• Adam Stubbings

Opposition Talk: Sunderland

Doncaster Rovers take on Sunderland this weekend looking to earn a first ever league win over the Black Cats in order to get their Play-Off push back on the front foot.

Ahead of the game, we sat down with Josh Edwards from Sunderland fan outlet Speak Sunderland to get the inside track on our next opponents. Read on for our interview and stay tuned to Into The Empty Net for our dedicated Match Preview later in the week.

ITEN: Sunderland find themselves firmly in the promotion mix after 11 games. How have you viewed your team’s start to the season?

Josh: In terms of results, our start to the season has been adequate I would say. (We started off) winning games whilst not conceding, however since then things have gone drastically downhill. Performances since Day One have been incredibly poor but at least results were coming, somehow. Now however the results aren’t coming anymore, and we are still not performing anywhere near the standards of a side aiming for promotion. It’s just two wins from our last six games in all competitions, including defeat against a League Two side battling relegation (Mansfield in the FA Cup) and a side that hadn’t won away in 14 months before playing us (Milton Keynes last weekend)...

After a year in charge, Phil Parkinson remains a deeply divisive figure among Sunderland fans. Where do you stand on “Parky” and his management of the team?

12 months ago I wanted him gone and this hasn’t changed. Everything about Parkinson is the opposite of what you want in a manager. Poor tactics, no Plan B, poor team selection and an incredible lack of motivational attributes. To achieve something this season he needs to go, now.

Charlie Wyke has been in fine form so far this term, already surpassing his goals tally in each of the last two seasons. What has been behind Wyke’s goalscoring run, and is he now the striker you were hoping he’d be when he signed?

Wyke was our worst striker in recent years and now suddenly he’s our best but that’s more down to the lack of firepower we have in our squad than anything else. Will Grigg isn’t on fire, Danny Graham is past his Use-By date and Aiden O’Brien just hasn’t done anything since signing (in the summer). Wyke has improved this season and it’s a sign of how big a factor confidence is in football. Long may it continue!

Lynden Gooch spent time on loan at Doncaster when he was cutting his teeth, and has gone on to establish himself at Sunderland. How important is he to the team?

It depends where he plays. As an attacker he is vital: capable of beating his man, whipping in a good ball or shooting on goal. However, Parkinson has decided to play him as a wing back which completely nullifies any threat he has on opposing sides. Another awful decision from the manager...

Over a dozen new signings came into the club this summer. Who have been the stand-out additions so far?

Difficult one. Two of our signings are out for the season in Morgan Feeney and Arbenit Xhemajli – both centre halves. Remi Matthews (a former Rovers player) was brought in as a back-up goalkeeper and doesn’t fill me with confidence, whilst Aiden O’Brien has hardly hit the ground running and Danny Graham is neither one thing or another. Bailey Wright signing on a permanent deal was huge as I believe he is one of the best - if not the best - defenders in the league. Callum McFadzean also joined recently and whilst he’s only played two cup games, he looks to be a real asset and is very versatile.

The club look set for another takeover in the coming weeks. Are you hopeful this will be a turning point for the club?

Time will tell. We said the same thing when Stewart Donald took charge and that has only driven the club further into the ground. I’m hopeful it will be a big boost to the club as a whole if it happens but only if the first decision they make is to sack Parkinson, which according to local media sounds unlikely.

Finally, how do you see Saturday’s game going?

We haven’t played well all season so I don’t see things changing; I imagine both teams will score and Doncaster will come out the other side with the win. I’d love to be wrong, but I can’t see it. If Chris Maguire starts for us it may be a closer one to call as he is our only player capable of creating something from nothing, but if he doesn’t start, I’ll say a 2-1 win for Doncaster. Pessimistic I know.