Jack Ross feels that Dylan McGeouch is starting to show his class after recovering from injury and having a run in the side. "I've been pleased with how he has played in the last couple of games because it has been an adjustment for him in so many different ways," said Ross. "The style of football is different, the challenges we face in each game and the intensity is different as well, and then it is obviously a change in his life as well. There are a lot of things that come into the mix. His contribution will sometimes be judged in different ways. We are encouraging him to have that belief and affect the game because he has that ability, he's intelligent and he understands the game. It's been good for him psychologically to make a positive contribution to each of these two wins, because they have been hard-fought wins as well."
The gaffer also praised Reece James, who hasn’t put a foot wrong at left back whilst Bryan Oviedo and Denver Hume have been unavailable. Ross said: "I'm lucky that every time this kind of situation has arisen, the player who has been presented with an opportunity has taken it. That's the culture and environment we are trying to create. Reece is an example of that. The opportunity has come and I don't think anybody could say he hasn't grabbed it. His performances have shown that he is determined to try and stay in the team, and that's all I can ask for."
In other news, Chris Maguire has scooped the Sky Bet League One Goal of the Month award for September, after SAFC fans made sure he got 56% of the public vote. Maguire said: “I just remember getting myself in a little bit of space and George [Honeyman] found the pass and we spoke about that – try and get in between the lines. I have managed to get some space and I have took a nice touch with my right foot to set it up nicely, and I just remember hitting it and it flew right in the top of the net.”
Elsewhere, Jack Ross has been discussing the differences between referees in Scotland and England. He makes some interesting observations. “The one thing I have found to date working in England is that it seems to be more common place that players surround the referee fairly frequently through the game. There have been times recently where it has felt every time we have made a foul there has been a clamour for a player to be cautioned. I don’t know if that is the norm, that is what I am trying to find out. If that’s OK or not OK, but it happens. There have been a few home games when it has been like that as well. I don’t think my players do it, we have been involved in some altercations like at Bradford, but I don’t think on a general basis that we get too excited when fouls are made on our players. It is more just a general observation. It might just come with the intensity around all our fixtures. As a general rule of thumb, you find that games with that intensity such as derbies, they are always games where you expect those things to be more frequent. Cup ties are the same. We are having it every week because, particularly away from home, the atmosphere is so good, I thought Tuesday was a really good game and I thoroughly enjoyed it because of the atmosphere our supporters generated in the stadium. I have been there myself as a player, where you can get caught up in that, the adrenaline flow becomes higher so naturally when something happens on the pitch your reaction might be hyped form what it might normally be. That’s part of why these games have been so enjoyable for me and for everyone associated with the club. I was speaking with Grant McCann (Doncaster boss) after the game, in general we both enjoyed the game. We thought it was competitive and we were probably quite surprised that there were no red cards, not because any of us had real concerns over any particular tackle, it was more the fact that when you get that number of players cautioned in a game, and particularly in defence and midfield areas, it is very difficult not to make tackles when you know you could potentially get another.”
The manager also believes that officials are quick to caution Lee Cattermole but did admit that his bookings were generally warranted! Ross said: “It was more a general observation, but with Lee. I think some of Lee’s cautions have been justified, I also think there are times when there is a rush to have him cautioned. He is a well-known figure in this league and he plays the game in a certain style. It is not a style that is any different to some of the other players in this league in terms of competitiveness. I just think that the leeway afforded to him may not be replicated elsewhere. I don’t want to go too heavy on it because I will sound paranoid about it, and it can happen. He knows that and he is fine with it. He is mature enough to be able to do that. I would never ask him to dampen his competitive instinct. That is what makes him the player he is. He might not have had the contribution he has made to our season to date without that, he has managed the situations well though.”
Meanwhile, former SAFC centre back, Michael Turner, is looking forward to returning to the SOL this weekend with Southend. “It’s always nice to go back to one of your old clubs, especially a huge club like Sunderland,” said Turner. “They will be disappointed to be in League One and I think a lot of people will be surprised they’re at this level, including myself, but it can happen in football. It’s tough for them and their fans but they will be looking to bounce back this year and they’ve had a good start. We’ve had one defeat in seven games and we felt that should have been a draw. Hopefully we can take that form up there and make it a good game. It will be a good atmosphere and one you’re probably not used to in League One but you go with the flow and there’s not too much to worry about,” said the defender. Once you’re on the pitch you’re just concentrating on your job. It doesn’t matter if two people are watching or 50,000, you just have to get on with your jobs and what you have to do. But Sunderland are a huge club with a huge fanbase so it’s a game to look forward to. I enjoyed it at Sunderland,” added Turner. “I had a good start and a good first season. I got quite a bad injury in the second season and it was a setback for me there. But it’s a huge club and the facilities are top class.”
Southend head to the SOL on the back of a big 3-0 win against Walsall at Roots Hall on Tuesday evening. The result came at a cost though as their leading scorer (7), Tom Hopper, took a knock and is a major doubt for this weekend. Southend manager Chris Powell went on to say “It’s doubtful Tom will travel with us to Sunderland. I don’t know exactly what will happen, but he looked OK on Tuesday evening after the game. Until we get the scan results I can’t really comment but he was walking about. Hopefully he has just tweaked his knee and it’s something that won’t be long term.”
Southend sit just six points behind us and will looking to close that gap, backed by 1,000 fans at the SOL. Southend manager Chris Powell, in previewing the game said “It’s another test for us and one we know that will be tricky, but actually it’s a game that should inspire us, “It’s another test for us and one we know that will be tricky, but actually it’s a game that should inspire us. We’re going to a place which has seen Premier League football. They’re trying to re-build themselves as a football club but as I say to the players bring it on and let’s get on with it.”
Jack Ross is going into the Southend game, aiming to keep our unbeaten home record intact. “It reinforced the form the players have shown across the whole of the season,” he said. “They have shown a great deal of character and resilience this season and Tuesday was another example of us dealing with the challenges of this league better. I suppose when you asses where the opposition are in the league and the season they have had to date it maybe just highlights how good the victory was. It will be nice to be back in our own stadium because we have spoken often about making it a difficult place to come for teams. We remain unbeaten, but I would’ve liked to turn some of those draws into wins. Importantly, our home performances have been ok, and we would like to continue that. The belief is strengthening within the group. We are still adjusting to the challenges of League One and getting used to the target that is to win the league. Now we have put together this run in recent weeks and this record since the start of the season – we don’t want to give up these things lightly. We have another challenging fixture on Saturday. Just because we are at home it doesn’t make it easier than the ones we have faced. Southend’s form has been very good in terms of the last six games, so we know it is a tough match. Every team that has come to the Stadium of Light has produced good performances as well, so we know we have to play well to win the game.”
Elsewhere, The Red and White Army will continue their partnership with the Sunderland Foodbank by holding their second collection before this Saturday's game against Southend United. A group of volunteers from the independent supporter’s organisation and the Foodbank will be at the Fanzone from noon, and are calling on fans to donate food, toiletries and cash.
Sunderland Foodbank Coordinator Kate Townsend said: "We are delighted to be partnering with RAWA again. We received an overwhelming response at the last collection - a van full of food and lots of cash! I'm not a football fan myself and you sometimes hear less than complimentary things about supporters. My experience of Sunderland fans since we started this partnership has been nothing but kindness and a will to help those less fortunate.”
Chairman of RAWA Andrew Hird acknowledged the huge support from SAFC: "This partnership is a new initiative for RAWA and a bit of a new direction for us. The Club have backed us from day one without us even asking. They've provided the space to collect in the Fanzone and at the last collection, before the Fleetwood match, the academy came along to help. We had members of the under 23 and under 18 squad loading food onto the van and rattling collection buckets. It was fantastic to see supporters and players volunteering together like that. It perfectly illustrates the "one club" philosophy that the owners are keen to instil.”
Sunderland AFC Managing Director Tony Davison added: “One of the best things about Sunderland is the community spirit and a passion to help those in need. Working together, players, staff and fans can make a real and positive difference to our community. The Red and White Army’s partnership with Sunderland Foodbank is a fantastic initiative and we encourage our supporters attending the game on Saturday to donate what they can.”
RAWA attended a national Fans Supporting Foodbanks conference in Liverpool last week as partnerships between supporters and local foodbanks are springing up all around the country. Sadly, the demand for foodbanks is growing and predicted to get worse. Sunderland supporters can do their bit for the local community by donating at the Fanzone before the Southend match.