NEIL Harris believes Sunderland have an “outstanding” squad and said Millwall have been “living and breathing” their opponents as they prepare for this Saturday’s contest.
The Black Cats are rooted to the bottom of the Championship table after just one win all season but boast a squad packed with Premier League – including league-winning – and international experience.
The build-up to the game has been dominated by Sunderland’s search for a new manager. Harris has been following the situation, but stressed the “sole focus” for his staff and players is “what happens on the pitch”.
Harris said: “You read articles in the newspapers and our focus for the last two weeks has been Sunderland Football Club, waiting to see who they’re going to appoint, who’s in the running, who they are interviewing, who is away on international duty, who’s fit, not fit.
“We’re living and breathing Sunderland at the moment, it’s the sole focus.
“You look at Sunderland and think what a brilliant club. They have excellent players, you look at their squad and it’s outstanding. On paper it’s a Premier League squad but they are not performing.
“We have to put the things surrounding the football out of our minds and focus on what happens on that pitch, 11 versus 11 on Saturday. I have to pick a team capable of affecting the game.”
Millwall have yet to win away this season, while Sunderland haven’t won at the Stadium of Light since last December.
“We have to bounce back from Burton and put Sunderland under huge pressure at home,” Harris said.
“I know from playing for Millwall and for Nottingham Forest the pressures playing at home when things aren’t going well. We have to make sure we impose ourselves on the game, force Sunderland onto the back foot and make it uncomfortable for them.
“They’re going to want to make a fast start, the caretaker manager or the new manager will come in and want to make it matter from the first minute and lift the crowd.
“We’ve got to make sure that we’re really tough to beat, really competitive and make sure we ask a lot of questions of Sunderland.”
Sunderland are still to appoint a permanent manager after sacking Simon Grayson on October 31.
Billy McKinlay and Robbie Stockdale took charge for the derby against Midlesbrough, which the Black Cats lost 1-0 (above), before McKinlay moved to West Ham last week to work with David Moyes.
On Thursday, Chris Coleman’s odds on getting the job dramatically dropped to make him odds-on favourite after a flurry of bets on the current Wales boss.
“They could make an appointment today, tomorrow, Saturday morning, it could be anytime,” Harris said. “I’m sure they’re getting closer.
“But Robbie Stockdale knows the club really well after being there for a period of time. He knows the players well.
“They certainly had a good performance against Middlesbrough, they were unlucky to lose the local derby, I thought they played really, really well. I wouldn’t be surprised if Robbie is in charge for Saturday and maybe for a period after that.
“We can’t focus on who is in charge too much. We can focus on how we can affect the game and after Burton, a game we completely dominated from start to finish even with ten men, focus on being better in the final third.
“We’ve been working on tidying up certain areas where we have been a little bit sloppy. We have to be mentally back in tune.”
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