The Opposition View for Sunderland vs Plymouth Argyle is provided by Graham from the Roker Report.

1. Hi and thanks for talking to Argyle Life today. How are you feeling about the season so far?

I’m normally a glass half empty kind of man, but if you’d have given me third place with a game in hand after the turmoil of the pre-season and the sheer enormity of the changes at the club, I’d have taken it – the fact we’re in the Checkatrade semi is nice too.

Would I like to be in Luton’s position? Yes, but I certainly don’t share the opinion that our team should walk the league based on the players we have, that frustrates me a little. If you go through our team, it’s a collection of solid League One players (McGeady aside), not a Premier League squad as some opposition fans seem to think – so yeah, pretty happy and realistic!

2. It must be unusual competing at the top end of a league after years of turmoil?

To be honest, this is going to sound hypocritical now, but our side should be competing at the top of the table. The big change has been in mentality. Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven have brought back a sense of community to Sunderland and given it back to the fans. The players on the pitch, namely Luke O’Nien, George Honeyman and Chris Maguire, are just normally fellas – not the pampered Premier League players here for a payday and signing for the money. If you’re coming to Sunderland, you have to “get” Sunderland as people and as an area – thank fully the Chairman, the manager and the players seem to get that and it’s the most pleasing aspect. We’re up there because the team want to win for Sunderland and will run their guts out for the fans.

3. What is your assessment of the new manager/owners as their first season draws to a close?

I probably answered this above. The manager is really impressive – I personally am a big fan. I think his in game management is great and it’s nice to have a young, intelligent manager who gets the area and still has loads of time to get even better with experience. When you look at the mess he took over and the amount of signings he had to make – I don’t understand anyone questioning him.
The team is good, it’s really competitive and there’s people battling for a place all over the pitch. Our bench hasn’t looked this strong in years. You’ve got played like Dylan McGeoch, Bryan Oviedo and Adam Matthews who can’t even get in the first eleven. To reiterate though, it’s the desire to play for the shirt that has impressed me most.

4. One competition Sunderland fans and team alike seem to have taken more seriously than most clubs is the Checkatrade trophy. Why do you feel that is?

It kind of crept up on us really. We all knew we’d end up getting Newcastle U-21’s at some point, we kind of just wanted that out of the way, then once we did it was the quarter final. Promotion is the aim, but for anyone who has seen the scenes in Covent Garden from our 2014 League Cup final, I’d advise you watch it and then wonder why we are excited to potentially be going back to Wembley!

5. Who have been your star performers this season?

There’s been a few, but I’ll pick out three for you. Aiden McGeady has been utterly outstanding since he came back into the side in September and if he is on form – we win, simply put. Jon McLaughlin is most people’s choice for player of the year because he’s saved us countless times and is one of the main reason’s we have only lost two league games all year. He’s a terrific goalkeeper. I love Chris Maguire, but he’s just broken his leg so I’ll say Luke O’Nien for the third player. He’s actually an attacking midfielder and couldn’t get into the team until he randomly slotted in at right back, and he’s been brilliant. He’s a hugely likable lad and has chipped in five goals so far this season, mainly from full-back, whereas he’s seemingly getting pretty good at winning penalty’s for Aiden too!

6. And where have been the weak links?

Recently, it’s probably been at central defence. We’ve struggled all season with big physical strikers and to combat that Ross brought in Jimmy Dunne on loan from Burnley, but he’s really struggled. He’s slow and his passing is poor in the main. Most fans would prefer us to go back to Jack Baldwin and Tom Flanagan as the central defensive pairing, but in truth, Jack Baldwin has been shaky for weeks too. Non of them are outstanding, but Flanagan is the best of the three.

7. One hot topic of conversation among football fans is the Sunderland till I die Netflix series. What are your thoughts on that and the impression it gave of the club?

100% loved it. Think it showed exactly what Sunderland is all about. The hub of the community and the beating heart of a city. The theme tune from Marty of The Lake Poets pure gives you shivers. I think it came across really well, non of it was embarrassing or fabricated. You could see the mess Martin Bain, Ellis Short and Simon Grayson et all were making of the club, but you also saw how much it effected people in the area. I bleed red and white, my Dad bleeds red and white, my Grandad and my Nanna bled red and white and it’s just the same the whole fan-base over. My life would be far poorer without the Lads ’cause I love them dearly – and I think Netflix and Fulwell73 evidenced that during probably our worst season ever. You could tell the makers were Sunderland fans!

8. How do you anticipate Sunderland will set up tactically in the game?

Ross always has a tendency to surprise you, but I’m not expecting too many changes. It’ll be a 4-2-3-1, but it’s quite fluid. McLaughlin will be in goal, then you’ll have Luke, Dunne, Flanagan and James across the back – but Leadbitter will tend to drop right back when we are attacking and allow O’Nien and James to bomb on, Catts will sit in the middle, with Honeyman just infront of him in the ten, McGeady left and probably Morgan right. Will Grigg up top.

9. And what are your thoughts on Argyle this season?

You’ve looked pretty good recently when I’ve watched you on Quest. Ladapo seemed to be tailed off since the turn of the year but was great against Rochdale, and whilst Graham Carey has been a bit hot and cold for you this year when he’s on form he’s one of the best in the league. Lamerias seems to have been the catalyst for your turn in form though, he’s scored about seven in ten games or something daft. You look more like the side I expected you to be at the start of the season, but it’s probably too late too late. Aside from that, I’m still laughing about the guy who does your Twitter/match reports – the most salty opposition fan of the season.

10. Do you think Sunderland will ultimately get over the line and secure promotion?

If we don’t, I’ll be surprised. We’ve got more than enough about us to get out of this division – but if we do, I’ll bloody miss it! It’s been great. Proper grounds, proper die-hard fans and, ultimately, winning matches!

11. Finally, what’s your prediction for the score?

We’ll win, but I don’t think it’ll be a comfortable victory. You’ll be on a high from your Rochdale win and we are still shaky at the back, so I think you’ll score, but we’ll outscore you 3-1. Grigg, McGeady and O’Nien for us, Ladapo for you. Enjoy your trip up the north though, have a safe journey and come and say hello to us around the town if you’re staying over.

?>