Sunday is looming on the horizon and with it the chance to gain some revenge for the humiliation that was heaped on us in October. I regard that as possibly the worst day I have had following Sunderland, on a par with Gillingham at home and the Crystal Palace play off game.
I would imagine that it was Steve Bruce’s worst day in management. He said that he went home and went to bed, thereby mirroring the actions of all those of red and white persuasion in the region. Never has pulling the covers over the head seemed such an attractive lifestyle choice.
So, this time round, what are we likely to get? For Steve Bruce, this is the defining moment in his Sunderland career. Lose this one and he is a dead man walking in the eyes of many Sunderland fans. Win it and his contract negotiations can continue without any shouts of dismay from fan sites, message boards and Salut Sunderland.
We don’t have a great Premier League home record against the Black and Whites. The last two games have seen a draw, which we should have won and a win which we deserved. Before that, we had three consecutive defeats when we were very much on the slide.
The 4-1 defeat was against the worst Sunderland side ever but it was the one before that, in the 19 point season, which hurt the most. We should have drawn that day had the terminally useless Torre Andre Flo not needlessly pushed one of their defenders as Kevin Kyle headed in. He even admitted it afterwards instead of berating the referee for being an idiot!!
I can remember some stirring games in the past. We beat them 3-0 in 1967 when Jim Baxter and Neil Martin were in their pomp. That completed the only double in my time as a Sunderland fan.
It came the week after we had demolished Peterborough United 7-1 in the Cup (we won FA Cup ties in those days!!) and the old enemy were struggling. Roker Park was packed, Sunderland were on a high and Bobby Kerr scored twice. He broke his leg two weeks later in the first game of the epic tie with Leeds United. George Mulhall got the other one to cement a comfortable win and push Newcastle further down the table.
They survived and came back the next season to draw 3-3 after being 3-1 down with ten minutes left. Bruce Stuckey had scored a screamer that day and we were cruising until they pulled one back. I remember Jim Iley, the baldiest of baldies, saying in The Sunday Sun the day after, that it was because of the two clocks at Roker Park that Sunderland switched off. Interesting theory.
What about Sunday then? A 12.00 kick off is usually a guaranteed passion killer, but I think that both sets of fans will be up for it. Their fans played a huge part in the October game, with a barrage of noise that, I believe, intimidated some of our less experienced players. We have to do the same to them.
They had a horrible experience on Saturday night, with a red and white crowd giving them stick throughout. There will be ten times as many red and whites on Saturday and we must do to them what they did to us. Remember the noise when Kevin Phillips got us back into the game in 2000!!
Preparations must be right. Bruce knows his players now; there are some who will not make it as Premier League players and they must be disregarded for this one. Nor can he take risks on players; if they are injured they should not play. His team will probably be Gordon Bardsley, Ferdinand Bramble, Richardson; Elmohamady, Malbranque, Henderson, Zenden, ; Bent, Gyan subs; Mignolet, Welbeck (if fit) da Silva(if not in Mexico), Riveros, Reid, Colback, Angeleri(if not wearing tight), .
As for Pardew, he is still finding out about his team. He does not possess the sure touch that Chris Hughton had in October, so he may tinker a bit more with his line up. As much as we would love it, I don’t expect to see the likes of Perch, Williamson, Best and Guthrie in the first X1. I would not be pleased to see Carroll turn out; he is a good player and his absence creates a huge gap in their team.
We need to be calm and organized on the pitch and off it. We need to get in their faces in a sensible way. The likes of Barton and Nolan will not be intimidated, so let’s get at Routledge, Guitterez etc. An early goal would help as would a return of the Roker Roar.
Let’s show them who are the North East’s best and most dignified club. Ha’way The Lads and FTM!!!!!