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.