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Speaking with the Enemy: Q&A with Roker Report

As Liverpool look to climb up the table, and Sunderland look to pull themselves a step closer to safety, we sat down with Gavin from Sunderland's SB Nation site, Roker Report.

Michael Regan/Getty Images

Despite the generally positive feelings around Klopp's arrival, including impressive wins against Leicester City and Manchester City, the Reds haven't fared so well against teams on the opposite end of the table. Klopp's last trip to the Northeast ended in an embarrassing 2-0 loss at the hands of Newcastle, a fate the skipper will hope to escape as the side looks to push on up the table to wrap up a turbulent 2015.

Gavin from Roker Report was kind enough to exchange a few pre-Christmas e-mails, and didn't get too offended by all the questions about Sunderland's perennial relegation scrap.

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The Liverpool Offside: Another year, another relegation scrap for Sunderland. Is this the year you finally succumb to the inexorable pull of The Championship?

Roker Report: I honestly, truthfully, do not know. I've seen us survive from much worse positions than the one we find ourselves in right now and one thing I've learned whilst supporting Sunderland is that we often do the polar opposite to what you expect, so survival is definitely not out of the question.

We've finally got a manager in place now who I feel ‘gets' it and knows what he's doing. I've been a fan of Sam Allardyce for many years now and I was delighted when he got the job. The problem - one Jurgen Klopp also faces at Liverpool - is that he's currently working with a squad of players he's inherited from the previous manager, so results and form have fluctuated as a result.

I think the deciding factor as to whether or not Sunderland survive is totally down to how the January transfer window pans out. For me, we have far too many average players bloating out our squad - if Sam can bring in proven quality all over the pitch I feel we'll have enough about us to see us over the line.

TLO: Who will Sunderland look to bring in during the transfer window to improve their odds of survival?

RR: Wherever Sam has been he's signed big, powerful players and I feel that's the type of player we'll add in the January window. Lamine Kone of FC Lorient was linked late last week in the national press and he's very much a player that I can see coming to our club. We're desperate for some power in defence - as great at Younes Kaboul is, he's often injured or unfit and without him we struggle. Adding another player with similar characteristics to Kaboul would be welcome, and Kone certainly fits the bill.

Aside from Kone, we've been linked to very few players. Jan Kirchoff of Bayern Munich has been linked, but I'm hoping that we opt to look elsewhere as he's not someone I feel would improve us.

Under the previous regime employed by Lee Congerton - our former Director of Football - we often kept our transfer business under wraps until the deals were just about done and I'm keen to see whether or not things will operate the same now that full control has been passed back to Sam.

Sam needs to be backed if we are to survive. That's a fact which our owner Ellis Short must stomach. Sam needs funds in order to be able to sign the right type of players. Will he get it? I'm not confident but we'll see.

TLO: What would give you more personal joy: Sunderland staying up, or Newcastle going down?

Sunderland staying up, without a doubt. Although there are obvious positives to relegation - cheaper tickets, bigger away allocations, new grounds to visit, winning more than we lose for a change - I feel that going down could be catastrophic to a club the size of ours. The hole we find ourselves in would mean we'd be relegated with loads of average players on big wages in a league that financially cannot support that structure. Just look at the plight of Bolton as an example - if a club doesn't return to the top flight within a year or two you end up saddled with debts and quite often clubs will cascade down the leagues quicker than you can click your fingers.

Newcastle going down and us staying up would be just perfect, but right now I'm more focused on our own business. Simply put, we cannot afford to be relegated. Not now.

TLO: How's Fabio Borini working out in his second stint on Wearside?

RR: Pretty awful, if I'm honest. For much of his time here thus far he's either been injured or out of the team, only scoring his first goal for us last weekend at Chelsea. [note: Borini also scored this weekend in the 4-1 defeat to Manchester City, after this e-mail exchange]

Fabio is a player loved by the majority of fans because of his loan stint here in 2014, so he'll be afforded extra time by the supporters to turn things around but, being honest, he's done little to impress thus far. I hope he pulls his finger out and shows just why we spent so much time and money to recruit him, because he could easily go down as one of the all-time greats here if he can get back to the form which earned him the young player of the year award in his last spell at Sunderland.

TLO: Can we have our money back for Simon Mignolet?

RR: Erm, no. Can we swap him for Costel Pantilimon?

I love Mignolet. He was absolutely fantastic for us and I was gutted when he left, even though it was inevitable that he would considering the fantastic season he had which earned him the move to a bigger club. Maybe a move to Liverpool was the wrong one for him... who knows. He's definitely far better than he has shown since being at Anfield so I can understand why he infuriates the Liverpool fans, but I'd say give the lad time. He's still young and hopefully Klopp and his team can turn things around for Simon, because he's a superb talent at his core.

TLO: What is your view, as an outsider, of Liverpool's decision to sack Rodgers and bring in Klopp?

RR: I thought it was an opportunity well seized by Liverpool. I feel that you got him at the right time, especially considering the amount of other clubs that would have loved to snap him up in the weeks following his appointment. Let's say he was still a free agent - I have no doubt in my mind he'd be at Chelsea or Manchester United by now.

Rodgers... the bloke annoys me and always has. Personally I feel he was lucky to even get the Liverpool job in the first place and was rather lucky that he inherited the talent of Luis Suarez when he took over the role as manager. He'd be perfect for a club like Newcastle - he's so easy to hate.

TLO: The Force Awakened this week. Which Sunderland player possibly has the force? Light side or dark?

RR: Definitely Yann M'Vila. Rumour has it he can open a can of corned beef just using the power of his mind.

TLO: Canned corned beef is definitely a sign of the Dark Side. Speaking of food, TLO is a part-time football blog, full-time food blog. Any Sunderland holiday recipes you would like to share?

RR: Mix a tablespoon of Ola Toivonen with two cups of Danny Graham and 100g of Costel Pantilimon. It's a recipe for disaster.

TLO: Prediction?

RR: Sunderland 0 - 3 Liverpool.

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Thanks to Gavin for taking the time to answer a few questions. I hope his prediction is spot-on (I gave a more pessimistic 1-2 scoreline, but truth be told, I'd take either). As always, best of luck to Sunderland when not playing us! The reverse fixture, so to speak (where I answer Roker Report's questions), can be found here.

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