Sunderland: changes in sight

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Read Pete Sixsmith’s verdict on Sunderland v Birmingham at Salut! Sunderland tomorrow – and stand by for a special Who are You? treat ahead of SAFC v Wolves

Colin Randall‘s shopping list from Hull City (h), Burnley (a) and Wolves (h), nine or at the very least seven points from three Premier games on the trot against supposedly inferior opposition, has already been torn up. A woeful second half at Burnley saw to that. Now, with lots of changes likely, Sunderland have the chance to advance in the Carling Cup. Don’t blow this one, too, Lads …

So the Birmingham City version of Kevin Ball confesses that he doesn’t give a stuff about the Carling Cup.

I’d have said the same last season and the season before, when it was clear all along that we’d be struggling for survival. This season, we have to look at the league cup as just the sort of trophy that is within our reach, given the mixture of ambivalence and contempt with which so many clubs approach it.

Despite their fans’ – or at any rate Kevin’s – understandable preoccupation with staying out of the bottom three in the Premier, which a reasonable start to the season suggests may be possible, City are unlikely to be a walkover tonight.

The game is nevertheless one that we should have no trouble in winning, certainly if Steve Bruce’s spending is to be justified and Ellis Short’s targets as owner are to be seen as more than a rich man’s fancy.

After the lamentable second half at Turf Moor, when a great chance of victory was squandered so softly that, even at 2-1 down, we never looked like a team capable of putting the opposition under pressure, men will be playing for their places, either to keep them or to break into the team for Sunday’s Premier home game against Wolves.

My dream haul of nine points from three “easy” games, or three of those points, may have gone. We really should not end this week (if we can stretch a point and include the coming Sunday) without having beaten two of the three promoted sides.

John Mensah and Paulo Da Silva are due for their first starts and will be almost as anxious to show they are the answers to our defensive frailties as we are that they succeed in that mission.

And assuming that Kevin Phillips gets his promised start for City, I hope he gets a rousing reception; his final season was dismal, as it was for just about everyone in the squad, but no striker since Brian Clough has given me more pleasure in Sunderland colours.

SuperKev has told the Sunderland Echo it will be an emotional evening. ” “I absolutely loved my time at the club and when I look back on my career, those are the memories that stick out in my mind the most .. (the fans) were magnificent and scoring goals for them and saluting them afterwards is a memory that always puts a smile on my face.”

In this spirit of mutual respect, let us hope he plays extremely well, only to be held by even better performances from our back four, and ends up satisfied with his game but goalless and beaten.

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