It will be interesting to see how we approach this game tactically because Fleetwood are the first team we are due to play this season that are not up near the top of the table.
We struggled to break down sides like that last season, but seem to have more of an edge to us now so I’d love to see the Lads go out and take the game to them; we’ve looked really exciting going forward, and I doubt many teams will be able to handle us when we are in full flow because we have different types of threat across the pitch.
I know Fleetwood’s results have picked up lately, but it seems as if we are full of confidence too so it would be great to get another win and keep that up. We need to keep our feet on the ground of course, but I’ve not felt this positive about our prospects in a good while.
It is hard to judge Simon Grayson’s time here as the mood and culture around the club then was too much for one person to turn round. He must look at some of the recent changes that have taken place at Sunderland and think ‘if only’, but he did bring Aiden McGeady on board and has always been respectful when talking about the club following his departure, so I respect him for that.
I want us to win on Saturday of course, but wouldn’t see it as settling any scores or anything like that.
This might seem really petty and pointless, and it probably is, but I really want us to beat Fleetwood tomorrow. So, so bad. So bad that it leaves Simon Grayson crying on his knees at full time because of the severe, brutal beating his side have taken from us.
It’s not just about him, though - this is a club we’ve never beaten away from home, mainly due to Joey Barton playing on the ‘little Fleetwood, big Sunderland’ angle for years there which led to his team putting in the extra ten or twenty percent that it required to edge past us. So, there is an extra edge there than there usually would be in these games - for me, anyway. Although to be clear, I mean no disrespect to these guys, and I’m certainly not trying to force a rivalry - just, it would be nice to get our first win at Highbury whilst subsequently getting one over on our old boss.
Lee Johnson and his side will be driven to win, but perhaps not for the same reasons. We have to keep winning games if we want to stay top of the league - and now that we’ve finally got there, it’s up to us to stay there for the rest of the season.
So I want to see us rise to the challenge, but also playing with the same freedom that we have all season. I want to see us scoring goals and creating chances at will.
But, I also want to see us tighten up at the back. We’ve not kept enough clean sheets for my liking, and with one enforced change at the back, it’s a chance for whoever comes in to throw their weight around a bit and show the manager why Tom Flanagan SHOULDN’T regain his place in the side once his suspension is over.
Ultimately - and I wrote about this at the start of the week - I want to see Sunderland play like Champions, even at this stage. It’s a great habit to get into, after all.
Kelvin Beattie says...
The Simon Grayson factor is immaterial to me.
He came to us as a coach with a burgeoning reputation. He arguably arrived at one of the worst periods in our history. He failed to revive us. I think better coaches than him tried and failed, so I feel neither ill-disposed or that we owe him anything, in fact apart from games against us, I wish him well.
I would like us to beat Fleetwood with a bit of style and swagger on Saturday, to rid myself of the ghost of my last visit - April 2019 and with the slimmest of hopes of automatic promotion, I packed my crutches into a friends car and trekked across the Pennines to the lesser Highbury. The recent knee surgery was irritating upon departure and absolutely agonising by my return.
In what was a subdued insipid performance which simply deteriorated as the game progressed we surrendered a Lee Cattermole lead, to a Paddy Madden equaliser and then a Ross Wallace assist for the Fleetwood winner in injury time. Joey Barton’s antics on the touchline would have been hard enough to take in a game with nothing to play for, the pain of this defeat cut deep and probably knocked my rehabilitation back weeks!
So if it is possible, a 3-0 win and a real good gallous performance would be extremely exorcising if we can manage it!
Joseph Tulip says...
It’s a testament to the confidence Lee Johnson’s team has injected into the fans so far this season that I see this as a game we should look to win, and should be expecting to win.
Fleetwood have proven to be difficult opponents for us in recent seasons but they no longer have Joey Barton trying to get one over us. Instead, it’s Simon Grayson in the hot seat but I don’t feel any fear about any extra motivation our former manager may have to get a result.
Fleetwood have made a below-average start to the season and are in poor form, and I don’t think we have anything to worry about.
Having said that, Lee Johnson will be determined to ensure there is no complacency from his players, but I don’t see this being an issue with a large squad full of hungry young players, each vying to keep the shirt.
We have a settled side. I wouldn’t change anything although the suspended Tom Flanagan will be replaced by either Bailey Wright or Frederick Alves.
It’s all about momentum and having a settled side has proven to be key in previous promotion seasons. If we take our chances and are two or three goals up with time to spare, by all means, we can make substitutions, but there will be time for rotation in the cup next midweek.
Rich Speight says...
It’s going to be a tough game as always, but there’s nothing to suggest we shouldn’t expect three points in every fixture we play right now.
Fleetwood have lost their last two games, but they almost always make it difficult for opponents at their place.
I hope Johnson chooses “horses for courses” - perhaps looking to play through the middle more than wide, with the limited space on the flanks due to the small pitch, with a combative midfield.
Would two up front work? It would be interesting to see how they deal with Stewart and Broadhead, for example. We know that the practice games last weekend were highly competitive and some of the players who’ve lacked minutes so far this season have make a good case for their inclusion, so I think we might see a surprise or two come 2pm.
Beyond that, I’m not really bothered about getting one over on Simon Grayson, he was the wrong man at the wrong time at the wrong club back in 2016-17, but that was two eras ago and I personally couldn’t care less as long as we keep ourselves at the top of the league.