Sunday 6th August 2023
Sunderland v Ipswich Town
Stadium of Light
Tickets & Match Coverage
Tickets: Tickets are available via www.safc.com.
TV/Stream: Full live match coverage is available on Sky Sports and www.safc.com.
Radio: Full live match commentary available via BBC Radio Newcastle (not online)
The build-up... the Lads
Has the summer dragged for you or has it flown by? Either way, we are finally here and the 2023-24 is about to get underway and it all feels a little bit different to this time last year.
Twelve months ago most of us were just glad to be back in the second tier of English football and the majority were hoping for a season of consolidation - but those expectations were surpassed.
Not only were they exceeded by finishing 6th in the table, but to finish in the play-off positions against a backdrop of losing what was a popular manager in the opening months and then losing key players through long term injuries throughout the season made it even more impressive.
Then there was the standard of football, which is up there with some of the best we’ve seen for decades. All of this goes into the pot when we consider expectations for the season ahead.
Last season the pressure was off in many ways and this season may be different, with more young recruits adding to an already youthful squad, it’s likely to play a huge part of how this year plays out.
Tony Mowbray also has his work cut out to decide who gets the nod to begin the season in the starting XI. With seven new signings desperate to get involved, it’s likely that we’ll something very similar to what took to the field against RCD Mallorca last weekend - especially after the performance in midweek at Hartlepool.
If you’re looking for positive patterns to boost your confidence ahead of kick-off, the Lads haven’t suffered defeat on the opening day of the league season since David Moyes took us to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City back in August 2016 - or Donald Love’s debut as some of you may remember it by.
We’ve had six fixtures since then that have kicked off a new season, all of them have been outside of the Premier League and all have been at the Stadium of Light - and in those six fixtures we have drawn four and won twice.
We all love the start of a new season, but we’ll love it even more if we start with taking all three points.
The build-up... the opponents
The resignation of Mick McCarthy back in September 2018 kickstarted a fairly bleak era in the history of today’s opponents Ipswich Town. Relegation arrived the very next year which meant they were playing in the third tier for the first time since the 1950’s.
They then spent four long years, the same as ourselves, in League One where strange decisions and transfer policies seemed to prolong their time at that level - this also sounds very familiar. Then in December 2021 the Tractor Boys decided to head in a different direction when Kieran McKenna was chosen to replace Paul Cook as manager.
McKenna had previously been U18’s coach at Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United before eventually becoming assistant to Ole Gunnar Solskjær at Old Trafford, before taking his first managerial post at Portman Road. Last season was his first full season in charge and it resulted in promotion by finishing as runners-up to Plymouth Argyle - even though they racked up 98 points.
They also scored an impressive 101 goals in the process and had the best defensive record in the division with only 35 conceded. This meant their goal difference was +66 - putting that into perspective, Manchester City’s dominance of the Premier League resulted in a goal difference of +61.
Expectations are high at Portman Road heading into this season with some pundits tipping them to have a say in the top six. There’s a chance that McKenna could field a side from players he had at his disposal last season, so we’ll find out today if it’s a good thing we take them on on the opening day - or not so much.
The bookies have today’s season opener looking pretty close with the Lads slight favourites at 29/20 and Ipswich are 7/4 to collect an early three points on the road - with the draw around 23/10.
Head to head... at Sunderland
- Sunderland wins: 18
- Draws: 3
- Ipswich Town wins: 7
- Sunderland goals: 45
- Ipswich Town goals: 26
Last time we met... at the Stadium of Light
Saturday 20th November 2021
Sunderland 2-0 Ipswich Town
[O’Nien 85’, McGeady (pen) 90’]
Sunderland: Hoffman, Winchester, Wright, Doyle, O’Nien, Gooch, Evans (Pritchard), Neil, Embleton (McGeady), Broadhead (Dajaku), Stewart Substitutes not used: Patterson, Flanagan, Alves, O’Brien
Ipswich Town: Walton, Donacien, Clements, Evans, Nsiala, Edmundson, Aluko, Morsy, Bonne (Pigott), Celina (Fraser), Edwards (Chaplin) Substitutes not used: Hladky, Burgess, Vincent-Young, Mizouni
Played for both...
The Bristol-born striker started his career at Bristol Rovers as a 19-year-old and would score 79 goals in 207 appearances before moving on to Huddersfield Town in 1995, signing for a club record £1.2m. Impressive performances in West Yorkshire led to a £2.5 million bid from former Sunderland full-back George Burley who was in charge at Ipswich Town in February 2000.
In 2000-01 Marcus Stewart would fire the Tractor Boys to a 5th place finish in the Premier League, which meant qualification for what was then the UEFA cup. A year later, Burley’s side were relegated and he signed for the Lads for a reported £3.25m, going on to score 53 goals in 119 games between 2002 and 2005.
After spells at Bristol City, Preston North End, Yeovil Town and Exeter City he hung up his boots in the summer of 2011 immediately moving into a first team coach roles at Exeter City and Bristol Rovers.
Last September Marcus Stewart was diagnosed with motor neurone disease and will be guest of honour at the Stadium of Light today as two of his former sides come together to raise funds for the Darby Rimmer MND Foundation.