For Sunderland, all roads lead to London this weekend as we head off on another FA Cup adventure, and the hope is that we’ll see some new heroes emerge.
The expected arrival of West Ham midfielder Pierre Ekwah on a permanent contract is a huge boost for the club and for the fans who’d been despairing about potential incomings with a week left of the January transfer window.
It has to be hoped that in the coming days, we see more fresh faces at the Academy of Light and certainly in the shape of attacking reinforcements, although Tony Mowbray did warn that it’s likely to go down to the wire.
Additionally, Frank Lampard’s dismissal as Everton manager leaves the fate of Ellis Simms up in the air and with a new boss set to arrive, he may believe that he’s got a chance to stake a claim to get into the matchday squad at Goodison Park.
Ekwah is the kind of signing that epitomises the club’s approach to transfers and many will hope that Mowbray gives him his debut on Saturday, assuming the deal is completed without any delays.
It’s fair to say we’re right in the mix for the four Championship play-off spots, and although the win against Middlesbrough was impressive, we suffered another injury as Corry Evans joined the growing list of players currently in the treatment room.
This leaves Mowbray with some tough decisions to make ahead of the weekend.
Given the quality we had on the bench against Middlesbrough with the likes of Jewison Bennette, Abdoullah Ba, Bailey Wright and Edouard Michut, there’s a good chance that we’ll see a much-changed side against Fulham.
On the other hand, unless reinforcements arrive quickly, Mowbray’s hands will be tied as a result of the injury crisis and Luke O’Nien’s ongoing suspension. Of those on the bench, Michut and Wright look to be options in place of the injured Evans and Aji Alese, as he returns to full fitness.
There’ll also be players who could do with a break, despite the fact that they would relish the chance to play against Premier League opposition and in front of a large travelling support.
Marco Silva may also look to rest a few of his league regulars in order to provide minutes for his wider squad.
With Fulham still harbouring European ambitions for next season, Silva may want to ensure that he has the team to continue to mount the charge, so rotation might be on the agenda this Saturday.
From a Sunderland point of view, the pressure is off in many ways.
A big away attendance, a taste of what could lie ahead in the seasons to come when we return to English football’s top tier, and hopefully a win, as a thoroughly entertaining season continues!