Gary McSheffrey spoke to the media ahead of a trip to the Stadium of Light on Tuesday evening.
The hosts were playing Premier League football just five years ago, but successive relegations have meant they’ve been in the third tier for the past four seasons. The club are currently third in Sky Bet League One, but parted ways with manager Lee Johnson midweek following a 6-0 defeat at the hands of Bolton Wanderers.
On Sunderland trip:
“It’ll be a packed-out stadium and a good atmosphere, and every footballer wants to play in these sort of games.
“I expect to see a performance from my team that is hard-working and grafting. They should be leaving everything out there. Those are the minimum, non-negotiables and if you get that and everyone is at it, you tend to get the performance levels you want.”
On injuries and squad depth:
“Everyone came through Tuesday ok.
“Ro-Shaun Williams was on the bench so he’s available and Dan Gardner is back training full time with the squad.
"We’ve got the bodies in now, so we don’t need to rush anyone back. We can have a better fitness plan for players returning.
“A few players missed out on the matchday squad on Tuesday, but they’ve trained really well this week - those are the good problems and headaches I’ve got now.
"Players need to earn their place in the squad whereas before a place on the bench has just fallen into their laps.”