I can only speak from my own thoughts but I’m in a way happy that the REAL football is back this weekend.
Sunderland face a winnable-yet-difficult match against West Brom at the Stadium of Light, whilst fellow strugglers Norwich and Newcastle take on each other at Carrow Road.
I am in the 99.9% bracket of supporters that feel we need to beat West Brom on Saturday. While we do need to focus our attention on beating what will be a well organised Tony Pulis side, I will inevitably have one eye on what happens at Carrow Road.
I’ve supported Sunderland long enough to know that there’s every chance we won’t win this game. Before Sam Allardyce came in, can you name how many times over the last few years we have won ‘winnable’ fixtures?
Take the 'Great Escape’ season, for example. After our fantastic 2-1 win at Chelsea, who suffered their first Premier League home defeat under Jose Mourinho, I saw a lot of optimism.
Rightly so, because at that point we’d took four points off trips to the Etihad Stadium and Stamford Bridge, but I didn’t share the same thought.
Our next game at that point was Cardiff at home which was one of the biggest six pointers I can ever remember, even more so than last week’s Tyne-Wear derby because both sides were bottom and were offered one last chance to save their respective seasons.
I wasn’t confident going into the Cardiff game because those type of games, which Sunderland should win, are games we for some reason seem to struggle in.
Whenever the onus is on us to break a team down, we have struggled. The only time I can think of when we did break a team down was Stoke in November. We actually looked good that game regardless of the sending off but my point is I’m questioning whether or not we have the quality to break West Brom down on Saturday.
The answer should be an immediate yes without any doubt whatsoever. But we’re Sunderland.
That’s another point I often ask myself, as I’m sure many other supporters have done long before me, WHY is it typical of Sunderland to struggle in winnable games? Look at teams like West Ham, Southampton, Leicester etc – they don’t struggle to win winnable games so why do we?
I’ll probably never get a concrete answer to that question and I’ll probably have to just learn to accept it.
Saturday’s game could go one of two ways. Either West Brom will be in their flip flops, or they can play with no fear as the pressure will be off them. As long as we’re on twenty-nine points come 5:00pm on Saturday I don’t give two monkeys how we get the win.
I appreciate my superstitious nature looks silly but I’m not taking anything for granted. We need to stay up and I don’t care how we do it. Yes, I’m that desperate.
IF we beat West Brom, there isn’t really a bad result to come out of the Norwich v Newcastle game. My obvious preference is a draw because we’d go above Norwich on goal difference with a win while being three points clear of Newcastle.
If Norwich and Sunderland won then we’d still be two points behind Alex Neil’s side with a game in hand and still to play them while Newcastle would look almost (but not definitely) out of it while dragging Crystal Palace further towards the bottom three should they get a poor result at West Ham. If Newcastle and Sunderland won, then we’d be above the other two by a point.
If I had to pick a team who I’d want to win, I’d pick Norwich as long as we won as well – they have a game less than Newcastle and their last few games apart from Watford at home are tricky. I think I’m in a minority when I say this, but I actually think Newcastle will win on Saturday.
I said before that Newcastle would be under more pressure against Sunderland because it was on them as the home team to win. I think Norwich will be under slightly more pressure being at home.
Despite Newcastle’s poor away record, I’d be extremely surprised if they didn’t get any more points on the road this season and I’ve fancied them to beat Norwich for some time now. Norwich have Newcastle, Crystal Palace and Sunderland in their next three games. I think we’ll know more after these next three matches if they have a chance of staying up or not as those games alone could define their season.
Palace aren’t out of it yet but, to be honest, I just cannot see them going down. If they get a win or two they’ve done enough to stay up so I still think it’ll be three of the bottom four. The derby, which was a tense occasion and added some many nerves to both sets of fans, is over.
Survival is in Sunderland’s hands. The stage is set. It’s now time to deliver. Ha’way the Lads.