Reece James on the crucial aspects of a big Sunderland win and the player giving his team a big advantage in the promotion race
Another game, another decisive contribution from Aiden McGeady.
An assist and a goal from the influential left winger who is shaping up as a key advantage for Sunderland in the increasingly fierce battle for the top two.
Reece James has the best seat in the house to watch the 32-year-old work his magic and says it is a ‘privilege’ to be on the same side as the former Celtic and Everton winger.
“I’m dreading it whenever I’m up against him in training, I’m hoping I’m on his team everyday,” James joked.
“I’m just glad I’ve not got to face him on a Saturday or a Tuesday night.
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“For me he’s absolutely massive. It’s a joy to play with him down that side because it makes my life a lot easier. I just give him the ball and he’ll do the rest!
“You try as best as you can to help him out and get him on the ball as much as possible as high up as possible in the games because he’s so effective,” he added.
“I don’t think a full-back has dealt with him to this day in the season, and that shows how good he is. He shouldn’t be in this league but it’s a privilege for us to have him as a player. He’s shown again why here.
“He’s been there, he’s been at the top, he’s played in the Champions League, and you see the quality he’s got now.
“He doesn’t look even a yard less sharp than he did when he played for Everton and Spartak Moscow. You’ve just got to look at that and see how good he actually is.
This was a win in which James and his fellow defenders made a massive contribution, however.
An excellent display against a direct side secured a welcome clean sheet.
“It was difficult to come here, we knew that before we came from watching the clips of them.,” James said.
“We knew they were going to try and make it as difficult as possible and I think that showed from the opening exchanges from both teams.
“We probably got the goal at the right time. We knew at that point we just had a job to do, to try and get another goal but at the same time be wary, especially with what’s happened over recent games. We wanted to just be compact and solid as a team and I thought we did that and we didn’t really look like conceding, to be honest.
“I thought that was something we’ve been building on in training for the last few weeks and it was good to see us do it throughout the game.
“It’s been hard that we haven’t had many clean sheets lately,” he added.
“We went on a good spell and we sort of dropped off from there. It (keeping clean sheets) is something we take pride from in every game. I think you can see the disappointment in everyone when we do concede. No one wants to concede goals, especially the back four.
“But Saturday was massive for us. There was big togetherness from us all from the front all the way to the back.”
An increasingly setled side is making a big difference but Hames also pointed to contributions from the bench as a sign of a healthy unit.
“Consistency in the team can help,” he said.
“It’s hard when games come thick and fast like they have been. That’s why you need a squad and the players to make impacts when they come on.
“On Saturday, the lads who came on were absolutely brilliant.
“Charlie [Wyke] did really well, he held the ball up for us when we needed it to be held up. Morgy [Lewis Morgan] came on and I thought he was unbelievable, he took the pressure off us.
“That’s what we need. We need to have a settled team, but at the same time when lads are called upon they’ve got to improve us, and I think they’ve done that.”
With Barnsley and Portsmouth twice dropping points, it has been a good week for Sunderland, though James urged them to focus on their own results between now and the end of the season.
“I think we’ve got to see it as a big week,” he said.
“We’ve taken six points out of six from it, which is massive.
“We don’t want to keep looking at other teams, but looking at the other games, Barnsley have dropped points in both games, which is good because we’ve gained momentum back over them.
“As long as we do our job, that’s the main thing and we’ve just got to keep our focus on that, rather than looking at anyone else in the league. If we do our business with the results, the rest of it should take care of itself.”