Jack Ross has been handed a boost with the news that Charlie Wyke has been given the all clear from his knee specialist to step up his recovery and with Duncan Watmore closing in on a first team return, our striking options are looking good.
In other news, Jack Ross’ number two, James Fowler, has been chatting about the changes that he made to tighten up the defence, which are now bearing fruit. “It [the lack of clean sheets] was one of the things we identified," said Fowler. "We were conceding goals at the start of games so it was something we looked at in terms of preparation and the warm-up, how we started games, how we played for the first 10-15 minutes. It's gradually got better and we are still winning, which is made much easier when you are not conceding. Working with the players week-in, week-out, the confidence of the players, and then of course Jon McLaughlin has played his part when he has had to make saves and we know how good a goalkeeper he is. We haven't won games easily, there have always been spells in the games whether the other teams have had opportunities but I think as the season has progressed we have dealt with those spells better. That's on the back of coming off a run of games with clean sheets in the league. Tom and Jack are a new partnership but the way they have played, the way they complement each other, they have been outstanding in the games so far. That bodes well going forward, as does having Glenn [Loovens] and Alim [Ozturk] there giving competition for places and letting players all over the pitch know they need to maintain their levels to remain in the team. There are going to be ups and downs in a season but it's how you bounce back from that. Post-Burton, we've done that – there has been a positive reaction. I think there are a lot of teams in this league who are going to be close, strong teams at the top of the league, so there will be times when we draw games or lose and it is then about our reaction to that. We're the biggest club in this league so there is an expectation for us to get promoted. Up to now we have dealt with that quite well. From the beginning of the season, the manager has always said that promotion is the aim. We're in and around that now so we're happy where we are. Our squad has progressed and squad-wise we are stronger now. Coming into the season there were a lot of changes happening behind the scenes but things are now a lot more settled which helps continuity."
Elsewhere, Jack Ross has been chatting about the FA Cup draw and having to travel to the Bescot Stadium two weeks in a row to face Walsall. “It’s not a distraction, but the focus is always on league games," he said. "We’ll see what comes. It was a new challenge for us. I’d probably want to avoid teams in our own league, that’s the only thing. I’d rather just face them in league games so anything outside our league is fine.”
Meanwhile, George Honeyman has been previewing our Checkatrade against Morecambe tonight. “I think we've shown what we think of the competition in every Checkatrade game that we’ve had. We’ve played a relatively strong team, and now there are not many games to get to Wembley if we can carry on this run. But not only that, we want to keep up our run of wins, keeping the momentum going. Whatever the match, we want to come off as winners and it will take us massively far if we carry that winning mentality into whatever – whether it’s training games, Checkatrade, FA Cup, league – we want to go and win it. We can take every competition seriously, and I think that’s down to the strength in depth we’ve got,” said Honeyman. “I think we could play any XI from our squad and you’d look at it and think, ‘That’s a strong team’. When the gaffer puts out a team, he says before every game, we expect to win. It’s a fresh approach from how Sunderland have been for the last few years. It’s a happy camp at the minute. A winning camp is a happy camp. I wouldn’t say the cups are a distraction at all,” added Honeyman. “When you get into the mentality of winning games, you want as many games as possible. We’d be happy with a game every three days when we’re thinking as we are at the minute, ‘Right, let’s just get on and win it’. That’s why we’re really excited about the FA Cup as well. We just want to get into each round and win the game. We just want to keep going because, at the minute, we’re feeling good so let’s bring on anyone.”
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