Everton will be home this weekend, welcoming Sunderland to Goodison Park. We talked to Simon Walsh of the excellent SB Nation blog Roker Report, and he gave us the lowdown on what Martin O'Neill has been upto.
RBM - All is not well at Sunderland this season. Not even one full year of Martin O'Neill on the job and already there's a hue and cry about his performance. What's going on?
RR - There is a lot of people whinging, but they're mainly just being complete tarts about the situation. We've had some people come to us with outrageous statements like it's the worst ever and all that... They've clearly not been supporting us for long if 2 defeats in 10 is as bad as it's ever been.
O'Neill's not even been here a year. Sure we're playing well below our best at the moment, but it happens to everyone. We've just got to work through it.
RBM - Do you feel O'Neill did enough during the offseason to build a Premier League-caliber squad? Who was brought in, and who was discarded?
RR - O'Neill has done enough yes. The additions of Adam Johnson and Steven Fletcher have been huge, while Carlos Cuellar and Danny Rose have proved to be more than capable too. Only James McFadden has proved to be a little pointless, and he's only here until January anyway.
Not many were discarded. We had quite a small squad anyway. Craig Gordon's departure raised some eyebrows (not mine might I add) but that decision looks justified considering he's still without a club, and we haven't really missed Michael Turner either.
RBM - US-based businessman Ellis Short is the owner of Sunderland and has committed financially to O'Neill's vision. How is the relationship between the two? How do the fanbase feel about Short?
RR - The fanbase love Ellis Short. He's a quiet guy, but when he does speak, he speaks calmly and with good sense. He sees the bigger picture. He's also brought in numerous good deals off the pitch, and doesn't pretend he knows it all and lets the football people deal with the football side of things. He'll give O'Neill everything required to be a success. It's up to O'Neill to do it now.
RBM - The Sunderland squad appears to have quite a bit of attacking talent, yet the team have not found the back of the net since September 29th. Are the players not gelling under O'Neill's watchful eye, or are there other issues?
RR - It's just one of them things. Everyone seems out of sorts and out of form, but the only way to get them into form will be to play them and let them work through it. When they all eventually click it could be frighteningly good. I just hope that's sooner rather than later! There's been flashes so far, but nothing incredible. It will come though.
RBM - Fans will have been hoping for a a top ten finish and two long Cup runs before the season started. With the Black Cats out of the League Cup and doing poorly at the quarter mark of the Premier League, what are the expectations currently?
RR - You're right, that's exactly what we were hoping for and it hasn't panned out too well so far. However, a top ten finish is still possible and we should really still be aiming for it. It's too early to write off the season or any expectations just yet. Perhaps the FA Cup will prove more fruitful for us this year, if we can avoid your lot!
RBM - Do you think O'Neill will be looking to the winter transfer window for help? Who are the players that Sunderland have been linked with so far?
RR - We've not really been linked with anyone this January. It's a little early to be dong that in all honesty. If he does add anyone they'll be of his usual formula - low risk fill ins. He's not one to panic and bring in anyone major. A loan or two might be about the best we get. Which I wouldn't be against, I hate January.
RBM - Finally, do you have a score prediction for Saturday? What should we be watching out for from the Sunderland side?
RR - Well there's not much to watch for from our side at the moment. Fletcher might be a danger, he only needs one chance and he could punish you. The attacking trio of Johnson, McClean and Sessegnon... at least one, if not all of them owe us a performance so hopefully this is the week. I must say though, I'm not overly confident though. I'm predicting we'll sit back and bore the life out of everyone and the game itself to claim the most uninteresting 0-0 of the season. Which I'll gladly take given our recent history against Everton.