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Fan Focus: Dons fan Stu is hoping it takes a few games for Alex Neil to get going at Sunderland!

Ahead of Alex Neil’s first match in charge of Sunderland, Matty spoke to AFC Wimbledon fan Stu of The 9yrspodcast to find out how they have been doing in League One this season!

Matthew Crichton: Wimbledon are without a win in 11 League One matches - what are the factors behind your poor run of form?

Stu: There’s probably a few factors!

We seem to have lost a lot of the intensity we started the season with, where our ultra high press was catching our opponents off guard, and we were scoring for fun.

Since then, we’ve lost far too many points from winning positions, and the confidence seems to have dropped. We’ve got such a young squad that a dip seemed inevitable, but hopefully we turn the corner soon.

MC: On the back of that awful run, is there intense pressure on Mark Robinson, and does he still have the support of the fanbase?

S: Robbo’s been involved with the club in a youth capacity for 17 years now, so I think he’s got a lot of credit with most of our fans.

I’m personally still behind him because I can see the direction the club is moving in, but I certainly know I can’t speak for everyone. I’m hopeful we stick with him and that faith is repaid.

MC: From an outsider's perspective, what do you think of the appointment of Alex Neil to replace Lee Johnson as Sunderland manager?

S: Well put it this way, I’d be happier if he wasn’t in the dugout on Saturday.

He’s got experience managing in the Premier League and seemed to have Norwich playing some really good stuff the season that they went up. It seems like a great appointment, I just hope it takes him a few games to get going!

AFC Wimbledon v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Sunderland won 3-0 at Plough Lane last season, with Charlie Wyke scoring a hat-trick.
Photo by Mark Leech/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

MC: Wimbledon brought in Sam Cosgrove on loan from Birmingham, as well as Lee Brown from Portsmouth - do you think the club did enough in January to ensure that you stay up?

S: I really hope so!

Lee Brown has definitely shored up our left-back position, and he’s an older head in what is a really young team.

Cosgrove didn’t seem to win over the Shrewsbury fans when he was on loan there earlier this year, but he seems to have fit in well with the team, and if he can rediscover the form he had at Aberdeen then I think he’ll help us win some games.

MC: In terms of outgoings, striker Ollie Palmer dropped two divisions to join ex-Sunderland manager Phil Parkinson at Wrexham. How did your fanbase react to that?

S: It was a mixed bag.

We’re so used to losing our top players for free over the years, that getting (what for us was) a massive fee, I think that was a bit of a welcome change.

Saying that, we did seem to play a lot better with him in our XI, so there were some reservations about whether we’d just sold our chance at staying in League One. Hopefully Sam [Cosgrove] can take his place with similar success.

MC: Sunderland were linked with Wimbledon top scorer Jack Rudoni in January, were you surprised to keep hold of him, and what makes him such an impressive player?

S: After we sold Palmer, I wasn’t too surprised that we didn’t accept any bids for Rudi.

Saying that, he’s clearly destined for bigger things so we’re making the most of him while he’s still one of ours!

He’s brilliant to watch coming off the left or right of our attacking four, is confident on the ball and gets himself in positions where he probably should’ve scored even more than he has.

Anything less than a seven-figure fee for him is going to be a disappointment!

AFC Wimbledon v Ipswich Town - Sky Bet League One
Jack Rudoni is Wimbledon’s top scorer with seven League One goals this season.
Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images

MC: Aside from the above-mentioned players, who should Sunderland be wary of during the match?

S: Ayoub Assal. He only made his EFL debut in March last year, but has been a real spark for us in attack.

He’s been with our academy since U12 level, and having signed a long-term contract, he’s hopefully here for a fair while still!

In midfield, keep an eye out for George Marsh who we signed from Spurs in the summer - he took a while to cement a place in the starting XI, but he’s really proving his worth to the team now.

MC: Which eleven players do you think Robinson will select and what style of play can Sunderland expect to encounter?

S: Our most popular formation this season has been a 4231 which will probably be something like: Tzanev (GK) Osew, Heneghan, Kalambayi, Brown, Marsh, Hartigan, Rudoni, McCormick, Assal, Cosgrove.

MC: Sunderland beat Wimbledon 1-0 earlier this season, what is your prediction for the final score?

S: Heart says we steal a much (much!) needed win by a single goal, but my head is saying 0-2 to Sunderland.


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