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Sunderland v Sheffield United - Sky Bet Championship

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Roker Roundtable: How should Sunderland approach the rest of the season?

With nine games left of the season and seemingly little hope of us making the playoffs, how can Tony Mowbray get the most out of these games to prepare for next season? We asked our panel for their thoughts...

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Ewan Bowman says...

Personally, I think the remaining games of the season should not be used as a dress rehearsal for next season. Yes, give one or two more players minutes, such as Lihadji, Bennette etc but do not make wholesale changes that could see us drop from mid-table to the lower reaches of the table.

For the remaining 8-9 games, we should give absolutely everything to try and finish as high as possible. The higher the finish, the more income we receive and the more attractive we become to potential signings in the summer.

Overall the season has been a success; however injuries have taken their toll on the squad. Each player has contributed, and we should be all proud of the players and staff for their efforts.

Sunderland v Luton Town - Sky Bet Championship
Finish as high as possible! Says Ewan
Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Malc Dugdale says...

We are in a fortunate situation that we can both survive and learn, and I think we can get a lot out of these games that will influence what we do in the summer and who may be a long-term investment and maybe who is a loan waiting to happen.

The recruitment team have done well in the past but this is far from a league where you can stand still. The lack of a striker in the winter window cannot be forgiven for being messed up more than once. Joffy hasn’t worked out, we need support for Stewart and we need a holding midfielder to challenge Evans and O’Nien… to be honest we have lessons all over the park about our lack of depth preventing us from pushing on when we were in a position of potential strength.

Use these nine games to do your homework Tony and co, let’s assure another season at this level and maybe even a better shot at the top 8 or even top six.

Dead rubbers don’t exist every day is a school day so go find out how we get better, lad.

Sunderland v Luton Town - Sky Bet Championship
Could we see more of Jewi between now and the end of the season?
Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Martin Wanless says...

It’s an unusual situation for Sunderland to be in – we’re not even in April and, realistically rather than mathematically, we’re safe. I can’t remember the last time we’ve been in this position, and we need to use it wisely.

We’ve got a whole host of players who need games in order for us to find out whether or not they’re good enough for starting positions next season. Tony Mowbray’s talked a lot about his thin squad, in terms of experience rather than numbers, so he needs confidence the likes of Bennette, Lihadji, Ekwah, Anderson and Harry Gardiner are capable of stepping up when we need them – because, right now, he’s clearly not.

So, I couldn’t disagree more with Ewan. What’s more important? Getting a couple more points on the board, or getting these lads experience, so we know with some certainty what we need in the transfer window, and who we can rely on to do a job next season?

And, anyway, who’s to say the likes of Bennette and Lihadji etc won’t end up getting more points than the players in the first team currently anyway? They’ll be keen to prove they deserve a place, they’ll be an unknown quantity to the opposition, and they’re all players with a lot of potential.

I’m not saying chuck them all in for the full games for the rest of the season, but give them four or five starts each in between now and May and see what they can do. We were forced by injury to give games to Hume and Michut this season – and Patterson last year (albeit illness rather than injury) – and we’re benefiting from it now. To me, it’s an absolute no-brainer. Mowbray did say a couple of weeks ago that, after Burnley, we’d see more of the fringe players, and we absolutely should.

Sunderland v Reading - Sky Bet Championship
Give him some games!
Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images
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