Zak Johnson at Hartlepool - HUFC Chat Podcast
Zak Johnson is a young player who Sunderland have high hopes for, particularly since he’s featured for the first team this season and has been playing for England at his age group level. What did Pools fans make of the signing when it happened?
I think it was a signing that in all honesty we didn’t know enough about to comment!
It’s always difficult with younger players on loan as we’ve had such a mixed bag in the past. However, we always want people who’re coming into the club to give it everything, and as long as they do that we won’t grumble!
What was his debut for Pools like?
We liked what he offered. He looked as if he brought some calmness and composure despite his age! Looked confident with what he was doing...
Since that first appearance, how has he got on? Are you noticing signs of improvement?
Personally, we both really like Johnson and I think quite a few would echo this. He’s made mistakes, of course he has, but not only is that understandable with a lack of consistent men’s first team football but also the fact he’s got a lot to learn.
Added to that, mistakes are far too frequent from our defence this season.
Against Boreham Wood he was too weak and unfortunately that cost us the goal and resulted in defeat but overall we like what we see!
For a lad of Johnson’s age, these loan moves are about showing you can mix it with the more rugged and experienced players, whilst showing the quality you possess... how’s he fared in that regard?
I think overall he’s looked pretty solid. He doesn’t look massively out of place and at times actually stands out as someone who’s calm and composed under pressure and amongst the other more experienced players.
He offers what we need on plenty of occasions and playing alongside an experienced defender in Manny Onarise is certainly helping to bring out the best in him.
Joe Anderson at Shrewsbury Town - Shrews Analysis
Joe Anderson was signed from Everton as a one for the future, perhaps even a late bloomer given how much older he is than some of our current first teamers. Can you see why he was U21 captain at Everton and then signed by Sunderland, or has he underwhelmed?
Technically, you can see that he has talent, and particularly early in the season his ability on the ball stood out. However, his form only lasted a couple of games but then dipped, and with that so did his confidence and success rate on the ball.
Defensively he is yet to assure, frequently diving in or being rash, and hasn’t really appeared to relish the physical side of the game, and so to answer the question I would say he has underwhelmed thus far.
He was a popular character amongst the other players at Sunderland. What’s the feedback been on how he’s managed to settle in?
There’s been no sense at all of him being a bad character, and from what we can tell he’s settled into the group well.
How did he do in his first game?
He was pretty good in his first game. He was the one of our back three who looked most adept in possession, and was secure defensively - albeit against a team who took 12 games to score their first league goal.
Where has he been playing? I noted he’s played in a few different positions...
He’s played LCB in the vast majority of games, featuring once at LWB away at Oxford - when he was sent off…
He’s there for the season... do you have high hopes for him for the rest of the campaign?
The challenge for Joe in the short-term is to win his place back in the team. Jason Sraha has stepped in and been nothing short of a revelation, and so Joe has a very big task on his hands trying to get a place back in the XI. The fact that Aaron Pierre, who is hugely lacking match fitness, didn’t have a pre-season with anybody and hasn’t played all season, replaced Sraha at LCB ahead of Joe when he came off injured in the last game can’t bode well for Joe either.
Given we have six loans, but can only name five in a squad, and with fellow loanee Elliott Thorpe set to return from injury soon, Joe would be the most likely to return to his parent club in January if all loanees are fit.
Based on what you’ve seen so far, would you like him to sign permanently? Or, do you think he’ll come back to Sunderland’s first team to challenge?
The answer to the last question probably answers this one, too. I can’t see the club wanting to make the move permanent, and so as he isn’t in our strongest XI, he would be some way off challenging for a spot in Sunderland first team too.
Alex Bass at AFC Wimbledon - Mike T, Stadium Announcer
When Alex Bass arrived at Sunderland from Pompey it seemed a little strange to some fans that he had even made the move, because it’s been clear for a few years now that Anthony Patterson is undoubtedly our number one. So, when he left this summer to be Wimbledon’s first choice I wasn’t really surprised. How did fans react when he signed?
I think the general consensus was one of being pleased and acknowledging the steps taken to strengthen in the goalkeeping department, particularly arriving from one of last season’s top Championship clubs.
The only two slight question marks would’ve been around being a relative unknown to most Dons fans (although I remember him playing against us for Portsmouth in January 2020) and perhaps lacking experience for someone of 25 in terms of competitive first team matches played.
How has he fared since making his debut against Grimsby?
Any niggling doubts that may have existed around his credentials swiftly evaporated with some good performances in pre-season and he then carried this on, once the league campaign had begun.
He’s a great shot stopper with excellent reflexes, reassuring all-round handling and commands his area very well.
Given what you’ve seen of Bass and seen from other goalkeepers down the years, would you say League One is about his level, or could you see him playing higher?
There’s definite scope for progression.
He had a good run in the Portsmouth side which were beaten in the League One playoff semi-finals in 2020, and of course above and beyond that, Sunderland clearly thought him worthy of joining them last season in the Championship, even though the dominant form of Anthony Patterson meant his only first team action was in the two cup competitions.
He’s with you for the rest of the season, so what would you like to see from him between now and May?
I think it’s just a case of carrying on exactly what he has displayed so far. He has been an excellent acquisition and the all-round air of calmness and confidence that he exudes has spread throughout the back four, which has been a major Achilles heel for us in recent years.
Do you think Wimbledon might want to tie him down permanently beyond the end of the season, or do you suspect he’ll return to Sunderland?
I think we just need to see how the rest of the season pans out. We’ve made a good start in among the automatic promotion and play-off places in League Two and if we go up, I’d say maintaining his services for another crack at League One wouldn’t be out of the question from our perspective, depending on how much Sunderland would want for him and if our budget allowed for it. I’m sure we’d at the very least ask the question.
But of course a lot of it could well depend on Alex himself. This has been an excellent opportunity to gain plenty of gametime and experience, on the back of which he may feel inclined to want to bide his time a little longer and fight for his place at Sunderland, particularly given how close they came last season to completing a remarkable rise back up to the Premier League.