After comparing keepers and defenders in yesterday’s column, our Sunderland man turns his attention to the midfielders and strikers who may, or may not, have an influence on Sunday’s North East derby...
Midfield: Joey Barton (Newcastle) v Lee Cattermole (Sunderland)
This is by far the most interesting battle on the field, with both players renowned for their tough guy attitude and no-nonsense tackling.
Cattermole has had his troubles on the field in abundance this year, with red cards flowing at the start of the season. However, he has controlled his temperament up to now, and if he improves his passing and work-rate at the weekend, could be a crucial asset to the team.
From a neutral perspective, I have been impressed with Barton’s turnaround at Newcastle, putting his off-field troubles behind him to focus on his game, and I genuinely think that both of these hard-hitting midfielders will have to outdo each other in terms of skill and quality rather than rough gamesmanship, as this is a derby that will demand quality over violence.
Attack: Andy Carroll (Newcastle) v Darren Bent (Sunderland)
Both of these players have been touted as potential England stars and in my opinion, both are capable of making that a reality, with a few flaws that both have to address.
Carroll has obviously been well publicised due to his off pitch troubles and his move-in with teammate Kevin Nolan should help his game. He is a strong physical presence and whoever starts in the Sunderland defence will have to be wary of that and deal with any aerial balls, or even better stop the supply from getting anywhere near him.
As for Sunderland’s saviour in recent seasons, Bent is an integral part of the team and has to start taking more chances that he hasn’t been finishing in recent weeks. Personally, I don’t think he’s been playing to full fitness but now he should be back at his best, firing on all cylinders and hopefully scoring a couple of goals in his first taste of the Tyne-Wear derby.
A greater depth throughout the Sunderland squad will hopefully provide a memorable and meaningful win for the Mackems and not so many scares this Halloween. Ha’ way the Lads!