For another view of our upcoming Premier League game v Sunderland, I took the time to meet up with the mysterious “Craig” of BlackCatChat. Whilst wondering if superstition was all that Sunderland fan’s have to base their hope of survival amongst the big boys on, I managed to focus for long enough to ask him a few questions about his team and ours, and the game in prospect:

Cutting straight to the chase, what do you think of your performances so far this season?

On the most part – disappointing. We’ve played well in few games to be honest, although there are signs that this could be a team able to compete at this level. We seem to lack the ability to make or periods of pressure count, and ultimately pay the price time and time again. After the elation of last seasons turn-around and the last-gasp winner against Spurs on the opening day of this season, we’ve come back down to earth with a pretty firm bump. Nobody really expected us to do anything but survive this season, even with the money we spent, but that task is looking ever more difficult.

What areas of your squad need strengthening?

Most of them to be fair. Injuries to key players have cost us dearly and we don’t have the quality in the rest of the squad to cope with this. Bardsley signing in January, and the return of Jonny Evans have helped to create something resembling a defence now, and the fact we’ve had a settled back four, has helped improve Craig Gordons confidence. We need an out-and-out proven goalscorer, a right winger and a creative midfield player desperately.

What do you need to change “now” to get the points needed to avoid a return to the Championship?

To be blunt we need to stop persisting with the 4-5-1 formation. We don’t have the quality to turn that into 4-3-3 when it’s required and quite often Kenwyne Jones is a forlorn and lonely figure up front. The return of Carlos Edwards to the right wing would be of tremendous value, but most importantly our strikers need to find their scoring boots. I’d also like to see 2 strikers being played together regularly to try and build up an understanding.

What do you think of Chelsea, as if we needed to ask? Are we now seeing the down side of having a multi-billionaire fan as owner?

Is there a down side to having unlimited money? Envious is probably the best word to describe my feelings for Chelsea. Mourinho built a great squad – and one with players who you could say weren’t “Big Names” i.e. SWP instead of Beckham etc. You’re still in with a chance of the title this season and you’re challenging for silverware every year. It’s hard to imagine how it feels to be a supporter of a vastly successful club, as Sunderland fans have had very little to shout about in recent years, apart from winning the Championship regularly!

Is Keane the right man to be managing you? Will he still be the best man for the job even if you don’t survive the season?

Only time will tell. He came in when we were in a desperate position and turned things around dramatically. I wasn’t overly impressed with his transfer market spending but he unearthed Big Ken for us and certainly raised some eyebrows with the signing of Craig Gordon. He’s still in his infancy as a manager, and is learning all the time. He’ll be the first to admit he’s made mistakes. I think with everything that happened 2 years ago – new ownership of the club, massive restructuring etc, we have to give him the shot at Niall’s “5 year plan” I maybe think we came up a season too early and could have benefited from another year in the Championship.

He seems to be getting a scouting network in place now, as well as the backroom staff he wants. Even if we do go down I hope the fans don’t turn on him. I was absolutely gobsmacked when it was announced he would be the manager, but right now I can’t think of anyone else I would want to be managing our club.

Which of our current squad do you most admire?

Has to be Drogba. He’s got everything you could possibly want from a striker. Probably the second best player in the country at the minute, behind Christiano Ronaldo.

Where are your realistic long term ambitions. You’re a club with a strong historical support, big catchment area and large stadium, how far can you take it?

Long–term with the size of the fan base we have, the relatively new stadium, the young and dynamic chairman and manager – we should be aiming to become an established top 7 team. We should be giving ourselves a realistic chance of winning some silverware year in and year out. I don’t think we’ll see any club break into the big 4 now – the gulf is huge and seems to grow every year. If we can become on a par with the likes of Everton. Blackburn, Aston Villa we’ll be happy I think.

Where will you finish this season?

17th or above hopefully. I think it’s going to go right to the wire and it’s a lottery really. Derby have gone, I think Fulham have too. It’s any one from seven for the last relegation spot. I’ll be moderately happy with 17th, more so if we finish above Newcastle J

What about Chelsea?

Win your games in hand and you’re right back in there. Again it’s going to be close but bearing in mind you have Derby & Sunderland to play this week you’re going to pick up six points by next weekend.

Give us a score prediction.

Sunderland 0- Chelsea 2

At last a note of realism. We’ll happily settle for that Craig. Good luck for the rest of the season.

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