“Likely to be a fatal blow” – The effect of recent big Sunderland issue on promotion hopes: The verdict
This article is part of ‘The Verdict‘ series featuring FLW writers’ personal take on the latest breaking news, teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Many Sunderland supporters would have expected a new centre-forward to arrive at Wearside on transfer deadline day after Ross Stewart picked up an injury during the Black Cats’ FA Cup trip to Fulham at the weekend.
The Black Cats have joined Joe Gelhardt on loan from Leeds United for the remainder of the season, but with Ellis Simms also returning to Everton in January, Sunderland’s play-off bid could be affected by a reduced presence in the attacking third.
Jack Clarke, Alex Pritchard, Patrick Roberts and Amad Diallo are all having a positive season in League Two and if their 2-0 win over Middlesbrough last time out in the league is to be seen they should still have the minerals to go to stay in contention.
We’ve collected the thoughts of a selection of FLW writers to see if they think Sunderland’s top six hopes are over with Stewart ruled out for the remainder of the campaign…
There’s no underestimating the importance of Ross Stewart to Sunderland and an integral part of their game both on and off the ball.
The Scot is a real physical presence, has great athleticism and connects the game very well whilst also boasting a fantastic goal record.
Off the ball, he is full of will and intelligence, manages the press very well and is a complete nuisance to opposing defences.
While he deserves plenty of credit for what he’s done in Sunderland colors so far this season, and as much as I see it as a blow, it needn’t derail their season.
Of course, the Black Cats have already spent a good part of this season without their talisman and managed to put up some excellent results while also playing some exciting attacking football.
I think the Black Cats have potential to cope with Stewart’s absence and while Joe Gelhardt is a completely different type of forward he can thrive in a team as creative as Sunderland.
Joe Gelhardt has joined the side on a promising loan move from Leeds United.
But the team is still a man short considering the 20-year-old was a replacement for Ellis Simms in the squad.
Stewart has been so influential for the team this season that absence will be costly, but the club have adapted well during their initial injury break earlier in the season.
Simms also struggled with injury during this period, leaving the team without a recognized number nine.
However, the results weren’t perfect and they have to be to complete a top 6 challenge.
Sunderland’s only real chance of a play-off run now is for Gelhardt to really hit the ground running, putting a lot of pressure on the Leeds player to live up to.
Think you’re a die-hard Sunderland fan? Try to score 20/20 on this quiz all about the club
The chasing pack in the championship playoffs this season is very unforgiving, and Stewart’s injury will likely be a mortal blow to their top-six ambitions and have a larger negative impact on the Black Cats since they were unable to to bring Simms back to the club and add another centre-forward on deadline day.
They will still pose a significant threat in the last third and it will be interesting to see what kind of influence Isaac Lihadji can have alongside Gelhardt, while having Amad Diallo under goals consistently over the past couple of years is a huge advantage was months.
Chances are the Black Cats will need to tighten up at the back if they are to fight for a place in the top six, with a drop in their offensive power appearing inevitable given the absence of Stewart and Simms from the flank. compared to the first half.