Ahead of Saturday’s home fixture at the Stadium of Light, @MattyCrichton spoke to Bristol Rovers fan Max from the @Gas_Cast who answered our questions about our upcoming opponents.
I guess we must start with the news that your manager Darell Clarke has been sacked, what were your initial thoughts and feelings on this decision?
The initial feeling was one of shock. Whilst it was obvious that something had to give, many were surprised that the board took action against the manager given his long contract and previous success.
You have lost your last four league games and sit 21st in the table, how do you expect the team will react to the departure of your manager?
It’s difficult to say. The next 3-4 games will show if the players have been underperforming for Darrell Clarke or generally lack quality. I expect it will be the latter, although it will be interesting to see if there is any reaction on the pitch.
Do you have a preferred candidate who you would like to see take over as manager?
At this stage, probably Paul Hurst. He did a good job at Shrewsbury and still has a lot to prove in League One after being sacked by Ipswich. He’d get us organised and knows a lot of the players.
You are the second lowers scorers within the league. However, your defensive record replicates Charlton’s who are fifth - what exactly has gone wrong this season?
The stats say it all, we simply do not score enough goals, and that gets you relegated, no matter how good our defensive record may be. We need to sign a proven striker in January for starters.
If you had to select one or two, which players would you say Sunderland should keep an eye out for during our game?
Liam Sercombe, if played in an attacking CM role can cause real damage on the edge of the area. Similarly, Kyle Bennett has a few tricks up his sleeve on wing. Both will want to prove themselves ahead of the January window to avoid being shipped out by any new manager coming in.
In the summer we were linked with striker Gavin Reilly because of his form under Jack Ross last year, how has he done so far this season with yourselves?
Gavin Reilly hasn’t had too many starts. When he has played, he’s looked lively and technically suited to this level. That said, perhaps the manager wasn’t seeing enough of him in training that warrants a first team position in our squad. Hopefully we can see more of him under a new manager, as he was quite sought after in the summer by teams such as yourselves.
Sunderland and Bristol Rovers both remain in the EFL Trophy and could potentially face each other at Wembley in the final - what are your thoughts on the competition as a whole?
The EFL Trophy once was a decent competition for League One and League Two sides, which gave them a good chance of playing at Wembley stadium and winning silverware. Now it seems the “big boys” want to commandeer it too, making into their own vanity project to develop their young players. I find it farcical that we cannot play our own young players in the competition without being punished, it seems very counterproductive.
Lastly, if you had to give an honest prediction ahead of the match, what do you think the final score will be?
I would say Sunderland 3-1 Bristol Rovers. We are in a fragile state, and I’m struggling to see past a strong Sunderland side that can hurt us with quality, particularly in Maguire, Maja, and Gooch coming up against a defence that shipped 4 at home against Doncaster.