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Ex-Celtic, Manchester City and Middlesbrough star can help steer Sunderland to promotion - Stephen Elliott

I feel with no game at the weekend with the international call-ups, Alex Neil will have enjoyed the break.

By Stephen Elliott
Monday, 28th March 2022, 4:00 pm

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Since he has come in at Sunderland the games have been coming thick and fast in League One and he hasn’t really had the chance to look at and analyse his squad properly.

There has been constant preparation for games and sometimes when that is the case the training sessions are usually recovery based, without too much onus on team shape and ideas.

He may have been able to look at some lads, who haven’t been playing much, in 11v11 in-house games and seeing whether any can offer something in his team for the rest of the season.

Sunderland had a free weekend just gone.

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I know there are a few boys away on international duty but these two weeks without a game will give him the chance to fine tune his methods into the squad.

There are seven games left and if Sunderland are to finish in the top six then you would suspect that the majority of those games will need to be victories.

Sunderland find themselves outside the top six now after Sheffield Wednesday leapfrogged them after another convincing win at the weekend at home to Cheltenham.

With all the teams playing the same amount of games then the table is more realistic than before.

Sunderland now are chasing teams down rather than being chased and that can hopefully ease a bit of the pressure on the team.

The two weeks without a game will be beneficial in getting some fitness work into Patrick Roberts too.

He hasn’t had loads of football recently.

We have seen glimpses of the quality he possesses in the game last week against Lincoln and he is one of the reasons that still gives me hope that Sunderland can achieve that all important promotion out of this league.

The other reason that gives me belief is that defensively the team look very solid.

Keeping the ball out of the net is a big reason why Sunderland have drifted so far away from the automatic places after such a good start and that problem is seemingly being eradicated under the new boss.

Neil has stated that winning games is all that matters now and he is completely correct. He doesn’t do the long-winded press conferences like his predecessor and he is short and to the point.

My thinking is that his no-nonsense way has helped the teams’ defenders and they know ultimately their job is to not concede goals first and foremost.

Anthony Patterson should also be given credit as he has come in and looked really assured.

I believe he is a top talent and has a big future in the game.

It’s Gillingham at home on Saturday and nothing other than three points can be the outcome.

It’s the first of seven cup finals and I believe this team can still do it. It will take a huge push but the quality is there and everyone has to believe.

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