New Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce is relishing the challenge of guiding his team back to winning ways when they visit West Brom in the Premier League on Saturday.
Allardyce was last week appointed as the replacement for Dick Advocaat, who left the club earlier this month following Sunderland’s 2-2 draw with West Ham.
The former Bolton Wanderers boss takes over at the Stadium of Light with Sunderland second bottom, having taken only three points from eight league games this season.
Thankfully for Allardyce, his first opportunity to lead Sunderland to a maiden league win of the campaign comes against a West Brom side who have slipped down to 17th following consecutive defeats to Everton and Crystal Palace.
“Trying to get us back on a winning trail excites me,” he said.
“The challenge is a big one but I’m a big man and I like a challenge so I’m looking forward to getting my feet under the table, understanding everybody and how they work.”
Allardyce has watched Sunderland’s draw with West Ham and was encouraged by aspects of the performance, despite the fact they surrendered a two-goal lead to take only one point from the game.
“The encouraging thing was the performance,” he added. “So if the players carry on that kind of performance then hopefully that is our ultimate goal, getting our first three points as quickly as possible.”
Sunderland are without the suspended duo of Sebastien Coates and Jeremain Lens, while midfielder Ola Toivonen is likely to miss out with a groin problem sustained on international duty with Sweden.
Defender Younes Kaboul and midfielder Yann M’Vila are both expected to be available following knee and hamstring injuries.
West Brom could be missing centre-backs Jonny Evans (hamstring) and Jonas Olsson (ankle). Midfielder James Morrison is also a doubt because of an ankle concern.
One defender who is available is Gareth McAuley, and he returns in buoyant mood having helped Northern Ireland secure qualification for Euro 2016 during the international break.
But the centre-back is keen to put that delight behind him and get West Brom back to form at The Hawthorns.
McAuley said: “What we [Northern Ireland] did last week has gone. I’m back here now, back on the training pitch, hoping to get a positive result .
“This is a massive game for us and we’ll be looking to put things right after two poor results and performances we weren’t happy about.”
Key Opta Stats:
– West Brom have won five and lost none of their last six home league meetings with Sunderland.
– Sunderland have failed to score in four of their last six trips to the Hawthorns.
– In their last 15 home league games, West Brom have kept eight clean sheets but conceded three or more goals in the other seven.
– Only twice in their top-flight history have Sunderland gone nine games from the start of a season without a win (10 in both 1969/70 and 1976/77).
– The last three permanent Sunderland managers have all started with an away defeat.