A trio of first-team regulars - namely Dean Ashton, Mark Noble and Scott Parker - have been singled out after the 1-1 draw at Everton while there are also good words for James Tomkins, Jack Collison and Freddie Sears ahead of the Sunderland trip.
Before last week, most teams would have taken a draw against a strong Everton team with good home form. However, after the game was finished we felt a little disappointed that we hadn't come away with a victory after creating more chances than Everton and finishing the game the more dominant team.
On the whole I thought the team performed very well and in particular Deano, Nobes and Scotty and, for his first game, James Tomkins looked like he had been playing in central defence for a lot longer. The game seemed to come easy to him and he showed maturity beyond his years to get over his initial nerves and come into his own. Yet again we had another inspiring cameo performance from young Freddie who was unlucky not to have scored another winner when he was one-on-one and his effort came back off the post in the dying seconds of the game.
It is great to have Tomka, Jack and Freddie pushing the rest of the squad. It was a shame that Freddie picked up a slight knock at the end of the Everton game so he could not continue his run in the team but we will hopefully have him back for the crucial six-pointer against Portsmouth. It's only a matter of time before Jack is given his opportunity again although he might have to be patient with the competition we currently have for midfield. A special mention must go to Tomka for his brace for England U19s in the week. No doubt his debut at Goodison filled him with confidence to go and play well for the national team which topped off a fantastic week for him.
This weekend's fixture will be another tough away battle playing against a Sunderland team who are battling for their Premier League status. Like the recent game against Fulham, sometimes you just have to scrap out the match and wait for your chances but after our performance away to Everton we will be going there in a buoyant mood. The Sunderland manager is someone I have a lot of respect for as a player and a manager and I have no doubt he will have his team fired up and determined to get a home victory and three vital points. But we are just as determined and confident that if we defend well and put them on the back foot early we will come away with the spoils.
I still believe that sixth place is achievable and if had we won last week we would have only been three points off it but we still have to play some of the teams above us, ie Portsmouth and Aston Villa both at home. On paper all our other games are also winnable and don't overawe us and I include Manchester United away in that as we seem to be their bogey team of late.
I thank you for your continued support and especially those who made the trip to Everton last Easter weekend and are making the long trip again to Sunderland this weekend. We appreciate the many miles you travel to support us week in and week out and know the best way to thank you is to send you home with three points.