January will be a challenging month for Wycombe as three of the promotion-pushers will be tested at Adams Park.

Visits for Sunderland, Oxford United and MK Dons will take place in the first month of 2022, as Wanderers continue to fight for a place in the second tier.

It’s not going to be easy for the Chairboys, as they failed to beat the three teams mentioned above in the corresponding fixtures in August and September last year.

But, with an important win over Charlton on New Year’s Day, and despite Sunderland, Oxford and MK Dons all riding high at the moment, there is nothing to suggest that Wanderers can’t cause more headaches for the teams around them.

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So, with the Black Cats in Buckinghamshire this weekend, I had the pleasure of speaking to Joe Nicholson from the Sunderland Echo about the fixture ahead.

1. What have you made of Sunderland’s season so far?

JN: “Sunderland started the season really strongly winning seven of their first nine matches while playing an attacking brand of football.

“They have a young side this season and have suffered some heavy defeats away at Portsmouth, Rotherham and Sheffield Wednesday where they have struggled to match the opposition’s physicality.

“They have regained some momentum in recent weeks, though, and have now gone nine league games unbeaten.

2.This is Sunderland’s fourth season in League One – were you expecting to be in the third tier for this long? I don’t think anyone expected it to be this long.

JN: “In the three years at this level Sunderland have missed out in the play-offs twice, while the 2019/20 season was cut short due to the pandemic. Supporters are desperate to get out of League One this time around.

3. Is there resentment towards Wanderers by Sunderland fans following the points-per-game scenario in 2020? And what was the feeling in the North East when the final table came out?

JN: “There was understandable frustration that Sunderland missed out on a play-off place that season, but also a feeling the side wasn’t good enough. Phil Parkinson has since left the club, with Lee Johnson a more popular figure.


Josh Scowen left Sunderland for Wycombe last summer (PA)

Josh Scowen left Sunderland for Wycombe last summer (PA)


“Still, he will be judged on whether Sunderland are promoted this season.”

4. The last time Sunderland came down to Adams Park in October 2019, it was Phil Parkinson’s first game in charge, they lost 1-0 and it was rumoured that Gareth Ainsworth had talks with the Black Cats over the role. How have things changed since then?

JN: “While the team did go on a decent run under Parkinson later in the season, fans weren’t impressed with his style of football.

“When results started to drop off during the 2020/21 season it was clear something needed to change - hence Johnson’s appointment.

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“The club have undergone a big revamp since then, with a new owner and new chief executive also joining the new head coach.

“While there are still question marks about the make-up of Sunderland's ownership structure, there is a much clearer picture when it comes to recruitment and the direction the club are taking.

5. Despite being second, would you say Sunderland are the favourites to go up following their recent form?

JN: “I thought at the start of the season that Rotherham are the team to beat and still believe that is the case.

“Sunderland are well placed after sneaking over the two points per game average but clearly there are other strong teams just below them.

6. Who are the players Wycombe need to be on the lookout for?

JN: “Ross Stewart has been Sunderland’s standout player this season and is the division’s joint-top goalscorer with 15.

“Academy graduate Dan Neil has become a first-team regular in midfield, showing composure in possession and an eye for a forward pass.

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“After a slow start to his Sunderland career, playmaker Alex Pritchard has really stepped up in recent weeks and become a key player.

7. Sunderland are expected to bring a fair few fans down to Buckinghamshire on Saturday, how much of an influence will they have on both teams?

JN: “Sunderland have always been well backed on the road this season which should make for a great atmosphere. As previously mentioned, though, the team have been beaten heavily on three occasions away from home this season, while their home form has been excellent - winning 10 of 12 league matches at the Stadium of Light.

8. How do you see it going?

JN: “This will be a big test for Sunderland. They have struggled against physical sides this season but stood up to recent tests to get back on track.

“While Sunderland have often gone for the win this season, I think a draw would represent a decent result for them. I’ll go for a 1-1 draw.”