“Ultimately whoever is picked will be told the shirt is yours, you perform and you will be in the team for the Barnsley game – that needs to be a massive motivation for those coming in.”
The words of Simon Grayson ahead of the 2-1 Carabao Cup win over Carlisle United.
He made 10 changes in all, with three players catching the eye; Robbin Ruiter, Bryan Oviedo and Lynden Gooch.
It leaves Grayson with some intriguing selection issues ahead of the trip to Oakwell, with Sunderland eager to bounce back quickly from the 2-0 league defeat to Leeds.
1 Robbin Ruiter v Jason Steele:
Ruiter has made it clear he hasn’t come to Sunderland just to sit on the bench but he was respectful of the decision Grayson had to make. Steele has bounced back well from his awful debut against Celtic in pre-season and has done little wrong since, though he isn’t as convincing at set pieces as Ruiter.
Steele was rested against Carlisle and Ruiter took his chance with a man of the match display.
The Dutchman was commanding, pulled off a string of excellent saves and kept a shaky defence in check. Grayson will be conscious of the fact Sunderland are yet to keep a league clean sheet and may opt for a change in goal - it would be no surprise to see Ruiter start.
2 Defensive changes?
Everton loanee Brendan Galloway endured an evening to forget against Leeds and he missed Carlisle with a knock, though Oviedo would have started anyway.
Energetic Oviedo is good on the ball, defensively better than Galloway and offers an option going forward. He came off with a tight calf at Carlisle but is a certain starter at Barnsley.
3 Lynden Gooch or George Honeyman?
Gooch did his chances of a start the world of good with a bustling performance against Carlisle, scoring a fine winner .
Gooch was the brightest outfield spark and Grayson must weigh up whether to bring him in for George Honeyman, who has started every Championship game and done well, scoring twice in the league and cup.
Gooch v Honeyman is Grayson’s biggest call with Lee Cattermole, Aiden McGeady and Didier Ndong certain starters. Wahbi Khazri is an option but he didn’t impress at Carlisle.