Sunderland must be up for the fight against 'pantomime villain' Joey Barton's Fleetwood

Joey Barton will return to Sunderland this weekend
Joey Barton will return to Sunderland this weekend
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It is a second consecutive home game for Sunderland this weekend against Fleetwood Town and they can’t afford to drop points at home for a second Saturday running.

This fixture is a real David v Goliath clash. The two clubs, in terms of fanbase, facilities, stadium and history, are poles apart but they meet at the weekend on level terms because of Sunderland’s double relegation and Fleetwood’s rise in punching above their weight.

SAFC coverage in association with John Hogg

SAFC coverage in association with John Hogg

The Fleetwood players will be relishing the opportunity to play on such a huge stage at the Stadium of Light – it won’t get any better for most of them to play at a big ground in front of a big crowd. Therefore, it is the Sunderland players’ job to make sure the Fleetwood players do not enjoy themselves too much – unlike the Oxford players – and make it as uncomfortable a 90 minutes as they can for them.

I’m sure that Jack Ross will be watching his players closely in training this week after the Oxford game, he won’t want to see anybody feeling sorry for themselves, it is angry players that feel they want to get back to winning ways he will want and need.

Jack Ross’ opposite number Joey Barton is no stranger to the North East and with his strong Newcastle connections, no doubt he will get a lively reception from our fans.

However, Joey will thrive on that. He will probably be more upset if he is ignored and won’t be overly concerned if he is cast as the pantomime villain.

He has made a good start to his managerial career, Fleetwood are in a play-off spot and he will see a win at the Stadium of Light as not only a huge bonus for his team but also massive for himself as a young manager with ambitions that will no doubt eventually outgrow Fleetwood.

Whatever anybody thinks of Joey Barton, he was a fighter and aggressive as a player so, if it is true a team mirrors their manager, then Sunderland will have a scrap on their hands this weekend in a game they desperately need three points from.