Opposition View: Southend

We asked Southend United fan Louis from @SUFC_fans for the lowdown on Saturday’s visitors to The Stadium of Light.

Southend and Sunderland are sitting at the top of the League 1 form table over the past 6 games. How do you think your lads will approach the trip to Sunderland and playing in front of 30,000 plus at The Stadium of Light?

It’ll be a massive test for our team, many of our players would’ve never played in front of a crowd that big before but I’d like to think they’d use it to their advantage and as an opportunity to make a real statement of intent. No doubt it would’ve been one of the first fixtures that the players looked for when the fixtures first came out, so I think they’ll be looking forward to it.

Your form this season shows the team scoring a lot of their goals in the 2nd half of games. Any particular reasons for that would you say?

In a number of games this season we’ve completely dominated the first half, haven’t been able to score, and have then found ourselves go in 1-0 down at the break or level at 0-0 when we should be at least two up. I think then in the second half the players come back out and make a real go for it and try and make the pressure that we’ve built up in the first half count. It’s a strange one but perhaps Chris Powell really gets into them at half time!

You finished 10th in League 1 last season after narrowly missing a playoff place the season before. Are Shrimpers fans expecting another playoff push this season?

Our ambition is to get a play-off position yes. We spent big by our standards for last season and it was disappointing but this time round it seems a lot more promising. It won’t be easy and there’s still a long way to go but a play-off push is what we are all hoping for. We feel we’ve certainly got the quality to be challenging.

Most Sunderland fans will not know much about the Southend players. Who do you think we should be watching out for and why?

Our 18 year old academy graduate central midfielder Dru Yearwood is one to watch; looks a real talent and since coming back from injury has got back to his best. He’s the sort of player who is always looking forward and likes to drive with the ball and may pose a challenge to the Sunderland players. Harry Bunn also did very well in the week and managed to bag 2 goals so if he starts again he could pose an attacking threat for us.

What formation do the team normally use, and what’s their usual tactics and style of play? Do you see this altering in any way for the Sunderland game?

Recently we’ve found that a 5 at the back formation with wing-backs, 3 central midfielders and 2 strikers has suited us really well and worked. However, on Tuesday night we switched to a flat back 4 with 3 central midfielders, 2 wingers and a striker up top and won 3-0 so it’s difficult to say which one we’ll opt for on Saturday. We like to get a foothold in the game and create a lot of chances early on but playing away is always difficult so it could be a more reserved and patient style of play from us on Saturday.

Your manager and ex player, Chris Powell, is considered a cult hero at Roots Hall we believe. What qualities does he bring to the club as manager?

He’s a club legend who’s loved by all the fans so that helps straight away. He really understands the club and has the total respect of the players. As someone who’s really respected within English football it’s easy to see why the players want to play for him. His man management seems to be one of his best qualities.

Our clubs have a couple of defenders in common - Michael Turner and Anton Ferdinand (Anton left Southend at the end of last season). What are your thoughts on those two in terms of their Southend United careers?

Anton had an excellent first season with us and we could’ve, and probably should’ve, made the play-offs that year. The second year was hit and miss with him, he never seemed to really get back into the form he showed in the first season despite having a full pre-season with us and it ultimately led to him becoming out of favour. The experience he brought to the squad was clear to see though and I think his addition to the squad really did help. The players had a lot of respect for him.

As for Michael Turner, he’s been solid ever since we’ve signed him and he’s another one who’s experience is priceless. Normally playing alongside 21-year-old Bristol City loanee Taylor Moore has allowed us to have a range of defensive attributes, and probably really helped with Moore’s development. He’s a defender who likes to pop up and grab a goal on occasion too so he’s a great asset for us.

Thinking about Sunderland AFC both now and historically, what thoughts come to mind?

Clearly a club that doesn’t deserve to be where they are currently, has a huge fan base and are the biggest club in the league. Don’t see why Sunderland can’t bounce back into the Premier League but as we’ve seen with Portsmouth and Charlton, that’s not always an easy thing to do.

What do you know of the Sunderland players?

Sunderland have some players who we’ve come up against a few times; Chris Maguire, Max Power and Charlie Wyke have impressed when we’ve played against them before together with players like Aiden Mcgeady and those who have played in the Premier League only a couple of seasons ago so it’s a very strong side for this level.

How do you see the game going in general, and a score prediction please?

I don’t expect us to be the dominant side but if we stay well drilled and disciplined then we could hold our own, but it’ll be a huge test and you would expect it to be our toughest game of the season. We’ve got the players who could make a difference, but I guess it just depends on what happens on the day and how we set up. I can’t see the game being a draw, I think someone will be going home with the 3 points so I’ll have to go with 2-1 Southend!

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.