Sunderland head into tomorrow’s north east derby against Newcastle bottom of the Premier League table and once again struggling for form.
The Black Cats are without a win this season in their nine top-flight games this season and have already produced their yearly managerial change.
The old cliché about form going out of the window in derby games certainly applies to the Black Cats when they have met Newcastle in recent years. Sunderland seems to be able to face Newcastle in any sort of a mess and yet still gain a victory.
This has led to Sunderland picking-up five straight derby wins, including the last two meetings at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland has been awful this season and has picked-up just three points in the top-flight. History has repeated itself in the fact that the man that came in as the knight in white armour last season, Dick Advocaat, has left the club.
It is not the first time it’s happened, as managers who have guided the club to safety in the short-term have failed to build the following campaign.
Veteran Dutch boss Advocaat was very candid about the situation at Sunderland, basically saying that he believed the players at the club were not good enough to keep the team in the top-flight.
That has maybe been the case for the past few seasons, but managerial changes have been enough to give the team a shot in the arm and enough to keep them in the Premier League.
The latest man in the Sunderland hot seat Sam Allardyce has the credentials and stature to keep the club in the Premier League. Big Sam’s teams may have had their critics in the past, but they were all solid and survival-worthy.
Allardyce had his critics at West Ham, despite helping the club to promotion back to the Premier League and stabilising the club he left in the summer. The Hammers board and fans demanded a more entertaining style and he left the club.
At the moment I would think that Sunderland fans would take grinding out survival this season under Allardyce this season. Keeping the Black Cats up this season may just be Allardyce’s biggest achievement yet, as the morale on Wearside seems to be at rock-bottom.
Allardyce has overseen just one top-flight game at Sunderland, which resulted in a 1-0 defeat at West Brom last weekend. The experienced Black Cats will know the task ahead of him.
Some may say that this derby has come at a good time for Sunderland. Newcastle had failed to collect a top-fight win until last weekend, when they broke that duck in spectacular style by hammering Norwich 6-2 at St James Park.
The win will have raised morale amongst the Magpies, but there were still signs in that game that Newcastle was very vulnerable in defence.
Sunderland may have been poor this season, but you can guarantee that the Black Cats will not be as shaky at the back under Allardyce. The veteran boss produces well organised sides and Newcastle will not have the acres of space they enjoyed last weekend.
Newcastle fans will have been looking for their team to push on and up the Premier League table. However the Magpies clashes with the Black Cats have not ended well and Newcastle fans must have been dreading this clash.
Last weekend Newcastle’s attacking players showed just what they can do. Aleksandar Mitrovic, Ayoze Perez and midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum in particular were superb and caused Norwich no end of problems.
Magpie’s fans will have been encouraged by the inter-play from the three players and will once again be looking for the trio to produce the goods against the old enemy.
The home side are the favourites to claim the win at odds of 8/5, Newcastle are odds of 19/10 and the draw is odds of 12/5.
Derby games are unpredictable, especially with both sides struggling this season in the top-flight. That win against Norwich last weekend should lift spirits amongst the Newcastle faithful, but recent history suggests never to write-off the Black Cats in these north east derbies.
Can Sunderland continue their north east derby winning run?