Burton Albion’s visit to the Stadium of Light tonight may look like just another run-of-the-mill, third-tier fixture. Yet the reality is one that is much bleaker.
For me - and probably countless other Sunderland fans - a home game against Burton is synonymous with failure, and a huge moment in our decline into League One.
21st April 2018 saw our first home fixture with the Brewers in what was effectively a win-or-bust match to keep us in the Championship.
A woeful campaign was coming to a dismal conclusion, but a win against Burton would have put us within three points of safety with two to play.
Chris Coleman’s side started relatively well, better than in many home games that season, and led 1-0 at the break thanks to a Paddy McNair strike.
There was renewed optimism, but as we all know, the curse of the returning striker (this time Darren Bent) struck and sent us on our way to a 2-1 defeat which sealed a second consecutive relegation.
‘Enjoy Burton away’ was something that was thrown our way when dropping into the Championship, and since then we’ve probably enjoyed more trips to Staffordshire than home fixtures with Burton.
After playing them for five straight seasons (including that Championship), a home game against Burton Albion is a reminder of how things have been going wrong at this club for a worryingly long time.
For SAFC in League One, playing at home to Burton Albion should be a straightforward fixture. Yet it isn’t, and Burton have come to the SoL numerous times in the last three years having never left with less than a point.
For a sobering stat, Burton have visited the Stadium of Light on four occasions, winning twice and drawing twice.
It is Sunderland’s failure to see off clubs like Burton which has resulted in a failure to be promoted, therefore remaining in the same division as clubs like Burton.
Faltering in this division has been a problem for years now, and the epitome of that has been these clashes with the Brewers.
When I think of Burton Albion, I’ll never not think of Liam Boyce and Darren Bent scoring in front of me to seal our fate in this grim division.
Burton came down with us and, although they have also remained here since, they’ve probably had a more enjoyable time of things lately.
A win tonight is vital for many reasons, but there’s something about us playing at home against them which always gives me a sinking feeling.
I hope for all who are braving the cold on Wearside tonight that our players finally give them a performance worth the money they pay.
This is because another winless clash with Burton will not only move our 2022 form to just one win in 10, it will also do nothing to help lift the slump that every part of the club seems to be in at the moment.
Oh, and it will also increase the chances of ANOTHER home match against Burton Albion next season… yey.