"Going down might be fine, at least we'll win a few home games." I said this, or something very similar, many times towards the end of our disastrous Premier League campaign. Here I am now pondering the team selection of managerless Sunderland currently rock bottom of the Championship.
In truth if we were to lose, or maybe even draw tomorrow, it would have little impact on how the rest of our season pans out. The Billy McKinlay and Robbie Stockdale double act will not, thankfully, be permanent and whoever they chose to play is also fairly immaterial. Unless we pull off the highly unlikely win.
Away to Middlesbrough is always a feisty affair for a Sunderland side, but this one is littered with a cluster of emotionless players here for a pay-packet. Let's not expect the occasion to bring anything more out of them, nor the situation at the club as their performance tomorrow probably won't have much impact on their own chances of future selection. That's assuming they are even bothered about that.
There is an air of unpredictability about this game, it's not always easy to predict the response of a team after losing their manager. The bookies have us, understandably, as outsiders at 4/1 but it may be worth taking advantage of matched betting for this one given the air of uncertainty on Wearside.
With that in mind, I don't think we'll see a huge number of changes. I do expect Jason Steele to return in goal against his former club, ready for the obligatory clanger or two. John O'Shea, whom I've recently spied as being dubbed the 'Chief Rat' on Twitter, is likely to get the nod and remain alongside Marc Wilson. Bryan Oviedo and Adam Matthews look set to start too, meaning an unchanged back four from the side which managed to concede three to the previously bottom side Bolton Wanderers.
Jonny Williams is unlikely to be fit to start and George Honeyman seems the most likely to replace him to complete a midfield of Didier Ndong and the returning Lee Cattermole. Darron Gibson was beyond woeful on Tuesday night and whilst Catts' own form is far from desired Gibson will probably have played himself out of the game against Cattermole's youth club.
Aiden McGeady will obviously start, despite his selfish nature he remains one of the few players we have with genuine quality. Duncan Watmore is also set to regain his first team place after Callum McManaman proved ineffective against Bolton. James Vaughan is ruled out of the trip to Middlesbrough, but let's be fair he was never going to get in the side ahead of Lewis Grabban - who astonishingly is just a brace away from being joint top goal scorer in the league.
Predicted line up;
Steele, O'Shea, Wilson, Matthews, Oviedo, Cattermole, Ndong, Honeyman, Watmore, McGeady, Grabbann.