Earlier this week, I asked for your help with some questions for Sunderland's excellent blog, The Roker Report. Simon was more than happy to answer our questions, so without further ado:
Schmidtxc was wanting to know your general thoughts on Asamoah Gyan. It’s been a while since you've had that type of potential world class talent there.
SIMON: Gyan's a superb player. His pace, power and unpredictability is a problem for any team. He's forging a good partnership with Welbeck and Bent, and we're very lucky to have 3 first class strikers at the club. The whole crowd gets a lift when he's on the ball, and is exciting to watch. Exciting to watch, and glad he's at the club. Still only 24 too, surprisingly.
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Tui11BRoy3 had some excellent questions again this week. First up: Can we a general report on Danny Welbeck? He really seems to be coming along and scoring goals.
SIMON: After a slightly disappointing start, he's become an absolutely pivotal player for us. Bruce started the season playing him wide in a 5-man midfield, but due to injury etc has started him playing him through the middle and he's been a revelation. I think he could be capped by England by the end of the season if there's any justice, and I'd love to keep him at the Stadium of Light permanently.
Thoughts on Steve Bruce openly discussing how thrilled he would be if The Black Cats qualified for Europe?
SIMON: He's only saying what we're all thinking. Europe seems a real possibility if we can keep up the current momentum. However, I've been following Sunderland home and away for over 20 years now, and I know never to get my hopes raised. Most fans would have took a Top 10 finish and a decent cup run this season, and I'll still be happy with that if we miss out on Europe.
Aside from the Tyne-Wear derby this year, Bruce seems to be doing a fine job. Are the supporters generally happy with him as manager?
SIMON: Very happy. He's moulded a young and dynamic team which we haven't seen at Sunderland in a long time. We're all still waiting to see if/when any of his South American imports (Riveros, Angeleri, Da-Silva) do anything, but in the main he's bought very well, and we're playing very good football. Credit to him.
Jordan Henderson appears to be a real talent, are there any transfer rumors going around with him?
SIMON: Different rumours every day, with all the top clubs being linked, including your own team. The latest rumor is a swap deal with Man City for Adam Johnson & Nedum Onouha. I wouldn't take it. Henderson is too important a player for the future as he's only going to get even better. I wouldn't entertain anything less than £20m.
I had a couple of questions of my own:
Playing off the last question...Jordan Henderson has been linked with United...there has also been talk in various blogs about doing a Welbeck-for-Henderson trade. Is that something Steve Bruce might be interested in, or do you think the club would rather just buy Welbeck?
SIMON: I think Bruce has the same thoughts as myself. Henderson is simply not for sale unless a blockbuster offer comes in. I wouldn't swap for Welbeck, or even Welbeck plus cash. We don't have any need to sell, so I'd rather say to United 'name your price' for Welbeck.
Sunderland have certainly been impressive against the Premier League powerhouses this year (beat Man City and Chelsea; drew with Arsenal, United and Spurs)...why do you think they've been able to be so successful against the big clubs?
SIMON: It's the same as many other teams, raising our game for the 'bigger' clubs. We still need to eradicate some of the slips against lower teams. It's hard to think the same squad who beat Chelsea were outclassed and beaten comfortably by West Brom & Wolves.
If what I've read this morning is true, you'll be without Lee Cattermole on Sunday in addition to Danny Welbeck...how much does that really set your squad back?
SIMON: That is true, Welbeck obviously can't play against his parent club, and Cattemole is suspended having picked up 5 bookings. It's a shame as they've been two of our better performers of late. Zenden & Malbranque look likely to replace them, however its rare both of those last the full 90 due to fitness, so we're very stretched as we already have David Meyler injured, and Richardson has flu in addition to being completely rubbish.
Finally, what's your starting XI for Sunday and what do you think the final scoreline will be?
SIMON: Gordon; Bardsley, Onouha, Ferdinand, Elmohamady; Malbranque, Henderson, Riveros, Zenden; Gyan, Bent.... I expect Richardson will shake off the flu and start in place of Riveros though.