More of the same I guess.
Whilst friendly games in pre-season are predominantly about fitness, I think that playing at a high, aggressive tempo gives the correct impression to the players of what is expected of them, even in ‘training games’.
Recently, I watched the new Roy Keane documentary, where he talks about his 2006/2007 promotion-winning team, and he discussed how the Lads trained in the same way in which they played, and that he liked that approach.
I think there’s an element of that with this current side under Alex Neil, and that was shown in the first half against Rangers, where we treated the game as a proper match and really took it to the Gers.
I want to see more of the same against Roma - they may be superior opposition but I want the players to have half an eye on impressing Alex Neil and fighting for their spot in the side.
Oh, and more big tackles from Dan Ballard - those are nice to watch as well!
Andrew Smithson says…
The team that started against Rangers was not a million miles away from the one we could see come the start of the season.
I’m assuming there may have been a few changes or experiments had the game continued, but getting the starting XI as settled and up to speed as we can is the priority, so I would like to see Alex Neil select another strong team if possible.
As for Roma, I don’t know all that much about Italian football but they are obviously a good side.
I’m expecting them to be very well-drilled and very dangerous when they go forward, so it will be good to see how we deal with them. Sunderland were excellent in defence towards the back end of last season and they will need to keep that up, so if we can look steady enough against a side capable of winning European trophies, it would augur well for the Championship.
There were some very encouraging signs on Saturday but it is still relatively early days in terms of our pre-season
The players will want to give a good account of themselves, given the level of opposition, and a decent performance would be a big boost ahead of the remaining friendlies.
Malc Dugdale says…
I have to agree in the main with Andrew. More of what we saw before the half-time cessation of the Rangers game, and I’ll be happy.
However, I would be even happier if we can see the same positive output and creativity, plus some very solid defensive performances with a different starter in a number of positions, wherever we have an option.
The main reason for this is very simple: during the final months of last season, Alex Neil had to do what he could with the players he had at his disposal. We were very lucky that what he and the team did was enough to get us promoted.
If we can see a similar performance to Saturday evening, with a very different starting eleven and with some positive substitutions, that will indicate that Neil is implementing his style and his way of playing into the whole squad, ready for the season to come.
I’d like to see Bailey Wright and Danny Batth do as well in central defence as Luke O’Nien and Dan Ballard, and I am eager for Jack Clarke and Leon Dajaku to perform well out wide, just as Patrick Roberts did. Finally, I am hoping that Jay Matete can do as well as Corry Evans, and you probably get the idea.
Pre-season is about setting out your stall, embedding your tactics and variations of play, and getting match fit and being ready for the start of the season.
If we see more of any of the above, albeit with different players, and we witness the same positive signs as Saturday, I’ll be a happy lad.
No injuries please, especially up front!