Sunderland Echo journalist Phil Smith has touched on one decision facing Phil Parkinson ahead of the weekend’s League One opener against Bristol Rovers.
Having finished eighth in England’s third tier last season, missing out on an automatic promotion or play-off place, the Black Cats are now heading in to a third season in the division.
Manager Parkinson will be under heavy pressure to ensure his side get off to the best possible start and maintain consistent form throughout the 2020/2021 campaign.
Danny Graham has been signed by Parkinson to bolster his attacking options with the striker returning to the Stadium of Light for a second time during his career.
After sealing an 8-1 victory over Aston Villa’s under-21 side in the Football League Trophy on Tuesday night, Smith has now discussed who out of Graham, Grigg and Wyke is expected to start the weekend fixture against Bristol Rovers.
“Tuesday night could hardly have gone better for Parkinson in terms of his forward options.
“Danny Graham made an impact from the bench and quickly landed his first goal. Aiden O’Brien played well but missed a big chance against Hull City, yet was able to open his account with a superb finish in stoppage time here.
“Graham showed plenty of quality but Parkinson admitted afterwards he is still playing catch-up in terms of his match fitness, and so any contribution on Saturday would likely be from the bench.
“O’Brien and Maguire’s places look secure for now, which leaves one big call in terms of who leads the line.
“Will Grigg was left frustrated with his penalty miss last Saturday, but drew praise from Parkinson for his all-round game.
“Though it would have seemed inconceivable at the start of lockdown, he had edged ahead of Charlie Wyke, who had scored twice against Carlisle United but generally looked a touch off the pace.
“He responded well here, not just with his two goals (and both he and Graham are unlikely to face more obliging opponents in the air all season than what they faced here) but with his all-round pressing and movement.
“It was a reminder of why Parkinson has been so loyal to him, but there’s a decision to be made given how much Parkinson has stressed he wants his forward players to stretch defences and run in behind, something which Grigg has done superbly for the last month.”
It will be interesting to see who Parkinson selects as his front-man at the weekend.
Grigg has certainly had a good pre-season along with Wyke, but the experience of Graham was signed for a reason and it is hard not seeing him gain sufficient playing time.
In the long-term you would expect to see Graham in the XI, but given he is still not match fit it seems either Wyke or Grigg will get the nod at the weekend.
Who do you think will start for Sunderland? Let us know in the comments section below…
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