Match Preview


Sunday, 31 March 2024

We spoke to Dan from Sunderland fanzine A Love Supreme to get the lowdown on Monday’s opponents, with both clubs going through shocking spells of late…

Sunderland have been pushing for the top six for most of the season. What’s happened with the recent collapse of six lost matches in succession? What were supporters’ feelings about Tony Mowbray and Michael Beale? 

Well, we started slowly, sacked Tony Mowbray, who the players liked and he was doing well developing the youngsters and was very popular in general. Lovely guy. We have had no functional forwards for some time after letting Ross Stewart go and despite bringing in four unproven strikers, they have all failed to impress. So last season’s momentum was already gone and then we appointed the uninspiring Micheal Beale, who won a few and lost a few, but the football was stagnant and he seemed universally unpopular to the point where he set up a bogus Twitter account to defend himself on social media. His inability to manage/be liked was exposed, as was his fake account and he was gone in no time. It was a bizarre period. 

Who’s your preference for the permanent manager’s role? Should it have been sorted before the end of the season? 

There’s been many names linked. Paul Heckingbottom, who is a former player here and obviously did well with Sheffield United, seems first choice alongside a number of unknown European coaches. The club’s reluctance to approach anyone already in a job, to avoid having to pay compensation, has really limited the candidates when replacing coaches in the last few seasons. They’ll just keep Mike Dodds there until the summer to save money and allow the season to peter out pathetically. Dodds has been a coach at SAFC for some time and this is his third spell as interim Head Coach. The players like him and he has good knowledge of the game, but I don’t see him as a leader. Director of football, Kristjaan Speakman, is ultimately in charge as he hires and fires the coaches, signs the players and interferes with team selection. Mowbray questioned his “Model” and was sacked. Dodds is his disciple. 

Aside from top scorer Jack Clarke, who’s been the standout player this season? 

In short no one. Tria Hume is a good right back, loves a tackle, hard as nails, does well going forward and has just won Northern Ireland Player of the Year. Another Ulsterman, Dan Ballard, is a quality centre half, strong in the air, but looks set to leave this summer, alongside Clarke. Dan Neil in centre midfield is a 22-year-old local lad who has progressed again this season. But we are generally devoid of experience having driven the older players out and fielded the youngest ever team in the club’s history against Southampton recently, with an average age of 20. Good to have young lads, but need a mix of youth and experience. We are a club whose model is to buy unknown teenagers, develop them for a year or two and selling them at a profit. 

Bradley Dack signed a one-year deal last summer – is his departure inevitable this summer after his injury problems? 

He’s made more appearances on TV with his Mrs than he has in red and white and although he’s obviously got some quality, he looks finished, slow and out of shape. Saying that he’s just back from injury, again, so he’ll probably come on as sub, score the winner against you lot on Monday to prove me wrong. But surely he will be released in the summer. 

How does the current atmosphere at the Stadium of Light compare to previous times? 

Very poor. Although we have an average attendance of 41k, the ninth highest in England and by far the highest in the Championship, in recent home games around 30k have been turning up, a massive no show of 25% says it all about how the fans feel right now. However, it looks like that average will fall massively next season due to this season’s massive lack of ambition and investment from the club. 

What’s your score prediction and scorers? 

I think Blackburn will be happy with a draw and you guys certainly have drawn quite a few in 2024, but I think we’ll edge it 1-0, with a Bradley Dack tap in…

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