Wigan v Sunderland: a game to define our season

Image; Addick-tedKevin

We know our away from has to change. Steve Bruce knows it. Tomorrow, on his old Wigan stamping ground, would be an excellent time to start, with or without our new £13m star …

Which Sunderland team will turn out at Wigan tomorrow?

The question has less to do with the names that appear in the starting line-up, and on the bench, than with the way the players approach the game and perform once out on the DW pitch.

The team that turned up for the second half of the game against Manchester City, and at least the first half of the opener against Birmingham, will surely bring back three points from Wigan.

But the one that allowed itself to be out-fought and out-thought by a modest, newly promoted West Brom would simply allow Wigan to improve on a home record that reads, so far:

P2 W0 D0 L2 Goals (F) 0 Goals (A) 10

The justification for the headline is that the Hawthorns and DW stadium are precisely the kinds of venue where we need to raise our game as we often do at the SoL.

WBA away being a chance already thrown away, it is natural to look to tomorrow’s game as one that may define our season: soft touches on the road or tough to beat wherever we play.

Sunderland fans are, of course, desperate to see how the Bent-Gyan partnership is going to shape up. They have to wait beyond 3pm tomorrow.

Steve Bruce is cautious about what part, if any, Asamoah Gyan will play, having had an exhausting week travelling to and from Swaziland, where he played for most of Ghana’s 3-0 win in an Africa Cup of Nation qualifier. He also had to stop off in Rennes to collect some possessions left behind in the excitement of the last-minute deal taking him to Sunderland.

Gyan came close to scoring in a comfortable game for the Black Stars but admits he was some way short of being fully match-fit.

“I’ve got to wait for him to get back from international duty to see how he is … I will check on his condition when he walks through the door,” Steve Bruce said earlier this week. “But if he is OK, there’s every chance he will be involved at some stage at Wigan.”

But with Darren Bent and Danny Welbeck grabbing confidence-building goals for England the England Under 21s, Gyan’s absence from the starting 11 should not damage our prospects of gaining a good result.

What would damage them would be a performance similar to what we remember from Wolves, West Ham, Burnley, Birmingham, Everton and elsewhere last season, and WBA a few weeks ago.

Fortunately, this is not lost on the management. The Shields Gazette quotes Bruce as outlining a change from away game routines, bringing forward the team’s arrival in the North West to this morning instead of tonight to fit in some training.

Let’s hope it works. It is an ideal opportunity to show that we can perform on the road, albeit also against a team that has extraordinary performance swings from suicidal to inspired.

And without placing too much reliance on Gyan, wouldn’t it be a treat if he came off the bench in the second half and scored a wonder goal to double a lead established earlier by Bent?

Pete Sixsmith will be there for Salut! Sunderland (and for The Observer‘s fan’s view). It’s up to the Lads to turn Pete’s Wetherby stop for fish and chips on the homeward journey into a celebration party.

Colin Randall

8 thoughts on “Wigan v Sunderland: a game to define our season”

  1. I think Steve Bruce should include Luke in the squad! (That’s me posting as Jeremy)
    It would be nice to see Welbeck show what he’s really made of, too. So that’s three goals for starters — one each from him, Gyan and Bent. (That’s me posting as me)

  2. Good one Luke! That made me laugh.

    He hasn’t trained for a fortnight he says. I agree with Pete though. Give hime a 15-20 minute burst and the adrenaline of donning the red and white for the first time should be enough to make a cripple walk, cure baldness and take 3 seconds off a 100 metre sprint time. Instinct should just take over.

  3. I’ll never understand this “tiredness” stuff from players who need weeks and months to recover from 90 minutes of mostly light jogging.

    In April I awoke in a tent in a field in Belgium. Got a bus from Meerhout to Geel, got lost on a train and ended up in Herantals, found our way to Antwerp and then to Brussels, at 1pm I got a bus from Brussels to London and got in at 7pm. We had a meal, said goodbye to some new friends and then myself and a friend went at 11pm from London to Newcastle and got in at about 6am. I got the first train to Carlisle, got a taxi home once there at 8am, showered, grabbed my books and went and passed my first year shorthand exam.

    Guess I’m just made of sterner stuff?

  4. Alas, no fish and chips in Wetherby, but I am hoping to sample a ouple of pints and a pie or two in Wigan pre match.
    It is an important game in that we need a decent performance and a positive result – by which I mean a win or a very good draw. I don’t think Gyan will start, but I have just watched snippets of his press interviews and he seems a dignified and confident man.
    It made up for the awful morning I have had at work, helping two students complete their projects on St. James’ Park. I had to be very careful not to let my true feelings slip out!!!

  5. It would absolutely be fitting, given that Bent was brought on in the late stages of the England game and scored a cracker, for Gyan to follow suit and I hope Bruce gives him that chance. He may be a little travel weary and not fully match-fit but I think he’s also coming in hungry and would want to start with a bang. Ten minutes of 100-per-cent effort could well be enough. And he’ll have Mensah for moral support.
    Anyone giving odds on Cattermole finishing the game without being sent/carried off?

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