Pressure is lads have a
Cats should enjoy wide open spaces insists Ross
PLAYING on League Two grounds should be a bit of a comedown for players like Aiden McGeady, who have played in major international tournaments for club and country, but Jack Ross thinks Vale Park might be to his liking.
When the Staffordshire ground was built in 1944 it was with dreams of being “the Wembley of the North”, an 80,000-capacity stadium. By the time it opened in 1950, it housed only half that number.
And while Port Vale’s 19,052-capacity ground certainly does not live up to such a grandiose billing now, it does boast a big playing surface which a passing team like Sunday’s visitors Sunderland ought to be able to exploit.
At 114 yards long and 77 wide, it is bigger and broader than the Stadium of Light surface
That is good news for the inform McGeady going into the televised FA Cup first-round tie.
“The pitch on Sunday is one of the biggest in the country,” Ross pointed out. “When you have natural width from Aiden and Lynden (Gooch), it should suit them.
“I think they will enjoy what their stadium will provide on Sunday.”
McGeady has scored three goals in his last game-and-ahalf for Sunderland.
At Plymouth Argyle last week, he and Gooch started on the opposite wing to usual, at times cutting down the Black Cats’ width on a pitch which was only 73 yards across. While McGeady scored both goals in the 2-0 win – the second from the penalty spot – Gooch was relatively subdued.
But with so much space to be exploited out wide at Port Vale, McGeady could be out on his more natural left-hand side. SUNDERLAND will be under pressure at Vale Park today.
The TV cameras will be in tow, and they are not there to see how League Two Port Vale’s new back three is bedding in. They are there for an upset.
The FA Cup is forced to take a back seat depressingly often in modern times, but Vale manager Neil Aspin seems determined to give the game a good shot, and opposite number Jack Ross is sending out all the right signals about what team he will pick.
It should make for a proper cup-tie atmosphere.
But then, all Sunderland’s away matches this season have been played against that backdrop. As comfortably League One’s biggest club, the Black Cats players may as well take to the field with targets rather than numbers on their backs. They are the club every other League One side wants to beat, the team which fills stadia whenever they play away. At the Stadium of Light, anything other than victory is seen as a setback, at least beyond Wearside.
Playing for Sunderland requires a certain mindset. After years of being caught short in that regard, six consecutive wins and four straight clean sheets suggests the Black Cats have at last found the personnel with the wherewithal to face that challenge.
They certainly have a manager who laps it up. “I love the pressure in this job every day,” says Ross, whose previous job was with St Mirren in the Scottish Championship. “There’s an expectation put on your shoulders every single day you do the job.
“The players are the same, they carry that burden, but we’ve tried to create an environment whereby they embrace it. In every. away game this season the other team have viewed it as an opportunity to take a big scalp, so it’s been good preparation in that sense. We go into Sunday with a good understanding of what we’re going to face because of that.”
Sunderland’s freefall down the league ladder has left them with one or two players accustomed to playing on much bigger stages than an FA Cup first-round tie live on BT Sport.
Lee Cattermole has captained three Premier League teams, Bryan Oviedo (out injured) faced Brazil at the last World Cup, and Adam Matthews and Aiden McGeady have played Champi- SIR Bob Murray has launched a scathing attack on former Sunderland chairman Ellis Short by saying he “makes Mike Ashley look good”.
Murray was one of the key architects in the modern club, joining the board in 1984 and taking over as chairman in 1986. In 20 years as chairman he oversaw the building of the Stadium of Light and the Academy of Light.
The Black Cats - as they became known during that era - were seventh in the Premier League in consecutive seasons between 1999 and 2001, their best finishes since its glory days came to an end in the 1950s.
The club has gone into decline since, suffering back-to-back relegations under then-chairman Short.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Roker Rapport podcast, Murray was very critical of the American, who took a controlling interest in Sunderland in 2008, and sold it to Stewart Donald in the summer.
“I feel scarred by Short, I feel deeply scarred, my family feels deeply scarred, I feel really hurt,” said Murray. “If you said to somebody, ‘Take that great club and get them relegated’ - it’s impossible. It’s impossible to take this club into
Lee Cattermole and Bryan Oviedo
Sir Bob Murray