Sunderland have a rare opportunity to put the league on hold this weekend.
That’s because the Mackems are getting ready to face Tranmere in the final of the Papa John’s Trophy at Wembley.
Heading into this weekend, Lee Johnson has plenty of selection dilemmas. Does he disrupt a defence which has kept five clean sheets in six or does he try to reintegrate some of the men who have been out injured?
There are also dilemmas in attack, an area of the field which has been dominated by Charlie Wyke and Aiden McGeady. They have contributed to 36 goals this term, a phenomenal return from two players from whom Phil Parkinson failed to get the best.
Wyke has 26 strikes this term compared to the six he scored in 2019/20, although Sunderland have also received help from the likes of Aiden O’Brien and Jordan Jones. The pair started last time out against Portsmouth but there are also cases for Lynden Gooch and Chris Maguire to feature.
Maguire had been one of the biggest losers from Johnson’s appointment just a few weeks ago. He was, and still is, being mainly restricted to substitute appearances.
That being said, he has come to life to deliver some vitally important cameos in recent weeks.
The forward has already bounced back from his fair share of tough times at the Stadium of Light. He was reprimanded by Parkinson after being snapped alongside McGeady at a McDonald’s just hours after suffering a defeat to Gillingham in December 2019.
He became a pillar of Parkinson’s team from that moment onwards, however, contributing four goals and three assists in his next six outings.
With the Scottish forward’s form improving all the time, Johnson has to consider unleashing him on Sunday. Maguire could just prove to be Sunderland’s secret weapon.
After all, the majority of Tranmere’s pre-game preparation could well be on how to stop Wyke and McGeady.
With Jones a major doubt, it only adds further appeal to playing Maguire on Sunday. He may be the difference.