I think the break has done me good.
I don’t think there’s any sugarcoating it: the mini-run towards the end of the first half of the season was a slog at times, and the players and manager deserve a bit of credit for getting some decent results in the midst of so many injury problems.
Having had a few weeks away from the Lads, I’m feeling refreshed and reinvigorated about our chances of kicking on, starting with the game on Saturday.
It’s easy to see or hear the name ‘Millwall’ and immediately dismiss them, but their form in the league this season has been very good and they sit sixth in the table.
They’re no mugs and whilst a loss wouldn’t be disastrous, a win when all other teams have another weekend off would put us in a really strong position going into the Christmas period.
We’re only four points behind Millwall, as well, so I guess that probably means we’re doing alright too.
What we’ve learned this season is that anyone can beat anyone in this division, so I’m not expecting a gulf in class. Instead, it’ll just be about who works harder, who wants it more, and who can take advantages of the weaknesses of the opposition. I know that sounds like I’m stating the obvious, but it’s true.
With a stronger squad available, I’m expecting a little bit more of Sunderland over the coming weeks and months and there’s certainly no reason why we can’t win this game.
The only thing I see holding us back is whatever hoodoo is hanging over us at home. Our form at the Stadium of Light is bad and is the biggest thing that Mowbray and the players must address, because they have to be better.
I put the poor form down to a number of things, but the ones within the control of the players are easily fixed if we have the likes of Ross Stewart, Aji Alese and Daniel Ballard available, so I guess that what happens could well hinge on their involvement.
But back to the original question - am I confident? Yes, I always am.
I don’t fear Millwall but I respect them, and we need to see a better Sunderland team than we’ve seen in most games at the Stadium of Light this season if we’re going to get the three points that we desire.
Andrew Smithson says…
I’m usually positive about our prospects these days anyway, but I certainly think we’ve got a good chance in this one.
Millwall are an established Championship side but I don’t think they’ve been that good on the road recently. In contrast, after we signed off with a win at Birmingham City, it seems like we went into the World Cup break on a high.
It will have been a good chance for Tony Mowbray to drum some of his ideas into the squad too, and the number of players returning from injury should add something to the team.
Our home form hasn’t been the best this season, so now would be a good time to turn over a new leaf.
The crowd should be up for it, having gone so long without a match, and I think if we make a decent start we could be onto a winner.
I’m not taking anything for granted, though.
The defeat to Cardiff City reminded us that most sides in the division can win on their day, but when things click we will always have a chance of earning three points.
Malc Dugdale says…
This is a strange one.
Although our form was up and down as we approached the World Cup break, we earned a hard-fought three points away at Birmingham in our last game.
There’s argument that we might’ve been better without the pause for Qatar, especially with the likes of Amad getting better every game, but I’m doubtful that is the case.
We should have a handful of players back for the weekend, although the lack of minutes for Ross Stewart in Dubai suggests he is still working towards enough fitness for at least a place on the bench.
Having Aji Alese, Dennis Cirkin, Lynden Gooch, Trai Hume and Niall Huggins available will give us some depth and the fitness of Ellis Simms should also be improved in comparison to how it was before the winter training camp.
I really hope we get a win. Our home form is very poor and we have to sort that to prevent ourselves from getting sucked into the dogfight.
Hopefully Amad can maintain his level of performance, and maybe we could even see Stewart on the bench.
A win would be great but not losing is more important for me.