It was a long trip up to the smoggy north east this time for your intrepid “North Stand” correspondent. When the smog cleared I found myself stood next to James Henderson, from Sunderland’s superior fan website; A Love Supreme. James kindly agreed to answer some questions on his team’s season so far:

Cutting straight to the chase, what do you think of your performances so far this season? Are you doing enough to avoid the drop, and if not what do you need to change?

At the minute I would have to say no we are not doing enough. We have performed well in quite a few games this season (particularly against Reading and Newcastle) but we don’t possess the firepower to turn our chances into goals. As long as we beat the teams around us we will be ok, but if I’m honest, that is by no means a guarantee. I predict a long hard struggle with our season being decided as late as the last game (and seen as so that’s against Arsenal maybe we should give up now).

What areas of your squad need strengthening?

Our defence needs a full makeover; Keane has bought too many Championship players. If we could bring in two or three quality (emphasis on the word quality) defenders then I’d feel a lot more confident before games. We have a lot of solid squad players but it’s worrying to think we have to rely on them week in week out. Carlos Edwards has been out for virtually all of the season and has now broken his leg so Keane might as well buy a right-winger.

We lack any conviction up front which is another concern. Kenwyne Jones is playing his part but unless Chopra, Murphy, Cole, Stokes, Connolly or O’Donovan start pulling their fingers out and actually scoring goals we’ll need a few more strikers as well. But apart from all that we’re fine!

Who’s been your form player so far? Who do we need to look out for?

It’s got to be Kenwyne Jones, the man is a machine at times. However like I just said, he’ll probably have no-one to play off up front so his involvement will be limited. Maybe Keane might cut his losses and rest him for the Villa game next week, after all I can’t imagine us probing your goal too often.

What do you think of Chelsea, as if we needed to ask? Has Grant exceeded expectations or is he just doing what anyone managing a squad of our quality should be achieving?

Chelsea are a very good team, there’s no questioning that. I felt quite sorry for Grant when he took over, he took a lot of criticism (most of it unjust) but credit to him he ignored it and got on with his work and it seems you lot are reaping the rewards.

There will always be the argument of anyone can manage a team like Chelsea’s, do to your array of world-class players. That to some degree is true but when Mourinho left the morale of the team was at an all time low, so well played to Grant for coming in and keeping the faith of the players.

Which of our current squad do you most admire?

It’s got to be Didier Drogba. I’d class him as a poor man’s Kenwyne Jones (joke!) Seriously though the man is unstoppable and a key part of your team. You have a lot of great players who seem to enjoy playing together which are the ingredients for success.

We’ve built a bit of a fortress at the Bridge. Think we’ll actually get a game out of you?I’d hope so. Without sounding too negative goal difference is everything so a 1-0 defeat wouldn’t be the end of the world.

How will you deal with Chelsea? Do you stuff the midfield, or will we see a more adventurous line-up?

Keane will no doubt put five in the midfield and like you said, try to stifle your play. I think Dickson Etuhu will probably start because he is most capable of breaking up attacks; however his football ability leaves a lot to be desired. The game will be won or lost in the midfield; if we can protect our defence then we have a good chance because if Drogba, Lampard, Cole and co get a hold of our back four we’re in big trouble.

Where will you finish this season?

Fingers crossed, 16th.

What about Chelsea?

I’m going to say 2nd, I don’t spend much time looking at the top half of the table so I’m not sure how far behind you are from Arsenal and Man United. However I hate Man United so I’m hopeful you’ll overtake them and if Arsenal bottle it you might even win it. If not I’m sure you’ll win a cup.

Give us a score prediction.

Chelsea 2-0 Sunderland. Good luck and enjoy the game.

With the questions all wrapped up, I beat a hasty retreat for word had got around that a local Irishman had just left the house on his evening dog walk and I didn’t fancy bumping into him down any dark alleys.

Thanks to James for his time & hospitality, lets just hope we’re less kind to our guests come 3pm on Saturday.

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