Saturday 14th August 2021
(8th) MK Dons v Sunderland (3rd)
Sky Bet League One
Tickets & Match Coverage
Tickets: Tickets are now available online via SAFC here.
Radio: Full live match commentary available via BBC Radio Newcastle (not online)
There was a clear sense of relief at claiming all three points on the opening day against Wigan. The stage was set for defeat with the likes of Charlie Wyke, Max Power and Jordan Jones all returning to the Stadium of Light against the backdrop of grumbling about the numbers that Lee Johnson and Kristjaan Speakman had managed to bring into the club over the summer.
Although we were required to come from behind, we also looked comfortable against a side that many fancy to be in the hunt for a top six finish this time out in League One. But the start of a new campaign doesn’t provide much time for back slapping and after we won at Port Vale in the Carabao Cup during the week, we travel to Buckinghamshire attempting to win our first three competitive fixtures of a new season for the first time since 1925.
The key this season, as in any domestic league campaign where the aim is to come out on top, is consistency. Last season, consistency propelled us to within reach of automatic promotion and then a lack of consistency meant we ended up in, and ultimately lost out in, the play-offs.
Saturday is a good test for the squad to back up a good opening day result that came with an impressive all-round performance as we all eagerly await what business the club can still complete with just over two weeks left of the window.
MK Dons’ hope of entering a period of stability was shattered on the same day of their first competitive fixture when the club announced Russell Martin was in talks with Swansea City to become the man to replace Steve Cooper.
After a season of struggle the season before last, the 2020-21 campaign was one of mid-table safety with an occasional glance towards the play offs.
Judging by the summer’s transfer activity, however, the club’s aiming high this season.
Mo Eisa was the big star signing in a deal that although officially is undisclosed is thought to have broken the club's transfer record.
A familiar face to Sunderland fans, Ethan Robson, has joined from Blackpool on a season-long loan, as have Max Watters from Cardiff, Troy Parrott from Spurs and Josh Martin from Norwich.
As Russell Martin headed to Wales, club legend and all-round good bloke, Dean Lewington entered stage left as caretaker manager. An epic 3-3 draw was played out at Bolton on the opening day; it was a game that could have went either way, although Lewington will be the more frustrated of the two managers having conceded an equaliser in the 95th minute.
Big names such as Jody Morris and John Terry were linked with the post but it was Liam Manning from Lommel SK in Belgium who got the nod this week and took over the reins. The reaction to a new manager is always unpredictable, so simply adds another variable to the weekend for both sides.
League One Form...
Our first game on the road but the bookies fancy an away win at 23/20 while MK Dons are 23/10 to take all three points with the draw at 12/5.
In terms of a final score, a 1-1 draw is favourite at 5/1, closely followed by a 1-0 Sunderland victory at 11/2, just ahead of a 1-0 home win and a goalless draw at 8/1.
Ross Stewart is 5/1 to open the scoring and 9/5 to net at anytime, with perhaps bizarrely Will Grigg being priced with shorter odds of 9/2 to get us off the mark and 13/8 anytime.
Last Time We Met... at Stadium MK
Saturday 8th February 2021
Sky Bet League One
MK Dons 2-2 Sunderland
(Mason 9’, Jerome 19’ - Wyke 5’, O’Nien 56’)
Sunderland: Burge, Power, Wright, Willis, Vokins (Sanderson), Gooch (Jones), Leadbitter, O’Nien (Scowen), McGeady, O’Brien (Maguire), Wyke Substitutes not used: Matthews, Neil, Diamond
MK Dons: Fisher, O’Hora, Darling, Jules (Harvie), Lewington, Laird, Thompson (Surman), O’Riley, Fraser, Jerome, Mason (Brown) Substitutes not used: Nicholls, Sorinola, Sorensen, Johnson
Played for Both
Butler was a no-nonsense central defender who signed for Sunderland as a 25-year-old from Bury for around £1 million in the summer 1998. We’d just lost out on the play-offs and in the following season he paired up with Andy Melville at the heart of our defence as we conceded only 18 goals in 46 league games en route to 105 points and the title.
He left in 2001 to sign for Wolverhampton Wanders after scoring 4 goals in 95 appearances for the club. In 2007 he signed for MK Dons after spending three years at Leeds United and made nine appearances at Stadium MK.
The best passer of the ball with the outside of the boot I have ever seen play for Sunderland. Alex Rae was also Sunderland’s first signing that broke the £1 million barrier, just pipping Niall Quinn to the post by a few weeks when he signed from Millwall in the summer of 1996 as we prepared for our first season in the Premier League.
Rae left the Stadium of Light after five years and 136 appearances to sign for Wolverhampton Wanders in 2001. He originally joined MK Dons via Glasgow Rangers and Dundee (where he was player-manager) as a first-team coach under Paul Ince in 2009, but had to pull his boots on once again to make three appearances to cover for injuries.