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Sheffield Wednesday v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One - Play Off - Semi Final - Second Leg - Hillsborough

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Fan Focus: Sheff Wed fan James is backing Darren Moore to deliver promotion this season!

Ahead of Sunderland’s upcoming Carabao Cup tie, Matty spoke to Sheffield Wednesday fan and host of The Wednesday ’Til I Die Podcast, James Mappin, to find out what has changed over the summer at Hillsborough!

Photo by Zac Goodwin/PA Images via Getty Images

Matthew Crichton: Following last minute playoff heartbreak last season, are Wednesday fans confident of promotion this time around?

James Mappin: More than ever. We’ve recruited well in the summer transfer window with Smith and Ihiekwe from Rotherham, Vaulks from Cardiff, and Stockdale from Wycombe amongst others but still have the likes of Bannan, Windass and Gregory at our disposal.

We finished the season really strong and have an excellent home record. Add that to the experience that we had last year I see no reason why we can’t go one better and get promotion this season.

MC: In terms of Darren Moore, do you think he simply has to start this season well given that he failed to deliver promotion last season?

JM: 100%. It’s doable without a strong start, just look at Forest last season, but I don’t think we’ll give him that time. We need to be in the top-6 for the vast majority of the season.

Once we slip outside that, I think Darren Moore will be on borrowed time. I don’t think that’s right or correct, but that’s football and the pressure that you get from being the manager of Sheffield Wednesday.

Sheffield Wednesday v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Play-Off Semi Final 2nd Leg
Patrick Roberts’ late goal secured a spot at Wembley for Sunderland at Hillsborough last season.
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

MC: Your season began with a chaotic 3-3 draw with Portsmouth, followed by an excellent 1-0 away win at MK Dons, was that the steady start you needed to kick start a promotion push?

JM: If you’d have said we’d have started with 4 points from the first two games I would have snatched your hands off. I would have said it would have been a win at home and then a draw away but it’s still four points.

The first game of the season was frustrating as all three of the goals were avoidable and individual errors. The clean sheet was much needed at MK Dons and as you say it’s a steady start.

We’ve got a tough start to the campaign with 7 of the first 8 games against teams that would have promotion aspirations, so it’ll be good to see where we are come the end of that.

MC: Signing Michael Smith and Michael Ihiekwe was some impressive recruitment - I imagine obtaining two of League One’s best players last season went down well with supporters?

JM: It came as a shock to be honest. The deal looked to be dead in the water after Paul Warne’s comments in local media that they were set to sign contract extensions, and then the following day they were in blue and white.

To sign a player that scored 19 league goals last season and another that finished in the team of the season, and both on a free too, is great business.

Sunderland v Rotherham United - Sky Bet League One - Stadium of Light
Michael Ihiekwe scored in both fixtures for Rotherham against Sunderland last season.
Photo by Zac Goodwin/PA Images via Getty Images

MC: On the other hand, the signing of 36-year-old goalkeeper David Stockdale seemed like a surprise to many, how was this viewed by Wednesday fans?

JM: Surprised is the right word. I didn’t think we’d be in the market for a goalkeeper with us already having two, and Dawson coming back off loan, but to have the golden glove winner from the previous season in your team is always a plus.

Not only that but he has a bucket load of experience, and he’s a bit of a shithouse too, which you can’t have too much of in this division as you’ve found out.

MC: Ex-Sunderland left-back Reece James joined the club on loan from Blackpool, are you expecting him to play at wing-back or in central midfield as I know he has played in various positions since his Wearside exit?

JM: We’re yet to see him, but I’d be surprised if he tipped up in central midfield given that we’ve already got seven players in the middle of the park in the squad. He’ll more than likely be giving competition to Marvin Johnson who’s started both games so far in that wing back position.

Wednesday will be a good opportunity for him to get some minutes under his belt and for us to get our first look at him because all of the write ups have been relatively good in his favour.

Darlington v Sunderland: Pre-Season Friendly
Reece James made 34 appearances for Sunderland before departing to join Doncaster.
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

MC: Although winning matches breeds confidence, neither Sunderland or Sheffield Wednesday would benefit from added fixture congestion - how do you think the FA can make the Carabao Cup more appealing to lower league sides?

JM: I don’t think there’s much that can be done to be honest. A few may turn their nose up at this but I think cup competitions have lost the appeal that they used to have. Ask most people and they’d much prefer to do well in the league.

Maybe they could make it so that L1 and L2 play each other in the first round, and then slowly add the other teams as the rounds progress, and make it so teams are playing those from the ‘higher leagues’. I know that you are now that ‘higher league’ team but the fact we played each other what feels like a few weeks ago takes the shine off it for me.

MC: In terms of style of play, has anything changed this season since our playoff double header?

JM: Not really, although I don’t think that was a true representation as to how we play and it’s not how we played all season which is probably why we came unstuck in the end.

We’ll be playing a 3-5-2, like to get the ball out wide and get crosses into the box. Give Barry Bannan the space and he’ll be able to pick out a pass and have you on the back foot.

A player that’s set off well so far this season has been Fisayo Dele-Bashiru. Two goals in the opening game, and backed that up with a decent performance. Pace and power in abundance. The only problem is, he probably won’t play and he’ll be rested, as will Barry Bannan.

Soccer - FA Cup - First Round - Morecambe v Sheffield Wednesday - Globe Arena
Sunderland defender Danny Batth enjoyed two loan spells with Sheffield Wednesday, making 59 appearances and scoring two goals.
Photo by Joe Giddens - PA Images via Getty Images

MC: Are you expecting Moore to go full strength or provide some minutes to your squad?

JM: I expect as many changes as he possibly can to be honest. Full rotation.

Dawson, Iorfa, Heneghan, James, Brown, Hunt, Byers, A. Hunt, Adeniran, Paterson, Smith (or Gregory if not fit).

MC: Sunderland last won at Hillsborough in 2007, what is your prediction of the final score?

JM: I hope we can beat you and take revenge, but realistically with the changes I think it’ll be a 2-1 defeat. I think you’ll just have too much for us, but for me this is more about getting a good look at the fringe players.


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