SUNDERLAND 10 YEARS AGO: Simpson focused on run-in, Keane's dilemma
Here's what the Echo was reporting on SAFC 10 years ago today.
CARRY ON WINNING!:
Danny focussed on final run-in
DANNY SIMPSON wants a silver lining to his season.
The on-loan Manchester United defender has not lost in a Sunderland shirt.
He insists no-one at the Stadium of Light is taking success for granted, but admits the Black Cats Easter double over Wolves and Southampton had taken belief to a new high ahead of tomorrow’s home clash with Queens Park Rangers.
Simpson said: “The games can’t come quickly enough. At the moment, we’d love to play every other day. Everyone’s flying.
“Even when we were losing at Southampton, I still felt we would get something. We’ve scored a lot of late goals and I thought we could get a draw out of it.
“Carlos and Grant came up with two great strikes. When things like that happen, you start to feel unstoppable.”
Simpson was a January capture from Old Trafford, where results haven’t gone badly either!
The Red Devils sit top of the Premiership and marched into the Champions League semi-finals by destroying Roma 7-1 on Tuesday.
Lifelong United fan Simpson said: “I watched the game on TV the other night. They sent out a message to Europe with that result and I spoke to a few of the first-team lads after the game. I thought they would win the game, but didn’t expect anything like that.
“I’m a Sunderland player and that’s what I’m concentrating on, but if both Sunderland and Manchester United could finish the season with silverware, that would be perfect.”
With only four games left this season, Sunderland appear to have timed their little bid perfectly.
They trailed Birmingham by 15 points on Boxing Day but now enjoy a five point advantage over Steve Bruce’s third-placed Blues, who play their game in hand at Leicester on Tuesday.
If selected tomorrow, Simpson will play his 13th Sunderland game. The previous 12 have brought 10 wins and two draws.
The 21-year-old said: “We’ve had a feeling in the squad that we can win every game. We’ve taken a lot of confidence from the run.
“We can see where hard work can get us and the manager has been a big reason for it. He tells us that he feels he has the best squad and fills us with confidence whenever we play.
“But he won’t let us get too confident. We know we have to work just as hard in the next four games because we’re top of the league and there to be shot at.”
Another bumper Stadium of Light crowd is expected and fans are urged to arrive early – particularly those needing to collect tickets before kick-off.
Almost 41,000 watched the home victory over Mick McCarthy’s Wolves last Saturday and Simpson added: “Playing in front of that crowd was massive. It gave me a big lift and it will have been the same for all of the lads.
“If we have something similar against QPR, it’s another advantage.
“We’ve had a great unbeaten run, but we haven’t done anything yet. Our target is maximum points from the four games but the other teams won’t make it easy and will definitely want to put one over us.”
KEANE PONDERS HIS SELECTION DILEMMA:
ROY KEANE says his biggest worry going into tomorrow’s game against Queens Park Rangers is who to select and who to leave out of his in-form side.
There were few signs of any promotion run-in jitters at the Academy of Light this week.
And a relaxed Sunderland manager said today he was looking forward to the weekend’s game as a chance to consolidate Sunderland’s lead at the top of the Championship.
He said: “We go into the game looking for the three points, it’s as simple as that. I‘ve been told that if we get a point this weekend when we are guaranteed a place in the play offs.
“But that doesn’t concern me one bit, we’re not looking for the one point, we’re looking for all three.”
Not that Sunderland are taking tomorrow’s opponents lightly in what looks like being a hard-fought game.
“They are a useful side on a good run of form. They’ve won three of their last four games to move away from the relegation dogfight and so they won’t be under quite so much pressure coming to our place at the weekend.
“They’ve added a more physical side to their game recently and that’s probably helped them get points. So we are aware that we’re in for a tough game but it’s a game that we are looking forward to.”
Keane has been boosted by the fact that players returning from injury have taken competition in the squad to a whole new level in recent weeks.
He said: “That’s possibly going to be the hardest part of my weekend, choosing the team, because the lads have trained really well and given me a problem in who to pick.
“I’ve been able to make good use of the squad system over what proved to be a very good Easter for us.
“Going into the Southampton game, we rested the skipper Dean Whitehead and we had the likes of Ross Wallace and Daryl Murphy who had both scored goals in the previous game but didn’t make the starting eleven.
“I think that shows you the sort of competition we have in the squad at the moment but that helps to build confidence.
“We go into the game taking nothing for granted but we’re not going to be distracted and we are going out there to win a game, as always.”
Liam Miller and Nyron Nosworthy have both recovered from knocks sustained in the Southampton game and are clear to play.
Neither Carlos Edwards nor Stephen Elliott have suffered any reaction to their comebacks over the Easter weekend and both come into contention for tomorrow’s game.