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View from the South Stand - Sunderland 23/08/11

Brighton and Hove Albion host Premier League side Sunderland in the second round of the Carling Cup on Tuesday evening.

We asked Simon Walsh from to answer some questions for us ahead of this massive cup-tie at the Amex.

What are the aspirations for Sunderland this season?
Aspirations for SAFC this season were to build on last season, and hopefully a cup run of note. To come tenth last season was both an achievement having gone on such a ridiculously bad run mid-season, and also a disappointment after the season started so promisingly. As for a cup run, we've said it every year and it's yet to happen. Steve Bruce has talked pre-season and in the build-up to this game about his desperation for a good cup run. About time he delivered that.

We're very lucky to have a chairman who is an Albion fan and is funding the club to high heaven. Nobody seems to have a bad word to say about Niall Quinn so what is he like as a chairman?
Niall's a good chairman. We've got a good partnership with Niall fronting for Texan billionaire Ellis Short. Niall came in with investors from Ireland and took the club up from the doldrums to where we are now. He's pretty much a saint in the eyes of many fans. Ellis is a quiet type, pumping money in when necessary, but there comes a time when you think he must be looking at a return on things. Niall does all the talking, and tends to be in charge of 'footballing decisions' but at times may need a bit more of a backbone. That's only a minor criticism mind, the guy is a legend round these parts.

You've received some massive fees for the likes of Darren Bent and Jordan Henderson which seem to have been invested sensibly in proven Premier League performers like John O'Shea. What do the Sunderland fans make of the busy summer at the Stadium of Light?
Absolutely delighted with the business done so far, but there are still glaring holes in the squad. All the players who have come in are quality, there's no denying that, but it's a gamble to go with Kieran Richardson and Phil Bardsley as our options at left-back. We've hopes for Richardson, but it is a transition for him - one he might never make a success of. Bardsley was player of the year last year, but is still an out of position right-back. We could also use a proper left winger as Seb Larsson is wasted there, whilst another striker would be nice. Asamoah Gyan will be off to the African Cup in January, and after that we've only an 18yr old and a 21yr old, neither of which have played in the Premier League before this season.

Brighton have aspirations to one day make it to the Premier League. As a side that bounced between the Championship and the top flight not so long ago, what is the secret to consolidating and becoming a solid mid table side?
Mentality. Simple as that really. Playing with a swashbuckling, gung-ho attitude like say Blackpool last year will only get you so far. You need to have solid heads who have been there and done it, and can help you hang on for a 1-0 win as opposed to letting a lead slip in the last few minutes. The players you need to bring in might not cost the earth, but they need to have experience of tough situations, and have the ability to pass that to those around them.

It's obviously taken us a long time to get a permanent home after leaving the Goldstone in 1997, the same time you said goodbye to Roker Park. What difference has having a top class stadium made to the football club?
Well it's nice I suppose. I'm sure it looks impressive to signings and the bank manager too, but all in all, not a massive difference to be honest. Some swanky TV's and a nice bar nobody can afford to go in is all well and good, but it's not exactly the famous Roker Roar.

A lot of teams don't take the League Cup seriously anymore. What sort of line up can we expect Sunderland to send out at the Amex?
We're expecting changes to be made from Saturday. We brought in plenty players as you mentioned earlier, and some of them will get the chance to prove themselves. I can see at least four or five changes on the cards. The likes of Connor Wickham, Kieren Westwood, Craig Gardner and Ji Dong-Won could start in addition to the likes of Titus Bramble who have been kept out recently should start.

You will be the first top flight team to visit the stadium for a competitive game. How many can we expect to see down and are you looking forward to visiting the new stadium?
We usually take a good following to away games, and with it being a fair distance away, midweek, 'only' the League Cup and a long trip to Swansea on Saturday many may have been forced to choose between the both, but I've since been told we've sold out our away section, which a monumental effort given the circumstances. I'm sure each and everyone is looking forward to checking out the new stadium, of which we've only heard good things.

Quite a few Brighton fans have been kicking off about the ticket prices for this game bearing in mind it is the League Cup and both teams may not be at full strength. What has been the reaction among Sunderland fans to the pricing?
I've noticed some fans aren't particularly happy with the pricing, but unfortunately that's just the way of the world nowadays, even more so when there's a new stadium to pay for. Many fans are simply priced out these days. Obviously the prices are the same for Albion fans, but often Sunderland are the victims. A lot of clubs divide games up into Category A & B with differing prices for both. Cat A tends to be Man United, City, Arsenal etc, and nowadays SAFC are being included in that. We're nowhere near as good as them, nor will provide as much entertainment or 'star power'... but we will sell out most away allocations, which is of course £££ to the home clubs.

How much do you know about Gus Poyet's Brighton and Hove Albion?
To be perfectly honest, very little. From the little I have managed to pick up though it appears Brighton are a team on the up, with a reputation for playing some good football. I'm expecting the game to be a tough test for us.

Finally, what's your prediction for the game?
Cliched as it is, I think this could go either way. I'm leaning towards a win for us, but it won't be pretty if we do get one. I'll say 1-0 to us, and not at all comfortable. I'm not particularly good with predictions, so no doubt it will be 4-0 to you lot.

Many thanks to Simon for his insight into the forthcoming fixture/ You can follow The Roker Report on Twitter and tweet them when Brighton win 4-0!

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