RR - So, reflecting on the game, were you happy with the performance, and the result?
Gavin: I’m happy with the result. Accrington came for a point which was obvious, and they only really seemed bothered when they were behind in the game. I thought we bossed the game completely. I’m still very impressed with the young lad Doyle and the partnership he is developing with Flanagan.
There are no real negatives to speak of; the keeper seemed suspect coming for crosses, and if I was being hypercritical, I think Gooch needs to stop running down blind alleys, but other than that it was a very good performance. Refereeing (as is normal for League One) was abysmal, and this ref seemed unsure of the rules at times.
RR: Who was your man of the match? Who do you think has the most pressure on his SAFC place, given the performance?
Gavin: I thought Embleton had a very solid game, but I’m not sure anyone really stood out to be a clear choice. Stewart held the line very well, Winchester had another solid game as did the central defenders, if you pushed me though, I’d give it to Dan Neil. He took his goal well and really didn’t put a foot wrong that I can remember. That said, I think Gooch and McGeady should be most worried about their places (for completely different reasons). There is not enough production coming from wide areas at the moment, and with the young German lad signing, it could get tasty for wing roles.
RR: How was your experience being back in Sunderland, both in the build-up, and at the stadium?
Gavin: It was a good weekend all round. The atmosphere was electric in the stadium and as I was sat there watching the game, I just had a huge grin from ear to ear for the full 90 minutes. Being able to keep up with the matches by watching on tv back in the USA is nice, but it really doesn’t compare. The noise in the south west corner was great (even if the lads banging the corrugated metal are annoying!).
RR: We’ve got a lot of younger players in the team. Who from the youth crop impressed you most?
Gavin: Dan Neil took his goal well as I said, and I think Cirkin has some great promise but isn’t helped by McGeady’s inability to track back. I still cannot for the life of me understand how Embleton couldn’t break the first team last season because he has been fantastic this season.
RR : What did you think of the strategy/tactics employed by Johnson, including our use of the bench? Could we have got more from those?
Gavin: I’ve been impressed with Johnson and like the style of play that we employ. I do think we get caught ball watching too often and that has cost us in matches so far. I’m not a big fan of bringing on a central defender to close out the game, but as long as we are winning Johnson can do whatever he wants.
RR: What did you think of the new goalie?
Gavin: He is a work in action, I think. He seemed suspect coming for crosses, but once he and the defenders in front of him are all on the same page I think he will work out for us.
RR: What about Accrington - what do you think of them?
Gavin: Being second place in the league flattered them, and I was disappointed that they never really came to play. They did nothing but moan and dive, and if I didn’t know better I’d have said Robbie Savage was their manager. They posed little threat throughout the game, and got lucky on their goal. I don’t see them hanging around the promotion hunt through the season.
RR: What do you think of our chances of automatic promotion at the end of the season?
Gavin: That is a loaded question in itself; everything is in place to win the league, but whether the players can do it is to be seen. We’ve had a great start to the season with wins against Accrington, Wigan and Wycombe but for me I get more worried against the MK Dons, Burton and Plymouth Argyle type teams where in recent years we just haven’t performed.
For now though, this side is playing with confidence and I think it has enough to get promoted automatically, maybe even as champions (although I’d like to see a striker come in in January).
RR : Any other thoughts you’d like to share before you head off back to Virginia?
Gavin: So far I have had a cracking time being home. Sunderland obliged with a win, Cristiano Ronaldo sunk the Mags, so now it’s off for a few beers to see where the next few days takes me, before my flight home on Wednesday morning.