Sunderland (A) Foster's Preview
A numerically depleted Argyle exited the Emirates FA Cup on Tuesday night, losing to Leeds United.
Argyle went into the tie with nine first-team players missing, including four – Adam Forshaw, Darko Gyabi, Alfie Devine and Lino Sousa - who were ineligible and two – Julio Pleguezuelo and Mickel Miller - absent to deal with personal, family issues.
With a squad that included just six substitutes, three of them teenagers, the Greens put in a brave display to draw 1-1 in 90 minutes, then lost to a fresher Leeds during extra-time.
Argyle Head Coach Ian Foster would have watching on knowing that an extra 30 minutes of football was not ideal in the early stages of a very busy month, but he has the succour of having the six players named above back at his disposal as the team get set to head to Sunderland on Saturday.
Foster says that his players have recovered well – physically and mentally - from the Leeds game, and are in good spirits for the excursion to the North East.
Speaking on Thursday, Foster said: “The players will be hurt, as am I, from the scoreline in particular - not the result, per se - although we desperately wanted to get through.
“It's mentally draining for them as well to stay in the game for as long as they did. The group have recovered well; we'll be good to go.
“They were actually quite jovial today; there's a buzz around the group. They recognise now they're going to get help from half-a-dozen other teammates, which is great.
“It's great to have them back. We missed them all on Tuesday. I think they're desperate to come back as well, and help the boys.
“They offer competition for places and that's what we want. We want the players at it, every single day; we want them fearing for the place. We want to make sure that they are challenging one another consistently.”
When Argyle met Sunderland earlier in the season, before Foster became head coach, the Greens won 2-0 at Home Park, with goals from Morgan Whittaker and Finn Azaz, but it was anything but an easy ride. Sunderland posed a significant attacking threat, and hit the woodwork in an open, entertaining game.
Foster says that he will not hold too much stock by the result last time, and certainly recognises the firepower the Black Cats possess.
“I think [the previous result] does come into it slightly,” he said. “It will do because players speak about those sorts of things.
“A lot's changed since then for both teams, so we won't pay too much attention to that game.
“We know the attacking threat that [Sunderland] pose. They've got players all over the pitch who are comfortable in possession and can hurt you. We have to make sure that we're right, tactically, but we also have to go there and impose ourselves on them.
“We feel like we're a goal threat. We feel like we can score against any opposition. What we've got to be able to do is make sure that we offer the security at the back to afford us the opportunity to go and punish the opposition when we get chances.”
Sunderland have the highest home attendances this season in the Championship, with over 40,000, on average, turning out in the Stadium of Light.
There will be a Green Army presence of over 1,000, high in the upper tier of the stadium, and Foster wants them to – as ever – make their voices heard.
He also is striving to ensure that his players are not overawed by the occasion, and the Premier League-quality arena in which they will compete.
“The players have earned the right to go to stadiums like this and perform in these wonderful venues, but we won't be starstruck,” said Foster.
“We won't be looking around at our surroundings thinking ‘isn't this wonderful’ while we're getting bopped all over the pitch. We’ll go up there, we'll respect the opposition - a fabulous opposition - but we're going up there to try and get points, and to come back with a smile on our faces.
“It won't be an easy job for us, we know that, but we won't get caught up in any sort of atmosphere or show them too much respect, which we were perhaps guilty of for 45 minutes at Elland Road.
“I'm sure we'll hear [the Green Army] as well, and they'll have to be loud from the gods. We need them; we always need them. We're never going to be in a game where we don't.
“We can't wait to hear the sort of support that we got in Wales last week. We look forward to seeing and hearing them on Saturday.”