No Mick this week as he is away, but I still managed to catch up with 1973 FA Cup legend, Vic Halom, to preview Sunderland's trip to Ashton Gate.
What are your initial thoughts of the upcoming match, Vic?
Vic: "First of all, I'm hoping they actually put the effort in that's required to play for Sunderland. If you don't put in 100% and you don't don't work your socks off, then you shouldn't be playing for Sunderland. The Championship isn't a particularly good league, there's no real top teams in it; in fact we're getting beaten by poor teams who, on paper, we should be beating. Not one team this season has impressed me and there's not one game I've looked at and thought that we couldn't get anything."
Robbin Ruiter is out for 3 months, what are your initial thoughts on Lee Camp?
Vic: "Well he's very small for a goalkeeper, if you put the ball into the box at any height then a big centre forward would beat him to it any day, I know I certainly would've! The height is a weakness but that'll happen; we have to exploit their weaknesses - if they have a 6ft 6' centre half, play it along the floor, make them uncomfortable and do things they don't like. We need to pull oppositions apart and get in their faces, we cannot afford to sit back and play the ball around in our own half, we need to get at teams."
Do you think we can go down to Bristol and get a result?
Vic: "Well for a start we need to get forward, like I said, we need to stop the boring football and stop playing around the defence. It's ridiculous that, 9 times out of ten, the midfielders have their backs facing the wrong way, the first thing they have to do is turn and take a touch, in this league you haven't got bags if time. We need to expect more from the players, the new lads needed to hit the ground running, the older lads need to step up and create something. Defenders in this division hate pressure and we need to get in their centre backs' faces and force mistakes by pushing high up field."
What are your opinions on the new signings?
Vic: "Ejaria you couldn't really tell against Ipswich, then again nobody really impressed me in that game. We started well but then we drifted off and we conceded, from there we just didn't look like scoring; once we loose a goal we certainly struggle to get out. Ashley Fletcher started quite well but just didn't seem to get into the pace of the game. In the game last week we looked short of power, size, determination and strength and we need to show that against Bristol as they're a decent side, although they're out of form, they're a big physical side."
With the upcoming fixtures do you think we can go on a run of positive results?
Vic: "When I looked at the fixture list the other day I saw our next home game is Brentford, I mean no disrespect to them, but when we played Brentford we were in the old 4th division and in non league at times, I think; they've got determination and they've built the club up. No matter who it is, we should be thinking positively at home and be going out giving it everything to beat teams there. Away games are differnet but the attitude shouldn't change."
After the Ipswich defeat, do you think the morale has dropped and will that affect the game at Ashton Gate?
Vic: "Morale is so important, nobody who's involved with the club can be happy at this - from the players to the coaching staff and then the supporters certainly aren't, and rightly so. Last week the supporters left angry and I don't like that but only the performance on the pitch can change that, the players need to put their heads down and change the record, the supporters are the most important part of any club and the players need to be as bothered about losing as the supporters are. I'll use little Bobby Kerr as an example, he used to run his socks off and do every job - he could get forward and he could tackle as well as many other things. Now we can't even take a bloody corner properly."
Do you think that fan protests are a good idea to make their views known?
Vic: "I'm not happy with the approach from the club top to bottom and personally I think it's far too late now and we've missed the opportunity to take any of that sort of action. Even if the owner wanted to spend now, it's too late and it's impossible as the window has closed so if people were going to protest then it'd have to have been earlier when the owner could've done something about it. Personally, I can't understand how the club are losing money hand over fist but we've got to go with what we've got and believe that Chris Coleman can effectively carry out his plan."
How can the finances change because the stadium is usually less than half full?
Vic: "The gates are constantly falling and that's a huge problem but it's down to the players. We're losing money left, right and centre and that'll keep going down if we get relegated; we'll be lucky to get 10,000 fans through the gates if we go down. Now there's only around 300 people in the suites when they used to be full, some games there's only around 50 people in there and they're having to close sections off. Whatever is going on at the club isn't down to Coleman as a few managers have been lead down the same path; you cannot blame one person. The signings haven't been the right material and that's not just down to the manager or the owner or the scouts etc. It's a collective responsibility."
So, what are your final thoughts and predictions for the match?
Vic: "Well the basics are being done very badly but I don't like to predict against us! I'll be more than happy with point, I'd love to come away with a determined performance and with every player nackered and all gave 100%."
Thank you to Vic for talking and keep your eyes peeled for the next part of 'On the Grill' with one of Vic's cup final teammates.