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Stoke City v Brighton and Hove Albion: Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round

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Could the Stoke game prove pivotal in the direction of Sunderland’s season?

How important is Saturday’s game to the overall direction of our season and where things go from here?

Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

Martin Wanless says...

I think it really depends on what we see as the goal for the season.

In August, I would have been very happy with comfortable survival, which is what we’re on course to achieve. Obviously, we’ve been fluttering our eyelashes at the playoffs which has raised some hopes, but ultimately this season is about consolidation and getting a season’s worth of experience into young players.

So, is tomorrow’s game important?

Of course, particularly with the spectre of Alex Neil hanging over it, and the fact we’ve picked up one from nine.

It’s a good test of character for the lads, and it’ll hopefully be one we come through well.

However, is it critical to our season?

Not in the grand scheme of things. We’re very much a work in progress, and the long term view has to be one of gradual progression, rather than knee-jerking over one result.

Over the past 12 months we’ve been on a huge upward trajectory, and that will continue - regardless of whether we win against Stoke.

But, all things considered, three points against Alex Neil’s team would be massive for the confidence of the squad - and for our fan base, too.

Coventry City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Martin swinney/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Gary Engel says...

It’s a funny old game.

Here we are again, ready to play Stoke City which is almost determines our progress, how we’ve grown as a side, where we going and the outcome of our season. Those were all seemingly in the spotlight the last time we played Stoke and the latter in the days afterwards when the shock revelation of Neil’s decision came out.

I was at that Stoke match - the atmosphere from their side was non-existent, our performance wasn’t up to the kind of standards we’ve come to expect but they were really poor, with a ground only a miniature version of the Stadium of Light.

Neil can’t have been won round by anything he saw that day from a football perspective or Stoke’s potential over ours.

The other odd thing is how spotlights are on forwards in this fixture.

The difference between the two sides last time out was our forward Ross Stewart. Saturday needs a big performance from Joe Gelhardt, as I think our lack of recognised forward options rather than the reasonably untested ‘Joffy’ is starting to catch up with us.

If we can turn a corner on Saturday when our blood’s up, we may have a slim chance still.

If not, well, we’ve overachieved anyway...

Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland : Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Jon Guy says...

The game is unlikely to define the rest of the season, but a win would be a great way to end a run that has some of the fan base starting to mutter.

I was at the QPR game and talking to the lad next to me. He said the team was playing well, but that the failure to sign an out-and-out striker and an experienced replacement for Cory Evans would be unforgivable if we didn’t make the playoffs.

It would be great to cause Alex Neil more pain, and a win after one point from nine would be fantastic.

I think Saturday is more about the performance, and the key to that will be how the team have been able to integrate Joe Gelhardt. Like it or not, he is our main striking option and we need to play to his strengths.

Saturday is all about the team picking themselves up from the past three games, but watching Alex Neil squirm would be great.


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