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Hump day, not long to go...
Catts and Poyet show

Lee, Lee, Lee Cattermole reckons he needs to keep playing well to keep himself in the team ahead of Liam Bridcutt: “I think I always have to be on my toes. I always have been and more so since he came. He’s a good player and he plays that role similar to me. But that’s what the squad needs. You’ll see when (Ricky) Alvarez comes in, Jonno’s (Adam Johnson) performances will improve, and when (Emanuele) Giaccherini comes back, the same with Connor (Wickham). At the end of the day, it’s not about who plays, it’s not personal, we’re a team. All the talk seems to be about me or Liam, but there are going to be times when I need to miss games and he’ll come in and have a good run. That’s what a squad’s about.” Lee is also satisfied with our start to the season: “I feel the club is heading in the right direction and if we can have a good run between now Christmas, we can maybe not turn the season around because it’s not gone wrong, but kick on from here and look to push further up,” he added. “I think it’s been a good start. I think if you look at the home games we’ve had, they’ve all been difficult. Maybe there’s only the Stoke game you’d look at as one we should have won and we did win. But other than that, Swansea have been flying, and the others are tough – Tottenham, Man U, Everton. It’s a long season and we know that. That’s why it was so important against Crystal Palace to nip that little bad run in the bud because if you go there and lose, you’re suddenly on that slippery slope and you’ve got Everton next and it’s difficult to get out of it. That’s when the confidence can go out of the team and you find yourself under pressure.”

Elsewhere, Gus Poyet has been talking about Greek winger, Charis Mavrias: “I suppose Harry would like to play. We talked earlier in the season about options and what will happen. We need to wait and see. He did terrific for us in pre-season. He played everywhere and was a pleasure to have. But the shape of the team and the players who can play in there, and this new position of Connor Wickham, hasn’t helped. Then it becomes only one player in wide areas and there’s Jonno and Will Buckley competing for it. Then Ricky Alvarez arrived as well, so it’s difficult for him.”

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another day...
another draw

Right, you mad lot, wherever you are in the world, have a good day. Niall Quinn reckons we can do it against Chelsea so let’s be positive: “You just never know and Sunderland away may be the one to end their run. They ended their home record last year and Sunderland can take great heart from that. This game won’t be straightforward for Chelsea, despite things going so well for them at the moment. There are a couple of mitigating factors that may give you cause to believe Sunderland could do it. Chelsea will have travelled midweek and Sunderland will have had an easier preparation. I do think they will play a changed team at Schalke 04 so it will be interesting to see how they line up against Sunderland. The form right now says it will be very difficult but Sunderland need to get at them and remind them what it is like up here. Sunderland have had some great days against Chelsea over the years and you only have to look at the back end of last season, which proves the point.” Quinny also reminisced about that famous day at the SOL: “They had a World Cup winning centre back playing that day who went off ‘injured’ but played the following game. They just wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible! It was an incredible day and we wiped the floor with them. Later on that evening Paul Thirlwell, who played that game and was a star performer, was out with us and because he was the new lad he wasn’t buying drinks. “I said to him “You need to buy a drink. And he turned round and said to me: “I can’t get my wallet out of my pocket, because Dennis Wise is still in there! It was a stand-out game for me in my time at Sunderland. Bobby Saxton came over to us and said ‘you two today didn’t just score, you saw off World Cup winners’. He was right and it felt good travelling home that day.”

Elsewhere, Connor Wickham has been reflecting on the game in the East Midlands: “We talked about the early pressure we endured over the last couple of weeks so it was exactly what we expected. We controlled it well and started to control the game after that so overall I think we should have won. It was another good performance at the back and if you don’t concede you don’t lose, so it is up to us as front players to do our job like the back four are doing theirs. It was difficult towards the end but I think we dominated pretty much most of the game. We are creating chances so we just need to put them away, and nine times out times out of ten Fletch puts chances like that away as we have all seen before. He is getting in the right positions and as long as we keep creating chances I’m sure it’ll come for him.”

Finally, Poyet has been talking about the unorthodox partnership between Wickham and Fletcher: “I played them because of the last two friendlies against Real Betis and Udinese, because they connected so well in those two games. They did plenty of things very well against Leicester. They like playing together and they are getting to know each other much better so there are only good things to come. If you ask any manager about a clean sheet away from home they will take it all day long, because that is the basis to go and win football matches.”

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ALS BLOG...
BY EVE SAYERS

Santiago Vergini is right in saying that our results in our upcoming games will determine whether it was a point gained or two points lost at Leicester.

After watching Vergini’s full debut for us against Arsenal, if you told me he’d still play us for the following season and would be one of our most important defenders, I would’ve told you you’re mental.

Vergini stood in for the suspended Wes Brown and his first start resulted in a 4-1 drubbing away to Arsenal. The centre-back made a string of errors and gifted the Gunners’ second goal. Things nearly got worse for Vergini as he sliced Sagna’s crossed narrowly past his own post. The first impressions of him weren’t exactly great.

After playing a part in our catastrophic FA Cup exit to Hull City, his next start didn’t come till Liverpool away where he was forced into the right-back position due to injuries. Though he was lucky to stay on the field after a foul on Suarez, there was a noticeable improvement in his performances.

He looked like a different player at right back and with his defensive performances helping us to the great escape; Poyet was always going to go back for him in the summer. Unfortunately it had to be a loan signing to due problems with the co-ownership of him.

 The Argentine even bagged himself a goal in pre-season against Udinese. Vergini’s first start of the campaign came at home against Man United and his impressive performances continued.

Although, sometimes he can be utterly frustrating. He can make almost impossible things seem simple, but under the slightest bit of pressure, he turns a simple clearance into the own goal of the century.

Though Schlupp got past with Vergini with ease at the weekend, the Argentine luckily got away with it and apart from that, it was a pretty solid performance from the defender. If only Wickham managed to get on the end of his floating cross ey…

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ALS BLOG...
BY Melanie Dudley

Sadly, I couldn’t get a ticket for the game on Saturday; however, armed with a beer, I tuned in to listen. I had always thought that it would be a challenging game, Leicester are hanging out in the relegation zone, a familiar place to many of us. Therefore, I was expecting an at home fighting for their lives type of scrap!

Despite what I see as consistent and persistent negative press about Sunderland, their performance, constant SOT references and Catts disciplinary cards, I found there were good positives to take from this game. Firstly, O’Shea seems to get the type of football that Gus wants to see the team play; I felt that he led the back four which has been a challenge for us for a number of years. I am not going to include the game at Southampton as I still think that was a total freak.

When you look at our start of season, clean sheets, this is a good trait that I would like to see continue. In addition, Wickham on the wing doesn’t seem like a natural fit to me, however, based on what I heard, he is learning and the passing to Fletcher seems to be improving. Fletcher was threatening in the game and a great save from Schmeichel, this gives me real encouragement that he is probably in the best form he has ever been in at Sunderland. 

Finally, it seems to me that Catts picks up yellow cards that 99.9% of other players would not receive. Football is a contact sport, his past reputation seems to proceed him before even a ball is kicked, will he be punished or perceived to always be the man at fault based on his past? I hope not, it is simply not fair or reflective of the changes we have all witnessed under the leadership of Gus.

Last season, this would have been exactly the type of game we would lose, one point away from home, I’m OK with that. However, we have a difficult run of games coming up, after the results last season against exactly these clubs, I am loath to predict but I think we’ll pick up a few points!

My faith is still intact, the Gus Bus is picking up pace...

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Ha'way Chelsea, bring it on…
Vergini,Pants and Gus speak

What better way to start off the week than hear what Santiago Vergini has to say? “These are very special games coming up,” said the Argentina international defender. “We’re coming up against some of the best teams in the world, and it’s a really good way to measure ourselves - both collectively and individually. They’re going to be very tough though and we’ll have to work very hard to get anything out of them and continue putting points on the board. I think it’s difficult to say whether it was a point gained or two points lost at Leicester. But when you consider that we’ve got a very tough home game against Chelsea coming up next, then this draw could be a useful one. The fact that Leicester are a direct rival means it was absolutely vital that we didn’t lose the game. It’s important we don’t lose our home games and particularly don’t lose the ones where we’re playing away against direct rivals. Those that are the games that are really six-pointers. It was vital not to lose on Saturday and now we need to look to win our home games. There were two bits of play in the first half where we really did do very well, but just weren’t able to put the final finishing touch to it and score the goal. The goalkeeper made two good saves. But I think the important thing was that the team showed a very good attitude and hopefully we can continue in that same vein of form.”

Elsewhere the man behind Vergini, Costel Pantilimon seems to be looking forward to this tricky run of fixtures we’ve got coming up: “It will be a tough period. It is important for us to continue this good run and to keep getting the results. We have to work hard in training and to keep having this feeling of satisfaction we have. Facing Chelsea? It will be different, what can I say, we have three tough games coming up. It will be different, Chelsea are a tough team. But I consider every team to be a strong team in the Premier League. Chelsea maybe have great players but for us it is important to work hard like we did at Leicester and then we will get good results. Every game is different. It is important for us to work hard against them and be confident. It’s a long season. It’s important to grow as a team and we are.”

On the South Coast horror show, the Romanian shot-stopper said: “That was an accident game. We don’t like to discuss that now. It was important our reaction was positive after that and we have shown that mental strength. We have reacted well. I don’t want to discuss that game anymore, it’s gone. It was in the past. It is finished. We like to move forward. It is nice that I have got my first clean sheet. It is good for the team’s confidence and for the team to have good results. We have to try to continue like this. It is important to have good results, and to grow together. It is important for me to be playing games too and I am happy to help this team, happy to be working with these great players and to have a good team. We defended well and we attacked well, we were like a proper team,” said Pantilimon. “We did a great job. The season is long and we have to go again. We have taken a point and in this moment I feel we did OK. In my opinion we grew as a team with this performance. I like to say we are getting better day by day and this is the most important thing. When you grow it is important for the future. I know I have great players in front of me. I respect them all and it is a pleasure to work together to move forward.”

Seb Larsson is also jumping on the optimistic bandwagon: “We look like a tough team to beat again and I think that is the difference compared to earlier in the season,” explained Larsson. “In the past we might have also come into a game like Saturday’s and not created much but we created enough to win the game comfortably. It is of course disappointing when you do that and don’t take the three points, but sometimes you have just got to take the positives and move forward. We haven’t been too worried about our upcoming games but it was important to pick something up - particularly after the last international break because everybody knows what happened. They are great games coming up and we have picked up points against the big boys before so why not do it again.”

Finally, Gus Poyet also looks like he’s trying to be positive about the Chelsea game too: “I think from now until the end of the season, everyone is going to try to be the one who beats Chelsea first. Now it’s our opportunity and let’s see if we can take it. We need to be spot-on – don’t make any mistakes, be good, organised and be brave on the ball so you’re not defending all the time. There are plenty of things that we need to do really well on the day. But we’ve done it in the past, so hopefully we can do it again. I want to take that ‘nothing to lose’ mentality away from Sunderland,” he said. I don’t want us to feel we are ‘OK’ and think: ‘We’re playing Chelsea, we can lose’. No we can’t. Let’s stop thinking like that or ‘we’ve got enough points’. We need to play every game as an opportunity to win. We need to have that mentality in every single player and every single person in the club. Until we do that, it’s going to be difficult for us to aim higher – top 10 or whatever. At the moment, we’re alright. That’s OK, but I don’t like just being alright. I think the mentality and the reaction is back,” he added. We’re playing to our strengths again. We know Chelsea are the best team in the league, but we need to play them and then concentrate on City and Liverpool. But, overall, we are defending well, apart from that awful day we had at Southampton."

Poyet also spoke about Seb Coates returning to the bench and the Cattermole's undeserved yellow card: “Sebber was needed. He’s trained for a long time and physically he’s ready. Match fitness is an issue though, so we’ll see how we work this week. We pushed him a little bit too much so kept him calm over the weekend,” he said. He starts training again today.”

“Ten years ago, his [Catts] tackle would have been highlighted as one of the best in England. We are going soft. These people that never play football and don’t have a clue are trying to make it a non-contact sport. This is football. It was a proper English tackle.” Poyet added

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post leicester craic…
REACTION

Sunderland drew 0-0 away at Leicester in a game which we probably should have won based upon the chances, but will be put down as a decent point away from home.

Despite failing to score any goals, Gus Poyet insisted that Sunderland are improving: "We were waiting to see the shape of Leicester because they have been changing it the last few weeks. We knew after first 15 minutes it would be difficult and they would come at us but after that we were comfortable. I think we had the best chance of the game with Fletcher. It was a game where you are trying to win but don't risk enough to lose it. It was a balanced game I think. We have got much better in recent weeks. We are a difficult team to beat again. When we conceded eight goals at Southampton it was after an international break, so we had a big point to prove today and I am very pleased we proved it."

"I think we are back to normal. I needed to think about what happened three or four weeks ago and we needed to get back to basics. That day (Southampton) was a terrible day, it was something unique but it creates doubt in the players' minds and in the next game we made two massive mistakes (against Arsenal). We play Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool next, so in two weeks' time I'll let you know if we can do the same. It's a decent day."

Gus also defended Lee Cattermole for a tackle on Esteban Cambiasso: "Ten years ago his tackle would have been highlighted as one of the best in England. We are going soft, these people that never play football and don't have a clue are trying to make it a non-contact sport. This is football. It was a proper English tackle."

Seb Larsson was happy with a draw away from home. He said: "Any point away from home is a point gained. Obviously we are a little disappointed because we thought we should have won the game but our performance was very good. I felt we did enough to win the game but we just couldn't finish it off today, especially in the first half when we really controlled the game and created some really good opportunities. It just wasn't our day in front of goal but on the other hand we stayed strong at the back and didn't concede which is always difficult away from home, so overall there are positives to take and we move forward."

"Away from home it is never easy and we felt we were on top in the first half, but when that happens you do think that the home side could come back and create havoc especially with the long balls they played. We stood strong at the back and we probably deserved to win the game but hopefully we will win the next one."

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