MC: As we’ve hit the midway point of the season, Blackburn sit 3rd, five points off the automatic promotion spots - is there belief among fans that you can do it?
Daniel Ainsworth: We’re third in the table, but it’s so hard to judge what this Rovers side actually is given the fact we haven’t drawn.
We were battered in back-to-back local derbies and the belief really went, but then we went down to Norwich last week and picked up a really impressive win at a place we’ve been really poor at previously, so the belief came back.
We’re so inconsistent that one week we look like title winners, and one week we look like relegation fodder.
I’d like to say we know what’s going to happen, but we really don’t!
MC: New manager Jon Dahl Tomasson appears to have stepped the team up a notch from Tony Mowbray last season, what has he changed which has led to improved results?
DA: I often felt Tony Mowbray was too respectful of the opposition and that he wouldn’t change his tactics to stop the opposition if that makes sense.
Tomasson isn’t scared to change the formation during the game and that has helped us take control and shut up shop when we’re ahead.
We still haven’t come from a goal down so there is that to work on for the lads, but the fans feel much more comfortable when leading so it’s finding the balance.
MC: One interesting statistic from this season is that Blackburn failed to draw a single game all season so far, how do you view that as you’re winning often but also very inconsistent?
DA: As I put in the first question, it’s really tough to judge us. We’re so up and down in terms of results that you never know which Rovers side you’re going to be facing.
The draw will come soon, I’m sure about it, but it feels a million miles away at the moment as it’s rarely been close!
MC: During our last meeting, it was a tight affair with both of Blackburn’s goals drawing mass criticism for the officials, how would you rank Sunderland in terms of quality in this league now you’ve faced everyone?
DA: I’d put you in the middle of the pack with a lot of the teams.
Sheffield United and (unfortunately) Burnley appear to be a class above everyone else, and both sides comfortably dispatched us at their home grounds.
Sunderland are streets ahead of the likes of Rotherham, Huddersfield and Hull so there will be no relegation worries.
Middle of the pack is where Tony Mowbray had us and he appears to be doing the same with Sunderland - which would represent a good first season back in the second tier.
MC: Unsurprisingly, Ben Brereton Diaz is the league’s joint-second top scorer with nine goals, are you concerned about losing him in January?
DA: Strangely, no.
For all the downsides you will have heard about our owners, they are stubborn with selling players and will hold out for good money.
The chances are that any interested parties won’t meet the fee, and that we’ll keep him here in the hope that Rovers are promoted and he signs a new deal.
We can live in hope!
MC: Speaking of in-demand strikers, Ross Stewart could start his first match since August, how do you think Blackburn will approach keeping him quiet?
DA: I imagine the task will be given to Dominic Hyam, who is our best centre-back and has really impressed since he signed permanently from Coventry City in the summer,
He’s a really talented defender who has put in a seven out of ten performance in the majority of matches, and he is captain material.
Ross Stewart is a talented forward and I know it’ll take a lot to stop him, but Hyam is capable - I just hope he does it.
MC: Aside from Brereton Diaz, which players have impressed you most this season that Sunderland will have to be wary of?
DA: Sam Gallagher is one to watch, definitely, but not for his goal rate. He’s a forward so maybe you judge a striker off his goal return, but his influence off the ball is what makes him such an asset to this side.
There’s plenty of talent such as John Buckley in the middle. Sunderland fans will know him due to the links by Alan Nixon earlier this month, and he has just made his way back into the side and is expected to start. He’s clever with the ball at his feet and has an excellent passing range.
Bradley Dack was also linked and he still has the talent we all know he had before his two ACL injuries.
MC: Tony Mowbray recently played down talk of Sunderland being interested in Blackburn duo Bradley Dack and John Buckley - do you expect them to stay at your club in January?
DA: When you asked me this for a separate article a few weeks ago, I answered differently from how I am now.
Both players were really out of favour a few weeks ago but Tomasson has reintroduced them since the World Cup break and they’ve both been influential in the side, so I’d expect them to stay.
I guess it was an easy link to make for reporters given Mowbray’s time here.
MC: In terms of tactical approach, how do you think Tomasson will set up at the Stadium of Light and which eleven players will play?
DA: I expect that we’ll go similar to the Norwich game. We play the ball around the back and try and get Brereton Diaz and Gallagher in behind, and we also enjoy playing on the counter.
In terms of predicted eleven, I’m expecting us to line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation: Kaminski, Rankin-Costello, Hyam, Ayala, Pickering, Morton, Buckley, Hedges, Dack, Brereton Diaz, Gallagher.
MC: Famous goals from Seb Larsson and David Vaughan completed a comeback for Sunderland in your last visit to the SoL - what is your score prediction for this time around?
DA: I can’t back us to lose!
I’ll go for 2-1 Rovers, but my head actually says a draw.