A The sun setting above Sunderland's SIDS on Wednesday seemed to be disappearing simultaneously with the evening light, escaping League One. Lee Johnson's side was 2-0 behind after the first leg of the play-off semifinal against Lincoln, considering the possibility of having a fourth consecutive season in the third tier.
This fate can still be avoided, but as Johnson admits, the margin for error is insufficient in front of 10,000 fans in Saturday's second match. “We're still in this,” the former Bristol City manager said. "But we have to turn this around in one of the biggest days in our club's recent history."
Given that Michael Appleton features Lincoln's best displacement record in League One, however, the Stadium of Light could be a staple arena, even if it has a significantly reduced capacity. “Fans will be our extra man,” said Johnson, who should hope West Brom's managerial approaches would distract Appleton. “Everyone should make sure that the stadium is an absolute cauldron. We have to score goals first and continue scoring. "
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During Phil Parkinson's time as manager, Johnson rescued a frozen player from Sunderland's freezer and was able to do a favor. return. “I overturned Geads and he showed strong leadership on and off the pitch,” he said. “He's the best player. The best players come with demands and it's not always easy to manage, but I appreciate the intensity it wants. He is tough. I am sure it will take the step as we need it. "
McGeady is disappointed for Lincoln, but Johnson's case is that McGeady's 14 Sunderland players are out of contract this summer. As more complexity, a clause in the wing's contract, a 35 match this season's one-year extension will trigger. Fixture marked on Wednesday No 29.
Given that McGeady is to some extent the club's best winning player, Louis-Dreyfus which episode will remain the Team next season, but a seeming coldness was resolved when McGeady signed a waiver deal on Friday. “It's not fair to reveal the details of the contract, but it shows that Aiden is one of the best people,” Johnson said. “All good for Saturday; Aiden has proven its class. "
Still, the lack of ties linking players' mid-term futures to Wearside probably represents a reason behind the collapse that caused Sunderland to win only two of the recent competitions in League One fixtures after the Papa John's Trophy was removed on March 13.
With the team's once-brilliant hopes of auto-promotion dashed, Johnson became an amateur psychologist who consistently emphasized the positives. “There has been a lot of propaganda,” he said. “Not exactly brainwashing, but as close as possible. We want each individual to bring out their best. "
It would help if Charlie Wyke could get back his old penalty area form. Sunderland's striker scored 30 goals 53 this term came about, but only four since Pope John's victory over Tranmere. Perhaps significantly, he is envied by Championship Middlesbrough, whose manager Neil Warnock is slated to be at the Stadium of Light.
By an uncanny coincidence, Wyke scored two goals, which Johnson headed 4. -0 win at Lincoln in their first responsible match in December. "We've scored four points against these before," said Sunderland's manager. "There is no doubt that we can do this again - but we need to be more vigilant in the back and more clinical at the top."
Although Johnson trusts the Football League's largest crowd, 14 months can put psychological pressure on Appleton players, encourage them to defend too deep, fear getting caught on the counter. “This is the first time we're falling short this season and that might help,” the 39-year-old said. "But we have to be as aggressive as possible without losing control."
He still can't quite believe that Sunderland was in the Premier League and Lincoln the National League five years ago. however, it knows exactly what is at stake. "The biggest game of my career," said Johnson. “Everything embraced me; I am simultaneously the manager, the aggressor, the controller, a fan who loves teenagers and wants to turn it around and create a great story for everyone. "