Sunderland have been drawn against Middlesbrough in the Third Round of the FA Cup. The tie will be played on the weekend of January 6th / 7th. A Tees-Wear derby awaits Chris Coleman as he takes charge of the Black Cats in his first cup adventure on Wearside.
The Mackems will be out for revenge over the Smoggies after losing at the Riverside last month. Boro are also due to visit the Stadium of Light at the end of February for a league fixture.
Sunderland will he hoping to get further than last year’s dismal effort which ended with Burnley progressing at the hands of David Moyes’ side. The previous year, Sam Allardyce’s men were swiftly dispatched by Arsenal, also in the Third Round.
A total of 64 teams remain in the FA Cup at this stage, with the 44 Premier League and Championship clubs joining the 20 clubs who win through round two which is completed this evening.
But what hopes do we have of a little knock-out entertainment to lift the gloom of a so-far dismal league campaign at Sunderland?
Chris Coleman’s cup career to date has been generally mediocre with a couple of obvious highlights. His Fulham team made the quarter finals in the Welshman’s first full season in charge at Craven Cottage. That was 13 years ago when Ruud van Nistelrooy scored twice to ensure Manchester United progressed to the semi’s at the Cottagers’ expense.
The new Sunderland boss then led Fulham in a further three cup campaigns, with a couple of spots in the Fifth Round the best he had to show for it, but after he took charge of Coventry in 2008, the Sky Blues made the Quarter Final the following year, losing 2-0 to Chelsea at the Ricoh Arena.
Another third round exit in 2010 preceded Coleman’s sacking at the end of the season after Coventry achieved their lowest league position for 45-years - the West Midlands club finished 19th in the Championship.
Sunderland’s recent cup record is similar to that of their new manager. The Black Cats haven’t progressed past the Third Round since 2015 but have a couple of Quarter-Final appearances in the last decade.
Three second half goals enabled Hull City to reach the semi’s at the expense of Gus Poyet’s side in 2014. That was the third time Steve Bruce’s Tigers had beaten his former club that season. Everton were the Quarter Final victors in 2012 when David Moyes led the Toffees to victory at the Stadium of Light.
A general smattering of Third and Fourth round eliminations characterise the other Wearside cup campaigns since the turn of the millennium, with the highlight being 2004’s semi-final appearance. 33,000 Sunderland fans made the trip to Old Trafford only to suffer heart-break at the hands of Millwall.
The world’s most famous cup competition may not be the priority right now for the relegation-threatened Black Cats, but a cup run could at least boost confidence and provide some respite from the slog of Championship football. A north east derby adds a little spice to the occasion. Bring it on!