Saturday 29th Jan 2022
(3rd) Sunderland v Doncaster Rovers (24th)
Sky Bet League One, Stadium of Light (3pm K/O)
Tickets & Match Coverage
Tickets: Tickets are available from https://www.eticketing.co.uk/safc/
TV/Stream: Full live match coverage available via www.safc.com to residents outside the UK and Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man only.
Radio: Full live match commentary available via BBC Radio Newcastle (not online)
Supporting this club is never boring. Yes, occasionally it’s frustrating, annoying, saddening, maddening, irritating, piss-taking... but boring? Never.
In the last seven days alone it’s been absolutely mental, and despite coming off the back of a 6-0 away drubbing at Bolton with no manager after Lee Johnson was given the heave-ho as a result, it looks like we’re set for our biggest crowd of the season.
Fans will be piling into the Stadium of Light hoping to see the return of a certain Jermain Defoe, who re-signed for the club on Deadline Day to recapture the hearts and minds of the many thousands of fans who enjoyed watching him play during his first spell at the club.
Really, the occasion is all set up to be a memorable one - though, given it’s Sunderland, it wouldn’t surprise you if we totally shit the bed... but I’m going to try not to be negative, and instead focus on how positive everyone feels at the minute.
This afternoon’s opponents currently occupy the bottom spot in the table, losing last time out against Rotherham by five goals to nil. Prior to that, they were dusted 3-1 by Plymouth - though, they did take a canny scalp in fourth-placed MK Dons when they won 1-0 at Stadium:MK a fortnight ago.
It’s only been just over a month since we last faced one another - a 3-0 win for the Lads at the Keepmoat Stadium - and if I’m being honest, I reckon Doncaster are probably the worst team we’ve faced to date in this league.
Yes, I know we’ve scored more against other teams, but the way in which Sunderland stroked the ball around without having to get out of first gear was criminal - Doncaster simply didn’t want to know, and their lack of application was pathetic.
That said, since that game they’ve improved their own squad, and interestingly it's one of our own, Ollie Younger, who will be hoping to cause an upset this afternoon.
The former Burnley defender left Sunderland on a permanent basis during the January transfer window and is already impressing for his new side, picking up a man of the match award for his performance on his debut in that victory over MK Dons.
They’ve also brought in the permanent signings of pacey forward Kieran Agard from Plymouth, experienced midfielder Adam Clayton (formerly of the Boro mutants) and perhaps most intriguingly, Lyon centre forward Reo Griffiths, who joined up on deadline day to bolster their attacking options.
In terms of loan signings, they’ve added Norwich winger Josh Martin, West Ham forward Mipo Odubeko and Huddersfield’s Ben Jackson, so whilst Sunderland are still expected to pick up a win, it’s fair to say that this is a very different looking Doncaster side to the one we dusted at the end of last year - and it’s important we don’t underestimate them.
We’ve signed a number of new players of our own though, and whilst fans got a glimpse of Patrick Roberts and Jack Clarke last weekend, their first taste of home action at the Stadium of Light offers a proper opportunity for the Lads to impress a bumper crowd and show them what they can do with the ball at their feet.
Similarly, Jay Matete arrived from Fleetwood on Deadline Day, and given he’s starting games regularly at this level and blowing people away with his ability, you’d think he’s a shoo-in to start and add some much-needed brute force to a midfield that’s sorely lacking it.
It’s a fresh start for Sunderland after the Lee Johnson era has ended, and hopefully the blend of that with the energy of the fans in attendance and the injection of new faces in the team will give Sunderland’s season the rocket up the backside that it needs to get back on track.
And I haven’t even mentioned the potential new manager... wouldn’t it be nice if he was in the crowd to take in the game and get a feel for it all again?
It could be a special day. Let’s just pray that it is.
The Gaffer Says...
Temporary manager Mike Dodds spoke to SAFC.com ahead of the game, and confirmed that the two men signed on deadline day will be in today’s squad.
Both will be in the squad this weekend.
Jay oozes quality and class and he will give us a different dimension in midfield, so he is a fantastic addition for the football club.
It’s a big move for Jay and I have felt a little sorry for him because his arrival has been somewhat overshadowed by Jermain’s return, but I think he’s a very clever signing.
We don’t really need to talk about Jermain’s quality, but the thing that has struck me, which shouldn’t surprise you but often does, is his human qualities.
He’s come into the club with Under-23 staff overseeing the first team and treated everyone with the upmost respect - he has a real charisma in the way he holds and conducts himself.
We know he will have big moments for the football club on the pitch throughout the remainder of the season.