Sunderland must start quickly to stop Joey Barton’s bandwagon gathering more momentum

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Saturday sees the return of our old friend Joey Barton to the Stadium of Light.

Having spent some more of his time this week trying to wind up Sunderland supporters, it would be nice to see the former Newcastle midfielder leave Wearside looking thoroughly miserable.

His Fleetwood side however have enjoyed a reasonable start to the season, and Sunderland will need to start quickly to stop them continuing their upward momentum.

Following Tuesday’s draw, and win, against Stoke U21s, Jack Ross has a couple of selection issues to contend with.

The stand-out player in the game was Denver Hume, who was very impressive at right-back despite being a left-back by trade.

Many supporters believe he deserves a starting berth ahead of Donald Love, who has failed to shine this season.

However, with Adam Matthews possibly still out, there could be argument for starting Hume on the left in Bryan Oviedo’s absence, ahead of Reece James, who struggled on Wednesday night.

Should Matthews return, I would go with him and Hume as the full-backs, and this would create a strong attacking threat down both wings.

Up front, there was a first start for Charlie Wyke, who will have welcomed the minutes, but for me he doesn’t look fit enough for a league start.

We may well see him introduced off the bench, but I expect Josh Maja to continue as the main striker, and deservedly so after his start to the campaign.

Dylan McGeough made his first start in midfield too, and he will surely be expected to keep his place in the team after coasting through the game against Stoke.

There could also be a decision at centre-half for Ross to make, with Loovens, Flanagan and Ozturk all seemingly fit and available to play alongside Jack Baldwin.

Loovens and Baldwin could resume their impressive partnership, while Lynden Gooch being available is a huge boost and finally getting off to a good start should see Sunderland return to winning ways at the Stadium of Light.

Another big crowd is expected for the visit of Fleetwood, following the more than respectable turn out for the Checkatrade game.

It was a strange feeling on Tuesday night, attending a first-team game that isn’t really a first-team game.

It has been covered a million times, but the introduction of academy sides into this competition really hasn’t done it any favours.

Take the attendance away from the Sunderland and Lincoln games, and there are fixtures struggling to attract a thousand people.

If the intention is for young players to get experience, then it was a welcome sight to see 32-year-old Charlie Adam trundling around the midfield for Stoke.

Conversely, Sunderland are told to pick a strong side, and yet see one of their key players was farcically banned.

It is a very strange competition, and one which surely needs yet another revamp.

That said, it doesn’t stop me wanting a day out at Wembley for the final.