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Sunderland 2 v 0 Ipswich Town
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 20th November 2021 Kick-off 15:00
Any Club Our Size Run Properly Would Walk the League - Notes for Sunderland
Friday, 19th Nov 2021 15:00 by TomTheWriter

Two sides under new ownership face off this weekend in the league as the Blues travel to Sunderland and TomTheWriter assesses the mood in the opposition camp.

After Town’s 2-1 victory over Oldham Athletic in the FA Cup during the week, they turn their attentions to another promotion hopeful looking to bounce back from a poor run of form.

Sunderland started the season in impressive form, but are currently on a run of four defeats in a row.

So far during 2021/22, the Black Cats have picked up nine wins, one draw and five defeats from their 15 games, but have two games in hand on some of the teams around them.

Last year, Charlie Wyke ended the season with 30 goals, Aiden McGeady combined with the striker to emphatic effect, with Luke O’Nien resolute at the back.

Lee Johnson

“Some are Lee Johnson in - some Lee Johnson out right now”, “I'm annoyed with him over the past five or six games and think he's hanging by a thread at the moment due to the level of the collapse”, “Though I think Johnson is a poor manager, I want us to win the game and live in the hope that he can prove me wrong in the long run.”

Sunderland boss Johnson has been in charge of the club since December 2020, following the departure of Phil Parkinson. He took over with the club outside the play-off places, trying to guide them back into the promotion picture.

“Should never have been appointed, terrible record as a manager. Should have been sacked after last years disgrace, giving him more time to ruin another season seems mind-blowingly insane”, “We don’t ask for the world and the excuses from Johnson and the club have got to stop immediately”, “Lose and the stick Johnson would get would be miles worse than it already is.”

In his six months in charge, Johnson pushed the club from ninth in the league all the way up to third, entering April with a strong shout at automatic promotion. However, a run of one win in nine games saw them fall away from the top two and settle in fourth place.

Play-Off Heartache

“The lack of promotion isn't the be all and end all, but I agree that you'd like someone has some experience of it”, “Taking [Ross] Stewart off and leaving [Charlie] Wyke on was truly baffling”, “The way we ended last season was pretty much the same as we’re going through now.”

Sunderland’s play-off campaign saw them draw Lincoln City in the semi-final, giving themselves the advantage of a home leg in the second game.

However, they found themselves on the end of a 3-2 aggregate defeat across the two games, a 2-0 away defeat followed by a 2-1 win, leaving them having to settle for another season in League One.

“That game [the second leg] pretty much epitomises Johnson. First half we just went for it and battered them, it was fantastic to watch. Then half-time came, the Lincoln boss tweaked his formation and after they scored we just never looked remotely like scoring”, “It's back to square one, embarrassing to be in it, even more embarrassing if we don't win it”, “Looks like a big overhaul for next season though and I suppose all we can do is go again and pray and hope it works.”

The Squad

Having just missed out on promotion, and with a new owner in place, Johnson set about building a squad for automatic promotion.

Star striker Wyke departed for League One rivals Wigan Athletic, with club captain Max Power also making the trip across to Greater Manchester. Midfielder Josh Scowen left for recently-relegated Wycombe Wanderers, with Scottish winger Chris Maguire moving to Lincoln City.

Northern Irish defender Conor McLaughlin was released at the end of the season and recently turned up at Fleetwood Town. Big money signing Will Grigg was loaned out to Rotherham United with two players departing at the end of their loan spells.

Compared to the squad that ended the 2020/21 season, six of the starting XI remain from the 2-1 victory at home to Lincoln City with four of the bench still at the club.

Sunderland fans found a lot to be positive about this season, especially in the early weeks.

“We were perfectly fine a month ago”, “We have great strength in depth”, “We should have confidence in our strengths and play to them.”

However, on the other hand, they have also found a lot of things to be negative about.

“The biggest change has been the lack of pressing”, “Very poor ball control which doesn't allow for the quick passing which allows the opposition to cover all the options and force us back”, “Most fans have said for at least three years we need some pace, strength and power in the team so where are these sorts of signings?”

Sunderland 1-1 (4-5 on penalties) Bradford City

Sunderland lined up in their familiar 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 variant for the game against Bradford City nine days ago, falling to a defeat on penalties to the League Two outfit in the Papa John’s Trophy.

“Well, we have to take the positives out of that. We didn’t lose to a fourth division team in 90 minutes and we scored 50 per cent of our penalties”, “Struggled versus another League Two team, LJ is an embarrassment”, “Meaningless competition but another defeat nonetheless.”

“We were winning these games before when we were winning in the league. Now we’re not. Same applies to the result at the weekend gone”, “Bradford win 4-2 on pens”, “Well, it was a draw, really. We improved a bit in the second half, but it's hard to look ahead to Ipswich with much optimism.”

Sunderland 0-1 Mansfield Town

“Certainly, looks like he has lost the dressing room. Certainly a few just going through the motions today”, “I can't defend today's performance”, “It's the old cliché that the players aren't playing for the manager. It's said every time any club goes on a bad run. Yet, I don't think they are playing for him.”

“The manner of defeat is the problem, cup or league. I don't like to lose in the league but I can cope with it (well, I can't really). The way we have been losing, however, is symptomatic of a serious problem”, “Just get him sacked already”, “Does anyone have any idea on what Johnson's plan was - it was quite clear that the players didn't. We are in a mess and it looks very much like our head coach does not have a clue what to do.”

In Sunderland’s 1-0 home defeat to Mansfield Town in the FA Cup, they once again set up in their 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 variant. But a strong team was unable to overcome the League Two side.


player imageLee Burge

“[Lee] Burge can do little more than his performance at QPR so deserves another chance”, “Burge will not improve, nor will he stop making mistakes”, “Just watched them myself and as much as I have defended Burge in the past I have no idea what he was thinking. It was a pure brain fart, he has a lot to prove still as conceding nine goals in the last three league games show.”

Goalkeeper Burge was Sunderland’s number one last season, helping them to finish in the play-offs. Currently sat on the bench behind [Thorben] Hoffmann.

player stats

“Amazing how in less than two months he's gone from coming for absolutely everything on his debut even when he never had a prayer of getting there to being absolutely terrified to come off his line at all”, “Hoffmann is the least of our problems”, “As poor as Hoffmann as been in the last few league games, Burge has never been good enough for a side looking to get promoted from League One and never will be.”

Summer signing Hoffmann joined Sunderland on loan from Bayern Munich’s second team in August, solidifying himself as the club’s number one goalkeeper for the season.


“Wing-back would be perfect for [Niall] Huggins”, “Hopefully Huggins is back soon and at least that would give the option of moving [Carl] Winchester into the mix in midfield”, “I’d like to see Huggins given a go at right-back where possible as he looked very good in his limited game time, but Winchester has been very good there.”

Another player picked up this summer, Huggins departed Leeds United to join Sunderland on a free transfer. Has found game time hard to come by this season and is out until the new year with a back injury.

“I believe he's looked extremely poor lately after a very positive start to the season. Does he need a rest? Is he good enough?”, “[Callum] Doyle is a loan like every club at this level manages to secure”, “Tell you what, Doyle could learn from [Oliver] Younger on the passing front.”

Manchester City’s Doyle swapped the Etihad for the Stadium of Light for the season, joining up with the Black Cats. Started the campaign very impressively, but has fallen away in the past few weeks.

“Might as well go back to West Ham the amount of game time he gets”, “[Frederick] Alves has shown nothing to warrant a first-team place”, “He's poor and has no pace at all. Absolute liability whenever he plays.”

Adding to the loan ranks, Alves switched West Ham for Sunderland to add more depth to their defence for the season. Has been used mainly in the cup competitions.

“He had a purple patch at the start of the season were he was excellent, but he has reverted back to form from the rest of his time here”, “Tom Flanagan clean sheet against the European Champions. You love to see it”, “Flanagan is OK but a bit weak.”

player imageTom Flanagan

One of the senior options in the defence this season, Flanagan has been with Sunderland since 2018, having joined from Burton Albion. Has been their main defender this season and will probably be paired with Doyle on Saturday.

“A defender who's comfortable on the ball. Can play out with confidence, think he'll certainly get more opportunities in the first team this season”, “[Oliver] Younger and [Stephen] Wearne, we are wasting time and money on”, “A case in point after Tuesday is [Nathan] Broadhead and Younger claiming first-team places and improving our performances in the league.”

Picked up from Burnley last season, defender Younger has been with the Sunderland U23 side since his arrival. Does get called upon for the cup games, but unlikely to feature tomorrow.

“I'm happy they made the England squad but at the same time unhappy because richer clubs above us will be looking at them now”, “I would argue [that among] the marquee signings was [Dennis] Cirkin, who cost a relatively big fee”, “Cirkin and [Dan] Neil are probably going to be first-teamers but I know some teams have been sniffing around them both.”

Another young defender snapped up this season, Cirkin switched Tottenham Hotspur for the League One side. Picked up for an undisclosed fee, Cirkin is Sunderland’s first-choice left-back. Likely to feature on Saturday.

“Looks like Denver Hume out for six-to-eight weeks with that ankle injury”, “Cirkin is absolutely no better than Hume”, “It's a shame Hume is injured as I'd have started him on Tuesday and given Cirkin a break.”

Having been released in the summer, Hume returned to the club late in the window after a new deal was agreed. However, injury issues have affected the majority of his career with the Black Cats, with him out again this season.


“[Luke] O'Nien has been out of sorts in the middle so I suppose swapping them around could make a difference”, “It's imperative O'Nien does not go walk about. He needs to stick to his role”, “I think he’s a better centre-half, in fact I would put him back there.”

Deployed as a makeshift centre-back for the majority of last season, O’Nien was reportedly promised that he would be played in the middle of the park this year. Naturally a centre midfielder, his versatility has been key for the Black Cats over the years.

player stats

“O'Nien isn't doing well in the middle at the minute and we've seen nowt from Winchester playing there to think he'd do any better”, “O'Nien has pleaded for the chance to play in midfield, we've given him that chance this season, and so far, he has been painfully poor”, “He’s a grafter who gives 100 per cent and obviously does all he can to maintain/improve his fitness.”

Despite his desperation to play in the middle of the park, the fans haven’t been convinced by his displays this season. Maybe a return to centre-back could be the best thing for both O’Nien and the club.

“You reckoned he was better than any League One defender you had seen. I reckoned he was at best our third-best centre-half”, “We better make sure we get Bailey Wright in the team”, “Bring Wright into a back three.”

Australian centre-back Wright has been with the club since August of 2020, having spent the previous six months on loan with the club from Bristol City.

player stats

“Seems good lad to have around but big flaw being he’s a poor footballer”, “Liability, used as a sub to hang on at the end of games which usually ends in tears”, “Looks like he should be a beast of a defender, chin like a breeze block, seems to get beaten and outwitted by bang average £900-a-week Morecambe/Cambridge/Cheltenham strikers.”

Played a lot for the club last season, but has mainly been used off the bench this year in league games and picking up starts in the cup. Could feature on Saturday.


“He must be in with a shout of representing England at U21 level. It would be great if he progressed to eventually play for the senior England team”, “The improvement in [Dan] Neil and [Elliot] Embleton this season shows how much young ‘uns can improve with a bit of experience”, “I like Neil and I said earlier it's hard for me to leave him out, but I think he's a bit hopeless without the ball, and that's where our problems lie.”

Young midfielder Neil, who recently signed a long-term deal with Sunderland, has been a shining light for the club in the middle of the park. Talented, driven and persistent, he will provide a solid test for our midfielders.

player imageElliot Embleton

“Embleton's performances seem to have dropped off since he signed a long-term deal”, “Embleton at least can and will pass the ball”, “Embleton can activate the press, we can win the ball higher up the pitch and with their ability create more chances.”

Like Neil, Embleton signed a long-term deal with the Sunderland this season, after a very successful loan spell with Blackpool last year. Started the campaign well, but hasn’t scored in 11 games.

“[Corry] Evans is clearly at the standard of a Championship player. The biggest issue is keeping him fit I know, but if he can play, he needs to be starting games”, “Evans was steady away, but no big deal”, “Evans must start to perform in that pivotal leadership role in the middle.”

One of a few signings made in the midfield by Johnson, Evans has come in as the new club captain after his departure from Blackburn Rovers. The experienced Northern Irish international has spent spells in and then out of the team this year, but should be available on Saturday.

“He is obviously a good player, however he hasn't used that ability to really make an impact”, “[Alex] Pritchard and Evans are the best signings in League One”, “Agree with 10 of your personnel but wouldn't have Pritchard anywhere near.”

Ex-Norwich City midfielder Pritchard has spent the majority of his career in the top two divisions of England, costing the Canaries £8,000,000 in 2016. Now finds himself in League One after a number of injury issues the last few years. Very talented and will be itching to impress against Ipswich.

“He can get down the line and also can help protect the full-back”, “Capable of having a world-beating performance every ‘one in 10’, but is frequently the worst player on the pitch”, “[Lynden] Gooch was a disgrace”, “Gooch's effort has been laughable of late.”

player imageLynden Gooch

Having made his Sunderland debut against Manchester City in the Premier League in 2016, Gooch is the only player to have stuck with the club since their fall from the top tier. The American international has played a lot of games this season, but hasn’t found the back of the net.

“He’s been excellent on the pitch, driving at defenders pulling them one way and then another”, “Hoffmann and [Leon] Dajaku are finding it a bit of culture shock”, “Not convinced that Dajaku is a better option than [Josh] Hawkes [who is on loan at Tranmere Rovers].”

Germany youth international Dajaku, like Hoffmann, has switched the Bundesliga for League One. On loan from Union Berlin, Dajaku has been very dangerous out wide this season for Sunderland. Likely to feature on Saturday, and will be a tough test for his full-back.


“[Aiden] McGeady would be great for Stewart and Broadhead but sometimes leaves his full-back exposed”, “McGeady plays either way, so it's futile to suggest any system or tactic where he doesn't”, “I think McGeady has been a huge disappointment this season. I don't think he has been anywhere near his best and I don't think we can start him just because he could do something.”

Irish international McGeady has been at the Stadium of Light since 2017 and was in fine form last season alongside Wyke. Their partnership guided the club into the play-offs, but he hasn’t been at the same level this season.

player stats

“Aiden McGeady has just been sent off”, “I fully expect McGeady to play rain or shine so it would be silly of me to suggest anything else”, “The likes of McGeady don't put in anywhere near the same shift.”

Hasn’t featured in the past few games after getting sent off against Rotherham United, but is likely to return to the starting XI if he is fit. Another tough winger for our full-backs to contest with.

Centre Midfielder

“I think he's underrated in the middle”, “I'd be tempted to try Winchester at right wing-back, rather than Gooch”, “Unless we move Winchester into a holding/breaking-up role, no one else can do it.”

Like O’Nien, Winchester spent last season in a totally different position to this year. Picked up from Forest Green Rovers in January of last season, Winchester has found his feet this year for the Black Cats.

player stats

“He had a handful of games either scoring or playing well at right-back, but defensively he's poor and he was hopeless at central midfield last season”, “The obvious is probably to put Winchester in the middle. You lose a bit of energy and combat, but you add some physicality and a sizeable improvement on the ball”, “Don't think Winchester is the answer.”

Despite being a natural centre midfielder, he has spent the majority of the season playing as a right-back. With Huggins out injured, Winchester has covered and then subsequently made the right-back spot his own with very impressive displays.


“We have seen very little of Broadhead other than cups and one league game against a poor team”, “I just really want to see Broadhead and Stewart up front, in the middle, together from the off”, “I hope Broadhead is told to play close to him. I hope that when we get the ball wide near the byline we cross it quickly.”

Everton loanee Broadhead has joined Sunderland after a stellar season in the U23 Premier League with the Toffees. Has played second fiddle to Stewart this season, but did score the goal against Bradford a few weeks back.

player imageRoss Stewart with the EFL trophy

“There will be some interest in January you'd imagine”, “Stewart could be in with a chance to go with Scotland if they get through the play-offs”, “I'm sure several of Ross Stewart's goals have come from him getting on the end of crosses.”

Leading striker Stewart started the season very quickly, scoring seven goals in his first 11 games. However, he has slowed down recently and wasn’t involved in their last two games. Will probably be leading the line on Saturday.


“The lad will end up striking the ball back to Sunderland”, “The difference is Aiden O’Brien is not worth anywhere near what he gets paid”, “AOB has a lot of critics but people seem to be willing to still give him the benefit of the doubt a lot.”

With Wyke’s departure to Wigan, Grigg’s spell with MK Dons and Stewart’s lack of game-time last year, O’Brien goes down as Sunderland’s star striker from last season. Picked up six goals in the 2020/21 campaign, including in the play-off semi-final against Lincoln City.

player stats

“It really should have been Aiden O’Brien who departed on loan and Jack Diamond who was kept”, “AOB has underperformed continually while at Sunderland”, “AOB is a complete waste of a shirt.”

Has five goals to his name already this season, but with three of those coming against Blackpool in the Carabao Cup. Could feature on Saturday.

Sunderland AFC Fans on ITFC

“If we get beaten badly with another poor display against Ipswich I think he may not even get the chance to win the next two”, “Ipswich is his test now. It’s going to be really difficult for him if we don’t win it. I think the bulk of supporters will lose all faith if we don’t pick up three points”, “Wish I had stuck a few quid on this lot winning the league three or four weeks ago.”

“They got laughed at every week on here while we were winning. Now they look much better than us”, “Lose against Ipswich and he’s gone. Project youth or whatever. The fella will be gone”, “Ipswich will see this as their opportunity to exploit our woes”, “There are going to be a lot of once big teams in League One if clubs like Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich Town don’t go up.”


“Fifteen games in. The owners, manager, coaches and players should be embarrassed. Any club our size run properly would walk the league”, “The club has a project to complete. He has promotion to complete. The project goes on without him eventually”, “Should we just stick with our manager then whatever position we end up in League One? What cost of not being promoted yet again?”


The main forum for a Sunderland fan is the Ready to Go forum, a comprehensive and extensive area for all Sunderland fans to dive into.

Photo: Matchday Images

Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.

FromIpswichToPhoenix added 15:35 - Nov 19
Great report as always Tom! Thanks!

keighleyblue added 16:35 - Nov 19
Hard to argue with any of their fans' comments really. Thanks Tom

Ebantiass added 19:45 - Nov 19
Great write up thanks for the insight. praying we make this game the worst of the season for the Maccums. COME ON YOU BLUES

BlueandTruesince82 added 22:33 - Nov 19
They seem worried, hope that fear has spread to their players, tough game tomorrow regardless of their form. They've been good at home all season

BangaloreBlues added 00:22 - Nov 20
It's surprising a team as huge as Sunderland have been stuck in this league for what seems like a long time, but it just goes to show how difficult it is to get out of. Looking forward to the match, Sunderland's form makes it difficult to predict.

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