Conor McLaughlin's assessment of his start to life at Sunderland while on international duty

Chronicle Live Sports 1 month ago

Sunderland defender Conor McLaughlin believes he has 'been playing well' for the Black Cats since his summer move from Millwall.

The Northern Ireland international defender signed for Sunderland on a free transfer in July and has made 18 appearances so far this term.

The 28-year-old has largely made the right-back slot his own now that Luke O'Nien has moved further forward and has been part of a pretty turbulent start to the campaign for Sunderland.

Off the pitch, the headlines have been dominated by takeover talk off the field while on the field, Sunderland's indifferent start to the campaign has seen previous manager Jack Ross sacked, replaced by Phil Parkinson, outside the League One play-off places and knocked out of the Trophy at the group stage.

Nonetheless, talking to the Northern Irish press ahead of their crucial EURO 2020 qualifying double-header against the Netherlands and Germany, McLaughlin feels he has made a decent start to life at Sunderland on a personal level.

“I’m just trying to play every week at my club," McLaughlin told Irish News.

"The last couple of years at Millwall were frustrating because I was in and out and you can’t get any sort of form going.

“When you then come away [with Northern Ireland] it’s hard to get your game going but I’ve been playing well at Sunderland and hopefully that is the start of something for me.”

Northern Ireland can still qualify for EURO 2020 but will likely have to win both games this week to stand a chance of automatic qualification.

First up, the Green and White Army welcome the Netherlands to Windsor Park and McLaughlin, as well as fellow Sunderland defender Tom Flanagan, will hope to feature.

The two sides met last month in Rotterdam as Josh Magennis fired Northern Ireland into a shock lead. Their resistance was finally broken in the 80th minutes and they eventually succumbed to a 3-1 defeat, but McLaughlin feels he earned their respect that night.

Dutch manager Ronald Koeman labelled their tactics 'outrageous' and 'terrible to watch' that night but McLaughlin feels that was the former Southampton and Everton boss deflecting from his side's performance on the night.

“I sort of just laughed at his comment," McLaughlin added.

"I think the fact he came out and said that is sort of a compliment to us because we frustrated them that much and he obviously wasn’t happy with his own team’s performance.

“If his comments deflect away from that then we rattled them at the time and we take a lot of confidence from that. I’m sure they won’t be expecting an easy game.

“We also rattled Germany [at Windsor Park] and could have been one or two up. They looked uneasy at times and I’m sure the fans will play their part, too.”

“Gini Wijnaldum came out after the game and said he felt we played well and I’m sure a lot of players had respect for us already. But after that performance I’m sure they’ll know it won’t be an easy game.”

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