It’s not a given. ”Davison: “I don’t think it was the scoreline that was the issue, it was the performance, and other performances. You look beyond the scoreline. We weren’t seeing improvement and Bolton was ample demonstration of that. ”Neil: “I didn’t expect a job to become available. Then it did, and I enquired. Naturally, when you’re out of work you’re keeping tabs on what might change.
It creates a belief and togetherness that’s hard to manufacture. ”Speakman: “We’ve seen teams such as Man United in Fergie Time being renowned for having a resolve to win a game at any cost, at any stage, and we had that feeling about the group. The group looked as if it couldn’t lose. That’s hard work, great coaching, great preparation, the players being in a good spot and never giving up. We showed Championship qualities in those last 15, 16 games. ”Sunderland finished fifth, six points off automatic promotion. They faced Wednesday in the play-offs and 45, 000 were at the first leg at the Stadium of Light. Sunderland won 1-0 but should have scored more.
How did it feel? Pritchard: “We had chances to win 2-0 or 3-0 and it would have been about shutting up shop at their gaff. But 1-0, you’re going ‘Oh, shit! ’ — and a bit more. I knew what was coming in the second leg. I’ve been to their gaff and it’s not nice. We’d lost 3-0 at Wednesday earlier in the season. ” Sunderland have the edge in the League One Play-Offs Semi-Final thanks to Stewart’s solo goal 💥 Watch the 2nd leg of Sheffield Wednesday vs Sunderland (0-1) on SS Football at 7:30pm 📺 pic. twitter.
But they did enough. “Every team I’ve had has been different and I’ve coached them differently because of that. My Preston group, we focused on not having the ball — a lot. Here, I focus on us not having the ball about 10 per cent of the time. So 90 per cent of our work is on how we play to win the game. Against Oxford, we weren’t quite ready to dominate. “In that spell, and this is probably going to sound patronising and I don’t mean it to be, I probably over-estimated the league. I’d been used to setting up against Championship teams. What I learned was I needed the opposition to come out and have spells in the game to attack us, so they would leave the space for us to hurt them.
Dennis Cirkin supplied the assist for the equaliser – and he was wheeling away himself with 72 minutes on the clock after sending the Lads into the lead. Victory ensured the Black Cats moved up to ninth in the Sky Bet Championship table ahead of a trip to Blackburn Rovers on Tuesday. Tony Mowbray was forced into one change at the Stadium of Light, with Cirkin replacing suspended skipper Corry Evans in the starting XI. Four former Sunderland players were named in the Wigan Athletic line-up, as Max Power, James McClean, Nathan Broadhead and Wyke started on Wearside. The Lads looked to have been dealt a blow with just 10 minutes on the clock, but Lynden Gooch dusted off an early injury and thundered into a tackle moments after rejoining the action. Roberts thought he had opened the scoring after the half-hour mark, but an offside flag denied the winger after he finished with aplomb following an incisive through ball from Pritchard.
Jack Clarke, for example, had done his job against Sheffield Wednesday (in both legs of the play-off semi-final). I dropped Jack out for the final and brought Elliot Embleton back in. I felt we were going to play inside Wycombe’s shape and we’d need ‘inside’ players. “Selflessness is rare. It comes from success, doesn’t it? It worked so often and it allowed the message to get stronger.
And maybe people became, ‘Sunderland will score’. Towards the end, it was a bit like that. It gets to the fans as well — it’s never over and they like that feeling: Never give up. ”Neil: “A big turning point for me was Oxford, because we didn’t play particularly well. Oxford had worked together for three or four years and were very good at what they did. “We had grit, determination, structure and discipline to see us over the line. I don’t think we’d have been able to do that initially. If you can play poorly and win… that’s what promoted teams do. I’ve watched a lot of Rotherham and Wigan (the two sides who went up automatically) and they didn’t play well in every game.
That was new to me. I had to adjust. “The second thing was that in nearly every game we won, we altered the shape of the personnel during the match. I’ll opt for the skill set that best suits a game. We played Gillingham and I brought Danny Batth back in because Gillingham are physical and he’s 6ft 4in (193cm) and wins headers. “The squad then feel so important and that creates a healthy team spirit. The group had a selflessness about them by then. The players knew a particular game might be suited to them but maybe not the next week.
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Sunderland AFC 2-1 Wigan AthleticSunderland AFC 2-1 Wigan Athletic Dennis Cirkin starred as Sunderland came from behind to defeat Wigan Athletic at the Stadium of Light on Saturday. Alex Pritchard and Patrick Roberts combined to devastating effect after the half-hour mark, but a contentious offside flag ruled out the winger’s well-taken finish. Wigan edged in front on the stroke of half-time, as former Black Cat Charlie Wyke volleyed beyond Anthony Patterson from ten yards. Elliot Embleton levelled eight minutes after the restart, applying a cool finish after excellent build-up play tore through the visiting backline.
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“We wanted to take stock and run a diligent process. It took 11, 12 days, but we felt it was really important to get the right person. When you see how things panned out, you could say it was the right process. When you explain it in depth to supporters, they understand. ”The appointment of Neil came the morning before AFC Wimbledon away. Why him, and what was his impact? Speakman: “We were fixed on the fact that an upturn in our points-per-game ratio was our best way of navigating the play-offs.
Despite ending the first 45 minutes on the front foot, the Black Cats fell behind on the stroke of half time when McClean picked out Wyke and the striker finished from inside the box. Gooch was replaced at the interval after sustaining an earlier knock, with Amad coming off the bench to aid the Lads’ search for an equaliser.
Pritchard: “If you lose that game, it could be decisive. ”Embleton: “I thought we could win it, definitely. We’d beaten them twice in the season (including a Carabao Cup tie). ”Davison: “Interesting. As with Bolton, I was in the car, with my wife and Kristjaan. We could feel significant changes were being made by Alex even if the results weren’t showing. We were confident in that. “And we’d played Wigan twice and won.
Did the absence of a manager affect the team? Pritchard: “It did have an effect. You can easily say that we should do it for ourselves as a team, stuff like that, but it’s difficult not having someone there to be the voice of the group. ”Kristjaan Speakman: “We try to be evidence-based in our approach — some of that is data, some of it isn’t — to try to have a clear picture on where we are and where we want to be and what the forecast is looking like. We just felt the forecast was not as positive as we wanted it to be.
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How Alex Neil has got Sunderland back on the up: ‘We’re having a real go, just differently’ We could have gone to Bolton and won 3-0, like we did at Wigan, but then we
could go to Rotherham and lose 5-1, or to Portsmouth and