Three key selection decisions caretaker duo will have to make for first Sunderland game

Robbie Stockdale and Billy McKinlay watched Sunderland U23's beat Exeter City 2-1 on Thursday afternoon as they prepare for their first game as caretaker managers.

Friday, 3rd November 2017, 7:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 6:29 am
Robbie Stockdale and Billy McKinlay.

Kevin Ball joined the duo at Eppleton CW ahead of a crucial league game for the Black Cats, currently third bottom of the Championship.

The pair have a number of big calls to make as they take on Garry Monk’s in-form Middlesbrough, but we picked out three of the most important...

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Robbin Ruiter returned to the side against Bolton but was found wanting just half an hour into the game as Sammy Ameobi’s effort beat him at his near post.

Generally, however, the Dutchman helped Sunderland look a touch more secure when it came to defending set-pieces.

The next manager will have a big decision to make over the long-term future of Sunderland’s goalkeeping department but for now, Stockdale and McKinlay will have to weigh up whether to persist with Ruiter.

Who plays central defence?

The Black Cats have failed to establish any kind of continuity in defence and the 3-3 draw against Bolton offered no answers.

Marc Wilson returned to the side and was disappointing.

Tyias Browning has performed admirably on the whole since arriving but is unlikely to recover from a hamstring injury in time to start on Sunday.

The big decision, then, will be whether to hope Wilson plays better for the extra minutes picked up or whether to gamble on the inconsistent Lamine Kone.

In the full-back areas, Adam Matthews has probably done enough to keep his place and on the other flank Bryan Oviedo certainly has.

Does Lee Cattermole return?

Cattermole was taken out of the team after a poor run of form but has Darron Gibson struggled in the two games since.

The Irishman has a tidy passing range but has not been able to influence proceedings enough to warrant a start.

Stockdale and McKinlay, then, must decide whether to bring back Cattermole against his former club.

They may well hope that midweek goalscorer Paddy McNair is fit to start and settle the debate.