Kavanagh adapts to new era

Sunderland midfielder Graham Kavanagh admits it has been “strange” to work under former Republic of Ireland team-mate Roy Keane as they prepare for their first game for the Black Cats.

Sunderland midfielder Graham Kavanagh admits it has been “strange” to work under former Republic of Ireland team-mate Roy Keane as they prepare for their first game for the Black Cats.

Keane, 35, has wasted no time in making his mark on Wearside, bringing in six deadline-day signings and running the rule over the squad he inherited.

He will send out his team for the first time at Derby tomorrow, and while he is looking forward to the experience, he has endured a whirlwind few days.

Midfielder Kavanagh played alongside Keane for his country and admits the change of roles has proved strange in the early days.

Kavanagh said: “He’s now the gaffer. We spoke to him on Monday morning for the first time face-to-face, and it was a bit strange, calling him ‘gaffer’.

“But that’s just the way it is. He has got his training coat on now, he is out on the training pitch and he is the gaffer. He is giving out the orders, and that is fine.

“He has got a huge amount of knowledge that he wants to pass on and he wants things done properly. We have both worked with him with the Irish team and seen how he prepares and his enthusiasm.

“The player he has been, I just felt he can still improve me. I can learn a lot from him and certainly feel like within this season, if we can gain some momentum, we can hopefully push up this league and be challenging that top six - and hopefully, the top two.”

Keane could hand debuts to five new signings. Stanislav Varga, David Connolly, Kavanagh, Ross Wallace and Liam Miller are all in line to make their first appearances for the club at Pride Park.

Dwight Yorke is the only new signing not available to Keane but defender Stephen Wright (ankle) should be fit and goalkeeper Ben Alnwick is expected to shake off a slight knock.

Spanish midfielder Arnau Riera is suspended and defenders Clive Clarke (groin) and Stephen Caldwell (knee) remain sidelined.

Midfielder Bob Malcolm is poised to make his Derby debut. The Scot has joined the Rams after being released by Rangers and goes straight into the squad to face the Black Cats.

Manager Billy Davies has also been boosted by the return to fitness of goalkeeper Stephen Bywater following a groin injury.

Meanwhile, captain Matt Oakley has recovered from groin and thigh problems and centre-half Darren Moore is available after a hamstring injury.

Elsewhere in the Championship tomorrow Barnsley take on Stoke, Hull go to Birmingham, Burnley and Colchester clash at Turf Moor while Coventry and Norwich meet at the Ricoh Arena.

George Burley takes Southampton to his former club Ipswich, Luton host Crystal Palace, QPR go to Plymouth and at Deepdale, Preston welcome Cardiff.

Promotion favourites West Brom face Leicester while Sheffield Wednesday go to Roots Hall to face Southend.

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