Blue blood Posted January 17, 2009 Share Posted January 17, 2009 So after our pleasing form in the league of late, Rovers can return to cup action with renewed optimism. I think my reaction to the draw was the same of most fans, “not again” being the response of both sets of fans. An away trip against premier league opposition is hardly ideal, especially in a relatively early round of the F.A. Cup, but Sunderland too will not be relishing the draw against a Rovers side, and not just because of drawing top league opposition: unbeaten in 5 under the new management of Big Sam, Rovers are one of the in form teams of the moment. The previous three meetings this season between the two teams have been the definition of tight. Both sides have won one, Sunderland beating Rovers 2-1 at Ewood whilst Rovers mirrored the result winning 2-1 in the League Cup at the Stadium of Light. The return league fixture at the end of December finished 0-0. Whilst Sbragia presided over some impressive results as caretaker boss including two four goal wins, a narrow 1-0 defeat vs Man Utd, as well as the draw against us, Sbragia’s record since taking over full time from the Sunderland boss is less inspiring. In the four games since taking charge on a permanent basis Sunderland have won 1, drawn 1 and lost 2. Giving a bit more context in both sets of games only one was played against the top 4 (Aston Villa). Perhaps Quinn shouldn’t have made the managerial appointment on the basis of a couple of high scoring wins against newly promoted teams. Or maybe it’s the utterly unpredictable nature of the premiership. Either way Rovers enter the game as favourites. A couple of lads I know are long suffering Sunderland fans and kindly agreed to answer some questions. Stephen’s answers are in red, Jon’s in blue. 1)Ok so the managerial merry-go-round’s been in full swing since we last met. Are you happy with Sbragia being given the job? Any regrets on missing out on Allardyce? Sbragia has been an incredibly successful coach throughout his career: he was at York when they beat Man Utd all those years ago, he took over and won the reserve premier league with us several times, moved on to work for Man Utd's youth team, helped guide Bolton to the UEFA cup, then finally came back to Wearside again. The man knows exactly what he's doing with players, but I'm a little concerned with his own admission that he hasn't a clue how to handle transfers. I'd have like Big Sam, quite nice to have a manager with club connections, and he'd have been able to lift the players, but I'm happy enough with Ricky. I didn't want Sbragia to become the full time manager as soon as he'd taken over and we'd had a good run - especially with some of the names being talked about to take over. But I'm quite happy for him to take over until the summer - the players seem to respet him, and he looks like he knows what he's doing do far! I have no regrets at all about Allardyce, I think he would have been a step in the wrong direction - quite an 'old England' type of manager, and we need someone more craetive to match the players we have. 2) And in a similar vein how happy are you with the season so far? Is it panning out as you would expect? The season has been prety much a huge let down, for me. Last year, we were looking for survival, and we did it quite comfortably. This year, some good players (Malbranque, Cisse, Diouf, Chimbonda, Tainio etc) were brought in, and all too few of them performed well. Since Sbragia's taken over, we've seen even more from Steed, who is a genuine class act, Cisse's continued well, and we've seen Tainio come into his own, with Diouf very slowly getting there, now that his future seems to have been settled. Chimbonda, however, has been a huge disappointment. Basically, with the backing of the board we have, the stadium, the fanbase and the players available, we expected to be at least comfortably in the 8th-10th area. But then again, this season's been weird for everyone! I'm amazed at how open the Premiership is this year, three wins and we'll be almost top! I was hoping for 9-13th at the start, and we seem to be on a good course for that. 3) You seem to have a huge squad with many joining on rather hefty transfer fees (am somewhat jealous that we won’t ever get to spend that kind of money again). Who’s been worth the dosh? Who’re the players Rovers should fear going into the game? Like I said, we've brought in a lot, and all but Chimbonda have really been worth it. Ferdinand and McCartney (if fit) have really bolstered the defence, Diouf can be a real pain in the arse for any team, and Teemu Tainio has really become the solid cover we expected him to be. Steed Malbranque can pick apart the best of backlines on his day. Another danger is Kieran Richardson, a player who seems desperate to play his heart out for the team and getting back to England form. But without doubt, the biggest threat to your defence would be Djibril Cisse, the man is just a natural finisher, it's been a long time since we've had a striker with his record so far this season, going back 8 or 9 years to the days of Kevin Phillips. Cisse's partnership with Kenwyne Jones is genuinely one to be feared now, they just compliment each other brilliantly. Malbranque has been a revelation - creating chances, troubling defenders with surging runs and the odd goal. Andy Reid, despite not being the most dynamic of players is a real playmaker, Richardson is excellent, but the one Rovers should fear most is our number 9 - Cisse. He's been a different class. 4)Diouf has been linked with us this transfer window. Would you be sorry to see him leave? In your experience would rovers be getting a good player? I honestly don't think El-Raji (as he's known over here!) will be leaving now, thanks to clear-the-air talks with Sbragia, leading to the manager saying he won't sell key squad players. I like Diouf, he's one of those players you love to hate, until he's in your team, because he just panics and winds up the defence all game. Fair enough, he's not had too many good games for us yet, but now that some personal issues (complications with the birth of his second child) are over, I'd like to think we might see the best of him. I still rate Diouf - he seems to be trying again now (although I'm not sure what happened with Keane!), and his quality can really do our side good - he's the only man we have who will take the ball when surrounded by opposition players and keep it. I'd be sad to see him go. 5)What are your views on Rovers? Who in the Rovers team do you reckon will give you the most problems? I've always liked Blackburn, probably since you lot won the title, just because it's almost a blip in the records, in terms of Top 4 dominance, although the less said about Shearer, the better! If he's still with you by then, Santa Cruz is an obvious threat, as is the sheer pace and strength of Roberts. Your team is very solid, good attackers in front of a lot of strong players, I'm a fan of Warnock in particular, but Samba looks a very good player, and I'm still a believer that Robinson is a great keeper on his day. I'm just sick of playing you lot now! First off, I'm getting very tired indeed of playing rovers(!), but I've always rated Gamst Pederson - he's a top quality attacking midfielder. I'd also be quite worried as to how Nosworthy will cope with McCarthy - I was open to the idea of signing him when he was linked with us. 6)How important is the F.A. Cup to Sunderland – where does it fit in priority wise for the fans and for the manager? The fans always seem to be up for the cup, although that wasn't particularly evident against Bolton in the 3rd round, probably because we've barely had a run in the competition since we got to the semis in the great Jason McAteer vs Dennis Wise mess against Millwall. There's always a great link made every year to the 1973 final, but that's probably due to the novelty of a quality team being shown up by a lower club. But I'd certainly not turn down a good cup run. I've grown up hearing legends, sagas and tales from the 5th May 1973. I think Sunderland would LOVE to see that happen again, and most of our fans will want us to really go for it this year. I can't tell you how Ricky feels, but I think he'll take it seriously. 7)Finally can I trouble you for a probable line up and final score prediction? Thanks for your time. Probable line-up (with preferred/conditions in brackets!): Fulop(Gordon, if fit) Bardsley, Nosworthy (new CB?), Ferdinand, Collins (McCartney, if fit) Malbranque, Tainio, Richardson, Diouf (Reid) Cisse, Jones Predicted scored: 2-1 Sunderland... Been a pleasure! Oh, go on then! ----------------------Fulop-------------------- Collins----Ferdinand----Nosworthy----Chimbonda Malbranque --- Whitehead ---- Reid ----- Richardson ---------------Cisse-------------------Jones----- I think it will be tight, but the home advantage with nudge it for us. I think 2-1 Sunderland (Cisse and Jones) but that could go either way! Ok to me there are several key battles that’ll take place. Dunny vs. Malbranque Given that the games have been so tight between us, I’ve a feeling it could well come down to that bit of magic that settles the game. Sunderland’s playmaker seems to be Malbranque, who now he’s being played in his proper position and not shunted to the left wing – take note spurs – is showing what a quality player he is. Whilst Steed may slightly edge it over Dunny in terms of technique and definitely in terms of fitness, I think Dunn’s greater ability to get stuck in will prove its worth in what will be a close game. Having another play maker in Tugs on the bench may well mean rovers get two bites of the cherry to find that moment of magic to unlock the opposition defence. Either man on form would have a massive impact and bring the whole team to the next level. Samba vs Cisse The consensus is that Cisse is very dangerous and Samba and Nelsen will have to be on top form if they’re to cope with his pace and stop his finishing ability. I’ve no worries about Jones as both our centre backs are very good in the air, and Sam’ll have them well organised to cope with any high balls into the box. Cisse’s pace is another matter though. I’ve a feeling Sam may have the quicker Samba marking Cisse, although he may think Nelsen’s experience will have a better chance of keeping Cisse under wraps. Either way I’m not overly confident on either centre half’s chances of keeping Cisse shackled. Our best bet may well be to cut off his supply. Robinson vs Fulop/Gordon A top keeper can make all the difference in tight games – either through the omission of errors or a world class save preventing a certain goal. Whichever keeper is in better form may well be the deciding factor. Robinson hasn’t been too convincing in controlling his area and our full backs will have to be alert to prevent too many crosses getting into the box. Having said that Robbo has made some fantastic saves this season and I wouldn’t bet against him producing a class save or two which keep rovers in the game. Fulop to me is a decent but unspectacular keeper, whilst Gordon hasn’t found it that easy to justify his price tag, even being dropped for a spell last season. Robbo to edge this one for me . So overall I reckon it’ll be a Rovers victory. For once everything is in our favour. We have a manager owho knows what they are doing, our midfield and Rocky are coming back to full fitness, and the team is on a roll at the moment. A 2-1 win sees rovers in the next round, Dunn and Benni with the goals. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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