RELEGATION-HAUNTED Sunderland have been ordered to forget about their dreadful record against Everton as they head to Goodison Park on Boxing Day.
The Black Cats will make the trip to Merseyside sitting at the foot of the Barclays Premier League table and only too aware of the fate which normally befalls the side occupying that unenviable position over the holiday period.
In the circumstances, a trip to a club making a surprise bid for a top-four finish and on a blistering run of form may not be what head coach Gus Poyet would have chosen as he attempts to spark a fightback, especially since the men from Wearside have not won at Goodison in more than 17 years.
However, first team coach Charlie Oatway, who deputised for the sick Uruguayan at his pre-match press conference, insisted history would count for nothing.
Oatway said: “At the end of the day, it is not worth certainly us guys, who have not long been in the job and at the club, dwelling over. At the end of the day, we have got to go to everyone.
“These are Premier League clubs with Premier League players and we must not forget that.
“I’m not one for history, to be blatantly honest. I am not one to just sit there and say positives or negatives. It’s about the next game.
“I won’t have it both ways. I won’t say, ‘Let’s talk about what we did last week when we won’, but not when we lost.
“For me, positives or negatives, I don’t like to dwell over it. It’s about what we do now and how we move forward.
“We will be prepared - Gus is prepared already, that’s the mentality of the man.
“He is already prepared in his head about how he wants to do things and how Everton do things, so we just need to make sure that we go out there and give a good account of ourselves and see where it takes us.”
Poyet’s players would be well advised not to look too closely at Sunderland’s recent history in this fixture.
They last won at Everton on November 30, 1996 when a Michael Bridges double and a Craig Russell strike secured a 3-1 victory.
During the intervening years, they have returned on 14 occasions in all competitions and lost on 10 of them, and their 11 league trips, which include 7-1 and 5-0 defeats, have yielded just two points.
The Black Cats will head across the Pennines without a win in their last six league fixtures; by contrast, the Toffees have failed to collect only four of the last 18 points they have contested, and those from draws with leaders Liverpool and title contenders Arsenal.
Striker Romelu Lukaku is without a goal in his last four games, but Oatway is well aware of the threat he poses, particularly with Poyet’s star defender Wes Brown missing through suspension and John O’Shea battling to shake off a shoulder injury.
He said: “He’s a hell of a player, isn’t he? He seems like he’s a young kid with an old head. Whenever I hear him on the telly and radio, I like what he says the majority of the time.
“He’s a hell of a player - but like I just said, we are in the Premier League and you can go and pick any team in the Premier League and I will guarantee they have got a hell of a centre-forward - or two or three or four.
“That’s the league and that’s why it’s, for me, the best league in the world, because they are the sort of situations you are going into week in, week out.
“Whoever gets picked to take Wes’ place has got a hard job to do filling his place, let alone dealing with him.
“But again, that’s why we are a Premier League football club and that’s why we want to stay one.”