Will Grigg and Reece James spent their pre-Easter Wednesday afternoon engaging with the community as they took part in a Durham and Darlington Fire & Rescue initiative, which emphasises the seriousness of arson, and warns of the potentially deadly consequences. The former Wigan pair attended Peterlee Fire Station and donned fire-fighting kit as they were tested on their hosing capabilities, which should have been more than passable, as Reece’s dad actually was a fireman and Will likes to be on fire. They both looked ahead to the end of season run-in and gave their thoughts on that hectic game against Coventry before posing for photographs with the next generation of Sunderland supporters… and of fire-fighters.
ALS: Reece, as a defender, how difficult was it watching that Coventry game?
RJ: Tough, very tough. It was one of those games, I’ve been in games sort of like that before, and they shouldn’t really happen, but they do. It’s never good to concede five goals, but the positive we can take out of it is that we scored four. Hopefully we can take that scoring ability into the last few games and make sure that we shut up shop at the back and we’ll be fine. We’ve been working really hard on it in training this week, the defence. In fact, we’ve been working hard on it over the last few weeks, but unfortunately Coventry just had a really good game and showed how dangerous they can be on the break. Everything they hit seemed to go in. Sometimes teams can have a bit of luck, you can’t blame Jon for any of them, they were all good goals, and he didn’t have much of a chance with any of them. We’ve just got to learn to shut up shop and get back to winning ways.
ALS: The next three games are pretty tough. Are you just using the old adage of “one game at a time” or are you thinking of it being a tough weekend followed by a massive game against Portsmouth?
RJ: Yeah, just one game at a time, with the situation we’re in. We’ve got very tough games, but we’ve got to make sure all our focus is on the game against Doncaster, because they’re in a position where they’ve got to make sure they win as well. Unlike a lot of teams that’ve come up to ours this season, they can’t just come and park the bus, they’ve got to go for the three points and that should open things up. We’ve got to make sure that it’s us that get the points. This season has been a bit of a learning curve in terms of being in and out of the side through injury, but luckily, it’s an area that we’re well covered in, left-back. I had a spell a couple of years back when I was out for a long time, but this season has been in and out. It’s harder mentally than people think, being stuck on the side-lines and not being able to do anything about it. It’s probably made me a stronger player.
ALS: Will, how has it been at Sunderland, playing alongside Charlie Wyke?
WG: It’s been different, to be honest, as I’ve usually played up front by myself in the past, but I’ve loved playing alongside him. It takes a bit of pressure off physically and gives you a bit more opportunity to make runs. I’ve been impressed with the way Jack Ross has managed individual players when the formation has changed or when the results haven’t been brilliant.
ALS: You’ve been in this position before, with Wigan, do you feel more pressure, what with it being Sunderland and the size of the club, or are the fans a positive?
WG: Oh, the fans are a just massive positive, we’ve just got to keep that belief, keep that support going throughout the season. I think you can see it when teams come to the Stadium of Light, y’know, it’s like they’re sort of taken aback by it. Having said that, it can work as a positive for them, ‘cos it’s their biggest game of the season, but I think when we’re on top and the fans give us a boost, it’s absolutely massive for us. It’s no coincidence the amount of late goals, the comebacks, and the amount of goals we’ve scored in general, it’s probably down to the support, down to the fans, so if we can keep that going it’s definitely a positive.
ALS: A few people looked bemused last Saturday, during and after the Coventry game. You can’t have played in many like that, what’s your take on it?
WG: No, it was a crazy game, not something we wanted to happen or set out to take part in, but full credit to Coventry, they were one of the best teams I’ve seen this year. They took their chances very well, but it was a combination of disappointing things from ourselves when in possession and leaving gaps…it’s one of those things. If you score four goals, especially at home, you should never, ever, lose the game. We know we made mistakes, but we’ve watched it back, we know where we went wrong, and we’ll be looking to put that right.
ALS: Do you think they exploited the system well, where they had an extra man in midfield, or do you think that it was just bad defending or just a really open game?
WG: I don’t think you can pinpoint one thing; it was an accumulation of loads of things. They counter-attacked really well, I think at one point they’d had four shots on target and all four had gone in. I’m not going to say it was bad luck, but everything they hit was going in. It was probably the best I’ve played all season, so it was a combination of things. As for defensive mistakes, me and Charlie defend from the front, so it’s not pointing the finger at anyone. We lose as a team.
ALS: You had an ankle knock that made you pull out of the Norn Irn squad. How’re you managing with that?
WG: It’s a similar one that I had when I signed in January. It’s been difficult to get rid of, it’s one of those things that keeps recurring, so I’m trying to manage it as best I can on and off the pitch, to do everything I can to be out there on a matchday. It’s OK at the moment, so hopefully in the five games we’ve got left we can get the business done.