DANNY Rose didn’t come to Sunderland for an easy life. Had that been his raison d’être he would have remained a bit-part player at Tottenham.
Too many of his fellow professionals would choose that relatively easy role as it pays well and doesn’t come with the added pressure of having to prove yourself on a weekly basis against some of the best footballers on the planet.
Rose had previously opted to go out on loan at three lower-league clubs before saying yes to a season-long stay on Wearside. He didn’t want to be just a reserve, brought out every so often if there was an injury or in a cup game that was way down the lost of priorities at White Hart Lane.
So when the left-back was asked yesterday if he was looking forward to facing champions Manchester City on Saturday in front of a live television audience and a packed Etihad Stadium, you can easily guess his reply.
Rose is relishing the chance to test himself against Roberto Mancini’s team of world famous superstars. It sure beats the weekend coming and going, and his only brush with the Premier League coming when he watches Match of the Day.
Sunderland’s current left-back is counting the seconds until his chance to take on the most expensive team assembled in English football history by a long shot, with one player in particular in his sights. Rose said: “I have to be honest with you about Mario Balotelli; I like him.
“He is definitely entertaining and, for me, the most entertaining thing he’s done so far is when he took off his shirt after scoring for Italy against Germany in the European Championships semi-final.
“He does get a bit of negative press, but that might be a sign that everyone secretly likes him.
“I do get a buzz from playing against people like him and the other City players.
“You should always want to raise your game against the champions. It’s also an early kick-off because it’s on Sky so a lot of people will be watching. It’s a massive game. I would say that City have probably got the best starting eleven in the league. They are all world-class players.”
That is true now, and it was the same last season when Sunderland went to Manchester and for the most part out-thought and out-played a side who were weeks away from, with the final kick of the ball, being crowned Premier League champions.
City needed two goals in the dying minutes to escape with a 3-3 draw that day in late March. It’s a match Rose remembers and one that has been spoken about over the last couple of days.
Rose said: “We need to stay in the game for as long as possible and not concede early on. As long as we can do the stuff on Saturday that the lads did last season we will give ourselves the best possible chance.
“I watched the game from last season and Sunderland played really well. The lads have been talking about that match this week, and saying how unlucky they were.”
Rose admitted that the Academy of Light has been a good place to be this week following Sunderland’s win over Wigan Athletic at the weekend, their first league victory of the season.
The previous fixture, a 1-1 draw at West Ham, had eaten away at the players who, not for the first time, conceded a late goal having led for much of the game.
So while a single goal win over a fairly average Wigan side is hardly the stuff of legend, Rose hopes that it acts as a catalyst as the Black Cats seek to drag themselves towards the good end of the league table.
He said: “There is a lot more to come from us. I have heard this from a lot a people that a sign of a good team is when you don’t play well and still pick up points. We have managed to dig out some decent results and we are unbeaten, which is great.
“Obviously we would like more points on the board, but we can’t complain too much about where we are at the minute. When you look at the position we are in, you have to say it’s okay, although we would like to be higher up the league.
“We are unbeaten so far this season and that’s great.”
The main reason for Sunderland always managing to take a point from their matches so far has been Steven Fletcher.
Fives goals from six shots over four Premier League outings is an impressive statistic.
However, no matter how well the Scot has started, he can’t be solely relied upon to score all the time. Rose said: “The gaffer didn’t have to sit us down and tell us we needed to chip in with more goals – we know that ourselves.
“The boys know that we can’t always rely on our number nine as it were to score us goals through the whole of the season. We are pleased that we’ve been able to provide the service for Fletch to get the goals, and even more grateful that he’s been able to put away his chances.”
So can Sunderland make it two wins on the trot against a team many fancy to repeat their success of last season?
“If we do all the stuff we have been doing right on Saturday against City then we will give ourselves the best chance of taking something from the game,” Rose insisted.
“It’s fair to say that when we play our best football then we can do well against anyone.”