Sunderland take on AFC Wimbledon this weekend as they look to keep themselves in the hunt at the top of League One.
For the first time this season, then, we spoke to Gary McLaughlin from We Are Wearside to preview the clash and look at their summer and season so far…
1. It’s the first time we’ve spoken to you this season Gary, how’ve you found the first few weeks?
It’s been a fascinating pre-season and early-season at Sunderland. The transfer window started off slowly, fans became restless, and suddenly we made some very good signings in time for the season opener. Then, on the pitch, things have started exactly the same. Two draws and very poor performances made things a little uncomfortable, but a timely burst of form has made things feel much more positive. The win, and performance, against Portsmouth was particularly impressive.
2. With just over a week left in the window, are there any signings/exits you’d like to see?
I think our squad is really strong with the glaring exception of full back. Denver Hume is our only left-back, and he had a difficult start to the season and was exploited during Jack Ross’ formation experimentation of five at the back. There is no competition for Hume, who then was injured forcing us to play Conor McLaughlin at left-back (who is a right-back), and he looks incredibly uncomfortable on the left. Luke O’Nien is a centre-mid-turned-right-back, so we really are short in numbers and quality in both positions. If we can improve there, we have a very good squad.
3. Onto this weekend, who would you start up front for this one given the recent chopping and changing?
Marc McNulty has looked great but picked up an injury against Portsmouth. Charlie Wyke got a goal against Rochdale and played well when replacing McNulty in the Portsmouth game, so he is the obvious choice. Will Grigg needs to do a lot more if he wants to be considered as a starter, because we look a lot more comfortable in a 4-2-3-1 formation than a 4-4-2.
4. Wimbledon next, are you confident of a win here?
Yes, we’ve turned a corner and look difficult to beat. Wimbledon have looked poor so far, earning just a single point which was actually two dropped when you consider Accrington Stanley – who are doing no better – were down to ten men when they equalised. If you want to win the league, or get automatic promotion, these are the games you should be winning and winning comfortably.
5. Score prediction
Going for a solid 2-0 home win and our first clean sheet of the season. It has to come at some point…I think…