Before we start this Fan Focus article, all of us at Roker Report would like offer our deepest condolences to Maddy Cusack’s family, her teammates, Sheffield United and all those who knew Maddy well.
Hi John, thank you for speaking with us again! How would rate the start of your season so far? Underperforming, overperforming or about expected?
John Slingsby: I think after a slightly bumpy start with two losses after a last gasp away draw at Charlton, we’ve managed to rally and picked up back to back wins that’s seen us climb the table a little bit. I think we’re on track to where we wanted to be at the end of the season at the minute which isn’t a bad thing at all!
After a slow start in the league, Sheffield find themselves on two wins from two. How have Sheffield performed in those two games? What is different about them compared to earlier in the season?
JS: We look a lot more settled in how Johnathan Morgan wants us to play now. I think there was still a couple of teething issues at the start of the campaign that are looking a little bit more ironed out now.
The influx of players in the summer, alongside the departure of some talented players who’ve been at the club for a while, probably contributed to that a bit. A settled side usually sees positive results, hopefully that can continue!
Is there a player who has stood out for you recently?
JS: There have been a few stand out players for us so far this season. Rachel Brown has been immense for United since Morgan took over in the middle of last season. She’s so good defensively, but has the ability to beat defenders from wing back. She fully deserved a recent call up to Scotland’s under-23’s side.
In midfield, Ash Hodson and Bex Rayner have had good starts to the season with Ash getting her first Blades goal at the weekend to cap off another committed performance from the ex-Liverpool player. Bex is Bex, superb to watch and has all the tricks and flicks in the world.
Up top, Isobel Goodwin has been superb since her summer move from Rugby Borough. She’s got three goals in her first five games and was unplayable this weekend. She’s got all the tools to be a top striker in the future.
How do you think Sheffield will approach this game with it being a cup match and games coming thick and fast? Will more younger and perhaps inexperienced players get given a chance or do you expect minimal changes?
JS: I think there will definitely be some rotation from the weekend with a home game against Brum to come at the weekend. The academy has been a fantastic asset for the club over the course of the past few years and Morgan may see this as a game to bed in a couple of our youngsters.
However, with their own current cup run underway, perhaps it may just be our fringe players who get a look in. Would be nice to see some younger players feature however!
Who you personally rather focus on the league as opposed to the cup or would a cup run be nice for the side, alongside trying to push on for the season?
JS: I think everyone loves a good cup run! Even if you say you don’t, I think everyone gets excited when the cup comes around! Obviously, we want to keep climbing the league table, but we’ve got some decent squad depth this year. So perhaps a cup run isn’t out of the question. Plus, I don’t think we’ve ever gotten out of a Continental Cup group stage before, be nice to go a bit deeper into the competition this year.
Naturally these are always hard to predict, especially with it being a cup game, but how do you think this game will pan out?
JS: I’ll go for an entertaining 2-2 between the teams. Sunderland looked decent at The Lane last month and I expect us to be better than we were that day. A point apiece would be a good start to the group.
Lastly, any advice or recommendations for any Sunderland fans who may make the trip?
JS: We’re not playing this game at Bramall Lane is probably the biggest thing. Instead, as has been the case with all cup games for United, it’ll be a lovely trip to the Impact Arena of Alfreton Town on a Wednesday evening.
It’s really disappointing that it’s been moved, especially as far away as Alfreton. Going forward, United really do need to be quicker on deciding where cup games are going to be played.
The address for The Impact Arena is North St, Alfreton, DE55 7FZ.