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Fulham at Sunderland Preview: Three questions with Roker Report

Way back in 2013 I started trying to do three questions every week with our opponent. The very first instance was a Q&A with Roker Report. Hopefully I've gotten better since then. The clubs are in very different situations right now, but Roker Report was more than happy to answer our questions once again.

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Cottagers Confidential: Sunderland has only scored more goals than Aston Villa. Only five teams have conceded more. Only two teams have a worse goal differential. They are only one point off the relegation zone and three points off the bottom of the table. Though things aren't as dire as they were last season, it still appears Sunderland will be in a relegation scrap for the rest of the year. In recent years we've seen teams in the relegation zone go far in this competition. Wigan (2013) ended up being relegated, while Hull City (2014) was able to build on the momentum and climb out of trouble. Given that, how do you feel the team should approach the FA Cup?

Roker Report: We should treat the competition with the proper respect that it deserves. We got to the final of the League Cup last season and the whole run was unbelievable for the fans – especially those from my generation that hadn’t seen us do anything of note for years.

The week after that cup final we had 3000 fans down at Hull for an FA Cup quarter final and, being honest, we threw it. Poyet played an understrength team and we never looked like winning the game which disappointed all of the fans who knew we were one game from Wembley again, hoping to experience that high so soon after the last one had just finished.

With that day in mind, I’d be very, very disappointed if we do the same again on Saturday. There are a couple of obvious changes that will be made due to injuries and such but all in all I’m expecting him to field a fairly strong side.

CC: Jermain Defoe is back in England. I saw him play (both on TV and in person) while he was in MLS and he's still skilled enough to play in the Premier League. The problem is that he can't always play, as he missed almost half of the MLS matches due to injury. Do you really think he's the answer to the goal scoring problems?

RR: I’m not entirely sure but I’m more confident of his ability to find the net, even at 32 years old with injuries nagging, than any of our other three forwards. It was a big statement when we gave him such a lengthy contract and Defoe’s part of that bargain is to hit the back of the net on a consistent basis.

Steven Fletcher and Danny Graham had glorious chances last weekend at Spurs and waste them. I don’t think Defoe would have made the same mistakes had he been presented with similar opportunities.

Defoe himself said he feels better now than he did two or three years ago, so here’s hoping he’s put the injury problems he suffered last year behind him now.

CC: Fulham fans are now very familiar with what happens when your club is managed by a crazy person (Felix Magath says hi), so we can completely understand what it was like to be managed by Paolo Di Canio. However, Gus Poyet hasn't really lit the world on fire. His escape at the end of last year rivals Fulham's great escape, but Fulham built on that season by finishing 7th the next year. Poyet hasn't built on anything. How much longer will he be given before the team thinks about making another change?

RR: Wooooooooooooooooah. Steady! All in all – as mental as it was – last season under Poyet was fantastic. We beat Newcastle twice, got to a cup final – beating Chelsea and Manchester United on the way – and had that unbelievable finish to the season which saw us safe with a game to spare. The message in the summer was very clear –we need to use this season as our base to build from. We were told not to expect the place to explode, but to hopefully see a gradual improvement. Although our precarious position is slightly worrying, I don’t think we are one of the three worst sides in the league and our home games from now until the end of the season are favourable in comparison with some of the other teams around us.

Gus, if he stays or goes, is just a part of a long term vision that should see us good eventually. His job is to steady the ship and he’s maybe been a little too careful this season at times, but his decision to change his ‘system’ should hopefully see us play a more attractive brand of football. Tomorrow’s game should be a good opportunity for us to learn the ropes ahead of our run of league games.