There is no rule to say that a team has to play attractive football, nor should Wycombe have any obligation to make the game easy for us. Part of other team’s criticism of us is that we demand to win every game and we show a lack of class with our opinions of other teams.

But Wycombe are perhaps the most physical, cynical, difficult team to play against in League One. In every game we play it seems to be more of a battle than a sporting contest. They will bully us, try and intimidate us and slow the game down at every opportunity.

Wycombe Wanderers v Sunderland - Sky Bet League 1
The game at Adams Park in 2019 deteriorated into an all-in brawl
Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

We must not get drawn into a fight. This is football. Not boxing. Not UFC. Football.

If they foul - we must not react. The most obvious thing to do to stop a quick, expressive team is to foul them. I pray the referee has enough bottle to book the Wycombe players if they chop down our lads. Too many seem to think a quiet word is the only option. The number of referees that give players a ‘final warning’ and then allow them to make regular fouls is a personal bugbear of mine.

The tempo has to be quick. Do not let them bog us down and slow up our play. A slow game that relies on set pieces and long balls will not only interrupt our rhythm but will also favour the opposition.

Keep the ball on the ground. We can go long to Ross Stewart on occasion but I feel like our best chance is to get the likes of Dan Neil, Alex Pritchard and others on the ball and give ourselves the best chance to create.

Maintain a good attacking flow to the game. Of course, Wycombe will have chances and we will have to defend. I’m not saying we will dominate from start to finish but we have to try and attack at every opportunity.

The SOL crowd will have to make plenty of noise. If you are there tomorrow, let's get behind the lads. 30,000 can sound like 50,000 if we stick with the team and keep the intensity in the crowd.

Play the Sunderland way and go get them three points.

Ha’way the lads.

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