This has been a rather unsavoury festive period for Sunderland and Lee Johnson.
He’d only been in the Stadium of Light hot seat a matter of weeks before the club came to a grinding halt following a bout of Covid.
Fortunately, that is now over and done with.
Sunderland have seen their last four games postponed because of the ongoing pandemic but thankfully, we’ll finally get to see them back on the pitch this Saturday.
What’s more is that Johnson nearly has a full squad of players to pick from. Josh Scowen is set to return in a few weeks after a scan revealed that he hadn’t actually fractured his shin. Meanwhile, Luke O’Nien and Denver Hume are the only other players missing.
Therefore, the new boss has a wealth of individuals he could choose from. He’ll have plenty of dilemmas too, particularly in defence. Left-back Callum McFadzean gave away a penalty against Wimbledon and they were also without Tom Flanagan.
The Mackems conceded in the process and as a result, only walked away with a solitary point.
We’ve already suggested that young full-back Cieran Dunne should get a run out at left-back, but Johnson needs to stick by his centre-back pairing of Bailey Wright and Dion Sanderson. Thus, there should be no room for the fit-again Flanagan.
Although the pairing shipped a goal, they looked comfortable throughout and should remain together for the Northampton clash.
Wright came up with Sunderland’s equaliser and Sanderson looked particularly assured, doing everything to near perfection. The Wolves loanee won 75% of his duels and completed an eye-catching 93% of his passes against Wimbledon.
On top of that, he used his tricky frame to draw two fouls from the opposition. Clearly, he is a player that’s a handful to play against.
Sanderson’s usual position is at full-back but he did a stellar job filling in centrally last time out and if he plays on Saturday, he could frighten the life out of Keith Curle and his players.
Alex Dicken, Wolves correspondent for Birmingham Live, once described Sanderson as a player with “lots of pace”, so it’s clear to see why he can bully attackers.
The 21-year-old has only made five appearances in League One this term but deserves more game time. That starts this weekend.