As you know, we asked a few questions SB Nation's Sunderland blog, The Roker Report, prior to our upcoming clash with them. Thanks go out to Simon over at The Roker Report for taking the time to answer them, I know we had a lot of questions. The blog over there is very well done; I would encourage you to check it out.
Here are the answers to your questions:
How will the absence of Sessegnon and Cattermole alter the gameplan this weekend?
Martin O'Neill has been quite the revelation over there (I really wanted him for Liverpool manager when it was vacant). What has he done to kick start Sunderland or is it just a matter of being a fresh face?
What are your thoughts on Jordan Henderson from his time there and the performances you've seen with us? Was it a good sale or do you want him back? No, seriously, do you want him back?
How have the Bendtner and Big Greek loans worked out for you from your perspective?
Bendtner has been hit and miss. He can show flashes of brilliance, and get some handy goals, but all too often he doesn't look interested, so we never know on a week-to-week basis which Bendtner will turn up. Against Newcastle last weekend, he had possibly his finest game for us, and lead the line superbly. Will this be the start of a great run of form or will he rest on his laurels? We'll have to find out this weekend. As for Kyrgiakos, he hasn't set foot on the pitch yet, but he's handy insurance to have I suppose.
Gyan came back in the summer overweight and out of sorts. Bruce mentioned that agents and clubs had been pecking at him since he scored for Ghana against England in March. It seemed as though on the eve of the season it was all sorted out, he said he was happy, Bruce was happy, but he wasn't the same on the pitch. Then of course with the transfer window shutting he decided he was going to stay and sort himself out. Great, or so we thought. When the big bucks from the UAE came, he was there in an instant. We all felt hurt, let down and looked for someone to blame. Do we blame Gyan for going, or Bruce for allowing it to happen? A bit of both. However since then we've hardly missed him to be honest. There's two teams bidding on him at the moment, and even if we accepted the first offer, we'd be in profit. He came, and whilst he ultimately enraptured the fans with his personality, there was limited success on the pitch. We're all quite happy to see him go now.
As a question about the future, there’s really no reason that Sunderland shouldn’t be challenging euro places consistently with their support and stadium. So why are there always so many empty seats at the Stadium of light? It was ten years ago that Peter Reid had them consistently in the top half, I guess, but still.
Well we say consistently in the top half, but it was that we finished seventh for two consecutive seasons, so if that's how we define consistent, then yeah sure. The support in the North East is still nothing short of magnificent given the amount of relegations and disappointment we've suffered since those seasons over a decade ago. We're only just coming out from the yo-yo tag, and understandably some fans are still sceptical about whether this current state we're in is going to be a permanent one.
Whilst the stadium can look empty, there's still consistently (that word again) over 35,000 there often greatly exceeding that. In times of economic hardship, games being on pubs and laptops, that's quite some feat, and remains one of the best in the league.
I'd love us to challenge for Europe in the future, and I think we will, but this isn't the season. Perhaps next season, be it through the league or even an FA Cup victory this season, which is something we're very focused on. We've had a hell of a lot of false dawns at Sunderland, but this time it feels different.