Unfortunately, the feeling amongst the Sunderland fans going into tonight’s game just isn’t great - though, l suppose that losing against the worst team in the league in front of almost 40,000 people has that effect on people.
It’s been a strange few days for the club, and with it looking like the decision on who they’ll appoint as head coach isn’t forthcoming, a win this evening would go a long way to helping calm the fears of supporters who firmly believe that we can write off any hopes of finishing in the top two, even with plenty of games left to play.
Cheltenham haven’t won any of their last twelve games, which is usually a terrible omen for us - regardless of their form, they’ll be well up for the game given a) we’re Sunderland and b) a team much further down the league table than they are just took three points of us.
That said, most if not all teams at this level view Sunderland as a big scalp, so it shouldn’t come as anything new to our players - most of them should know by now what it means to play for this club at this level, and that each of them have a target painted on their backs from the minute that the first ball is kicked.
Perhaps the biggest villain coming out of Saturday’s loss was the hapless Mike Dodds, a man who is clearly in over his head and probably doesn’t really want to have to manage the first team - yet, because the club have yet to appoint a Head Coach, he is once again the man tasked with the unnerving task of leading the side to a much-needed victory.
His team selection (if it was indeed him that picked the starting eleven) at the weekend was shocking, and whilst it worries me that he has since come out and defended the decisions taken in picking the side against Doncaster, deep down the penny must have surely dropped - that some big changes in personnel are needed if we are to send a clear message to these failing players that our recent form simply isn’t good enough.
Dodds has been in this job for just over a week - these players have been here all season, and at some stage, someone needs to hold them accountable.
I’d argue that this is exactly why you build a strong squad - so that in situations like these you have the bodies to call upon to bring into the side when needed.
Thorben Hoffmann has been terrible recently and needs a rest. Could we bring Anthony Patterson in? He can’t be any worse, really.
Callum Doyle needs a rest. Could we perhaps bring Arbenit Xhemajli in?
Dan Neil needs a rest. Start Jay Matete!
Play Trai Hume! Winchester has been poor at right back for a while now, but I’d be tempted to take Corry Evans out of the middle and stick him in there with the new guy.
Patrick Roberts may lack match sharpness, but he cannot be any worse than Gooch and Embleton - bring him in!
And if rumours are owt to go by, Ross Stewart is carrying a knock - if that’s the case, it might be an opportunity to start Jermain Defoe, or even Jack Clarke, who we are told can play as a number nine.
Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t advocate so many drastic changes, but these aren’t normal circumstances - we’ve conceded eight goals in our last two games, and we aren’t getting a response. Doing more of the same is likely to end with similar results, and for the sake of our season, we cannot afford to let more points slip from our grasp.
Luckily for Mike, he’s got a plethora of talent to select from.
Question is, has he got the balls to swing the axe and make serious alterations to the side?
I guess we’ll find out tonight, but I’m not holding my breath.