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Sunderland v Wigan Athletic - Sky Bet League One

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Roker Roundtable: Are Sunderland taking the right approach by going ahead with tomorrow’s game?

Covid and injuries may have given some clubs cause to postpone games, but Kristjaan Speakman has announced that the Lads will play on and recalled our loanees as cover. Is it the right move?

Photo by Will Matthews/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Rich Speight says...

It’s a brave approach, it shows a commitment to maintaining the good form we have and not allowing those players who are fit and well to “go rusty” in the way that Sheffield Wednesday evidently had during their covid-19 induced break before we faced them.

It also shows a determination to be a different type of club; one that shows resilience and does things differently from the more cynical outfits in the region - putting the interests of the fans and of the competition overall at the centre of decision making.

There’s also clearly a calculated risk involved in this move, we do go in depleted but still pretty strong having not played in a little while and we avoid the kind of end-of-season fixture congestion that has been our downfall over the last few years.

It’s a fantastic opportunity for everyone to see how far Diamond, Patterson, and Hawkes have progressed in their time away from the club and for them to make a case for being retained beyond this emergency period.

All that said, if we get beat I’m absolutely sure that the usual suspects will be bleating about how this is all somehow down to Madrox’s malevolent influence on the club, so I guess we’d better blooming-well win now as the last thing we need is another meltdown on the socials!

Tranmere Rovers v Colchester United - Sky Bet League Two - Prenton Park
Josh Hawkes has been doing well for Tranmere Rovers
Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images

Malc Dugdale says...

It’s hard to make a call on this when the club are being understandably careful about saying who is and isn’t available. It’s sensitive information, both in terms of being personal data and in that it can potentially fuel alternate strategies to be used against us in upcoming games, based on who can/cannot play.

On the plus side, we certainly don’t want to create ourselves a fixture backlog unless we have to. Additionally, while we are playing well with confidence and creativity, we should try to carry on, and keep up the momentum we have built.

Looking from the glass half empty side, if we have a number of the core of the team who have helped enable this great run who are unwell, and if we have any doubts about our ability to maintain results and the positive trends, we could be foolish in our good intentions to press on.

Other teams across the leagues are clearly looking at using this situation for strategic benefit, in terms of getting physically injured players back while Covid passes by. While this is far from pure or honourable, getting promoted is more important than anything, including appearing to be the “do-gooders”.

If we play with a botched team and beat Wycombe this will be a moot point, but if we gamble and lose, the decision-makers behind this will get some serious scrutiny to answer.

Let’s just batter Wycombe and follow the Covid rules, and hopefully, we can get past this with minimal distractions.

Sunderland v Wycombe Wanderers - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Mark Carrick says...

The club have certainly turned a corner since the summer. The change in ownership has clearly signalled a new, professional intent.

We first saw this is recruitment policies, both for players on the field and in the club infrastructure. We saw this recently through both the acquisition of a highly-rated teenage full back and the filling of two key backroom roles. Now, here we are, talking about taking a thoroughly professional and respectful approach to fulfilling our league commitments.

Yes, it would be easy to cry off with the Covid situation now engulfing the club, but there is a confidence in the depth of the squad assembled at the club that seeks to take the competition seriously. This is a vote of confidence in the players and the process that Speakman and Johnson have in place. We can call on players in form and performing well, whilst recalling the likes of Patterson, Hawkes, and Diamond, whom we clearly have faith in.

We are facing a promotion rival, one of a style that could easily have put us off and taken the easy route of postponement, but the club has taken the right decision, win or lose, to play this game. It shows respect for the competition, for the fans, and for the players who now represent this great club of ours.

Blackpool v Sunderland - Carabao Cup Second Round
Anthony Patterson is back to cover in between the sticks
Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

Michael Dunne says...

Definitely. It displays the faith that the club have in its young players to bring them back for an enormous game like this. Jack Diamond and Anthony Patterson in particular, have already shown themselves to be very capable at this level last season and this. I certainly would have no qualms about throwing them straight into the starting lineup.

The other point which is important to say is that in the past, having a number of games in hand has never suited Sunderland in their quest to get out of League 1. We already have a couple in hand as it is and I think it is wise to play this game and try to continue our impressive run and momentum.

Despite the couple of absentees that the lads will have, I would still be very confident in the team to pick up a result tomorrow and have full faith in the loan returnees to give it their best shot

Harrogate v Sunderland - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Andrew Smithson says...

I can see this being one of those things were if we lose against Wycombe Wanderers suddenly a load of people become either revisionist or a massive fan of Hindsight United, but I’ve got to say this strikes me as the right move. It is a bold one admittedly, but it sends out a strong message and hopefully points to a positive approach within the club going forward. Our squad depth is regularly heralded after all, and now is the time to put it to good use.

I must say I’m impressed too with how this has been communicated - Kristjaan Speakman has made our stance clear and has done so in good time both for fans travelling to the game and for those preparing to be involved. Some of the quotes coming from elsewhere throughout all of this have been wishy-washy, self-serving pity trips, and having been highly dubious about whether other sides are just using Covid as an excuse I’m chuffed that isn't the case with Sunderland.

Obviously, we don't know yet what the starting XI will look like, but if the three returning loanees are to be involved at least we know they are match fit and from what I have been reading, will be full of confidence. We have no idea either what will happen down the line after today’s game but going forward, and assuming all things are equal and that human welfare remains the priority, I hope we continue playing matches in their original slots where possible. We have seen before that games in hand can actually be a hindrance, and rather than go through a stop-start period and end up having to cram games into the final weeks I think our best option is to follow the natural rhythm of the season.

A part of me is frustrated that still, after nearly two years of covid, the football authorities have not yet put together a well thought out and effective set of protocols to help manage this situation. Admittedly, I wouldn't like to be in the position of having to make some of these decisions and I do accept the fact it is made harder due to the landscape changing so often, but it is pretty clear that the current system is open to abuse and confusion and that teams are having to make calls without being given the full picture.

As for SAFC, the club have received pelters for postponing games in the past, so hopefully, the majority understand why this decision has been made and get on board with it. Better still, we win this afternoon and it doesn’t matter anyway...

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