Sunderland Manager Hints At Starting XI Tweak

Sunderland manager Tony Mowbray has revealed that Patrick Roberts will soon be back starting games after appearing as a substitute in the last three fixtures.

The 26-year-old suffered a hamstring injury in the 2-1 over Rotherham United in August which forced him out of the next two fixtures. Unfortunately for the winger, his absence coincided with the Black Cats hitting a run of form, which included a stunning 5-0 win over Southampton at the Stadium of Light.

Mowbray admitted that he had shared a joke with Roberts in the aftermath of the victory over the Saints that he would be unable to change the team, but that has been the case following the excellent form of Abdoullah Ba, who stepped in for the former Manchester City youngster following his injury.

Sunderland’s five-game unbeaten run came to an end on Sunday when Cardiff City left Wearside with a 1-0 win, and they travel to basement club Sheffield Wednesday on Friday night looking for an instant reaction. Roberts will be hoping to return to the starting lineup at Hillsborough and Mowbray has hinted that he could be restored. Speaking before the trip to Yorkshire, via Chronicle Livethe former Celtic boss said;

“I’ve said it in the past – people must think I’m mad, how can I pick a team without Patrick Roberts? He’s just an amazing footballer who can really damage teams in this league and be so creative.

“But I’ve had conversations with Pat. He understands. He had a hamstring injury and, in a three-game week [such as last week], there’s no reason for him to worry about how much gametime he gets.

“He’s had quite significant gametime – he came on at half-time against QPR, and within the first 15 minutes of the second half at Blackburn. Patrick is fine with it, I’m pretty sure of that, and it’s just good to be able to turn around and see a player that you know can affect the game.

“You want players on the bench who you know you can bring on to affect the game, and to give other players a break – players you can bring on and it doesn’t weaken your side, it keeps it just as strong as it was to start with. Patrick understands the situation and it is not going to be long before he is back starting again and somebody else (is on the bench).”

Roberts is currently in the final year of his contract and was the subject of interest from Southampton during the final stages of the transfer window. Sunderland are keen to retain the services of the attacker and will be looking to negotiate fresh terms in the coming months.

Writer’s View

Patrick Roberts was always a player that would return to the starting lineup sooner or later. Tony Mowbray did the right thing by sticking with a winning team and it shows the strength in depth that he has been able to build during his time at the Stadium of Light.

Sunderland can consider themselves unlucky to have lost last weekend’s clash with Cardiff and the manager could be tempted to stick with the same team against Sheffield Wednesday on Friday. However, they are undoubtedly a stronger team with Roberts in it and it would not be a surprise to see him reinstated at Hillsborough.

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