Date: 5th May 2013 at 10:23pm
Written by:

Editor Lloyd Reddin has travelled up north to speak to Vital Sunderland Editor, Tom Bodell for his pre-match views before Stoke`s relegation battle with Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.

1. What went wrong against Aston Villa?

In short – everything!

Chiefly, we capitulated after after the third goal went in and with each goal that went in it looked inevitable that another would follow. Sure enough, another followed, as did another and another.

Strangely enough, I thought we’d made a decent fist of the first-half and certainly having equalised through Danny Rose so quickly after falling behind I was confident we would go on to win the game – how wrong I was.

We defended diabolically from there on out and with a striker of Christian Benteke’s ability on the opposing side, you can’t afford to defend that badly. Or, for that matter, create opportunities for him – take a bow, David Vaughan!

2. What are your views on Paolo di Canio`s political views?

Does this affect your judgement of his managerial skills?
They certainly aren’t the same political views that I hold, but I won’t demonise him for holding different political views to me. I think it’s also worth saying that my understanding is that he has said he takes some parts of Mussolini’s ideology, but he is not a fascist.

Either way, it has nothing to do with his ability to manage a football team and as long as the squad are happy to play for him, then there is no problem as far as I’m concerned.

3. Was it right in your eyes to get rid of Martin O`Neill, especially so late in the campaign?

I was fully behind Ellis Short’s decision to part company with Martin O’Neill, but at the time it seemed like strange timing unless you got someone in who could galvanise the squad for the run-in.

With the benefit of hindsight, the appointment of Di Canio has paid of because we now look a lot more likely to stay up than we did under O’Neill.

Di Canio has essentially done what O’Neill had been expected to do when he replaced Steve Bruce. It was always said that O’Neill was a motivator, the kind of manager that players would run through brick walls to play for.

To begin with, that appeared to be the case and he got the team going whilst changing little. Di Canio has done exactly the same up to this point. Going forward, the challenge is to mould the squad in his own image and put them into an effective system that wins football matches. Being a motivational type alone isn’t enough to push a football club forward.

4. Who would you say is your danger man?

Well, there’s no Steven Fletcher due to injury, there’s no Stephane Sessegnon due to suspension, so it’s up to one of Danny Graham, Adam Johnson or James McClean to step up to the plate and take responsibility for driving the side forward.

None of those players are playing desperately well, so I think it will actually fall to midfielder Alfred N’Diaye to be the driving force in midfield. He’s looked like an increasingly shrewd addition since signing in January and is improving with every game.

5. What would you say are your strengths as a team?

Normally I’d say we’re actually pretty hard to beat – but after the capitulation at Villa on Monday I think it’s hard to say that with a straight face!
I think our strength lies in the single-mindedness of Di Canio and the impact his personality has had on driving the team since his appointment.
That’s not a whole lot to cling onto, mind you.

6. What would you say are your weaknesses as a team?

Broadly speaking there’s no depth and as a result we are not carrying an awful lot of goal threat at this point. Fletcher is injured, Connor Wickham is also injured and Danny Graham has yet to score for us.
Our most creative players – Johnson and McClean – are both woefully short of form to boot.

7. Which player (s) do you fear from the Stoke City side?

After watching Benteke take us apart last Monday, I think former Sunderland man Kenwyne Jones could prove a handful – assuming he actually plays, which he doesn’t seem to do very frequently at the Potteries.

8. Is there any Stoke players you would like to add to your squad?

Ryan Shawcross has always struck me as a solid, no-nonsense defender who puts in a 7/10 performance every week. We could with one of those I think.

9. What is your likely line-up for the match?

It will be interesting to find out because there is no-one else at the club who plays in Sessegnon’s best position – off the main front man. Will Di Canio alter the formation or bung someone else in there ? – time will tell.
Mignolet; Bardsley, O’Shea, Cuellar, Rose; Johnson, Larsson, Gardner, N’Diaye, McClean; Graham.

10. Finally, what`s your score prediction for the match?

A pretty boring 1-0 win for Sunderland and an abhorrent game for the neutral!

A big thank you to Tom for taking his time to answer the pre-match questions.