Sunderland look set to take 4,451 fans to Teesside for the FA Cup Third Round tie in a little over a fortnight, against a Middlesbrough team lurching in and out of crisis.
The Black Cats have announced that the allocation in the away end at the Riverside is all but sold out for the eagerly awaited January 6th fixture. Sunderland fans are no doubt hoping for a little revenge at a venue which hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for visiting Mackems in recent years.
The last two trips to Boro have seen Sunderland in the depths of despair, with the most recent visit coming immediately after Simon Grayson’s sacking last month and the time before came as David Moyes looked certain to lead his team to relegation at the end of last season.
Both fixtures ended in a home win at a ground we’ve only been victorious at three times in the dozen or so visits since its opening in 1995.
Sunderland have been beaten six times on Teesside since the Riverside replaced Ayresome Park. Middlesbrough followed us into the Championship at the end of last term of course, but had expected to be in with a good shout of bouncing straight back into the Premier League this season.
But with tentative signs that things may be looking up on Wearside, the Black Cats may find Teesside submerged in a deepening gloom with the supposed charge to promotion failing to materialise under Garry Monk so far this season.
Boro have sunk to 10th in the Championship following last weekend’s defeat at Millwall and have been unable to find any consistent run of form under the former Leeds boss, despite spending £50m in the summer.
And whilst the table still makes grim reading for Sunderland fans - despite registering two wins in the four games since Chris Coleman was appointed - Middlesbrough supporters aren’t much happier, gazing up at the 19 point gap between them and league leaders Wolves.
Boro naval-gazing has become so bad in fact, that the Sun reported at the weekend that a Riverside fan has set up a GoFundMe page to organise a plane to fly a ‘Monk Out’ banner in the skies above Teesside on Boxing Day.
Middlesbrough are still sixth favourites for promotion at 8/1 with the bookies still hedging their bets that Monk’s men may yet reach the Play-offs. By contrast, Sunderland are still short odds to be relegated at a little over 2/1 so we have little reason to laugh at the apparent plight of our neighbours - yet.
But the Cup is a great leveller and Sunderland are surely overdue a victory down the A19 just as we did last time the sides met outside of the league, in the Fourth Round of 2012.