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Middlesbrough v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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Roker Roundtable: A reaction to the news of Ross Stewart and Dennis Cirkin’s injuries

With Cirkin ruled out for a fortnight and Stewart facing a possible eight weeks on the sidelines, what do our panel make of the news and how it might affect the team’s form?

Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Andrew Parrington says…

Naturally, I’m concerned.

It has come at exactly the wrong moment, and it forces our new head coach into changing a popular system while dealing with a lack of cover that is hardly his fault.

I’m trying to look at the positives, and I think it’s an opportunity for players like Aji Alese and Amad Diallo to come to the fore, but it will need the careful player management Tony Mowbray is known for, because the pressure is being piled on when you’d prefer them to be eased into it.

After the transfer window closed, Kristjaan Speakman said he thought the squad had enough flexibility as it is (as well as keeping tabs on the free agent market), and we’re about to get a sharp test of that theory.

Middlesbrough v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Mark Wood says…

For all of the negativity that came from the performance and result against Middlesbrough, none of the comments seemed to take into account that thirty minutes before kickoff, the team suddenly found themselves having to set themselves up with a completely different style of play to the one they had played for the past year. This was on top of playing with one man up front rather than two.

I actually thought that after being ineffective for all of the first half, the team started to figure out to play the ball in the feet of Patrick Roberts in the ten minutes before he was hooked.

I think that how well we adapt depends on whether we ditch the idea of trying to play to a target man, because Stewart is the only player at the club who can play that role. I do think we have players who can come in, like Roberts, Leon Djaku or Amad Diallo, but we have to tweak the way we play and get the ball into their feet to make it work.

As for Dennis Cirkin, the reports are that he should only be out for a couple of weeks and that would be the ideal opportunity to take a look at Alese. I actually look forward to that, as West Ham fans seem to rate him and were sorry to lose him.

Sheffield Wednesday v Sunderland - Carabao Cup - First Round - Hillsborough Photo by Isaac Parkin/PA Images via Getty Images

Malc Dugdale says…

I’m gutted that Stewart will miss about eight weeks’ worth of football, but it could have been worse. He was pretty much an ever-present last season, and an injury was going to come at some time, so it is probably better that it happens now rather than later in the season, when more could be on the line.

If his recovery goes to plan, he will miss pretty much all of the games left before the World Cup break. The good news is that if his recovery extends by a couple of weeks, he should still be back by Christmas.

Calling that ‘good news’ is a push, but that is what it is if you are a glass-half-full bloke like me.

As I have mentioned in other articles, this is a chance for others to step up, and we have to have faith in the squad they can do that. It isn’t in the best interests of the club that we become too much of a one-man team, so this is a time where Tony Mowbray gets to demonstrate his experience of managing a squad through challenging times.

We can see new or fringe players get a free punt and claim their shirt, and Mowbray and the squad have to stand up and show what they are made of.

In the background, I imagine our data-based recruitment model will be scanning for free agent striker options, and I wouldn't mind someone getting a season-long contract if the data backs that up. We signed way more attacking players than other areas in the window, so we should be able to find a suitable stopgap with or without a freebie.

With Cirkin, it is only a couple of weeks, and with players of the quality of Aji Alese and Bailey Wright to fall back on, I cannot see any reason for a major impact. We adjusted quite well to the loss of Daniel Ballard, and we can adjust again.

Whether we change our defensive shape or not, it could well be the case that Cirkin finds it hard to get back into the team if the likes of Alese do well over the coming weeks, and that is exactly how it should be.

In terms of what we need, the gap to Stewart getting back is about twelve games, and it includes matches against the likes of Cardiff, Huddersfield, Swansea and Birmingham, all of whom have started poorly.

If we can get about fifteen points from those twelve games, we will be well on our way to the forty point mark, and survival, well before Christmas, which has to be the initial aim.

As the saying goes, ‘these things are sent to try us’, and we know more than anyone how to thrive in adversity, so let’s get this done and see what we really have in our squad of talented prospects, as well as our new but very experienced head coach.

Middlesbrough v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images


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