Sunderland head into a testing month looking to maintain the forward momentum created by Sam Allardyce’s appointment as manager.
Three wins in six games under the former West Ham boss have helped lift the Black Cats out of the drop zone, though December will be a massive challenge of the new-found confidence and organisation, with games against Arsenal, Watford, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool.
On the positive side, though, a glance through the records show that Sunderland have only once failed to average at least a point a game in December since winning promotion in 2007.
2014/15: P6 W1 D3 L2
Adam Johnson’s last-gasp winner at Newcastle, after Sunderland had to fight all the way to keep the scoreline blank, was the highlight of last December for the Red and Whites. Despite a 4-1 trouncing from Manchester City at home to start the month, Gus Poyet’s side rallied to draw 0-0 at Liverpool, 1-1 at home to West Ham with a Jordi Gomez goal, and 0-0 at Aston Villa.The big disappointment was a miserable 3-1 home loss to relegation rivals Hull on Boxing Day, after going ahead with a Johnson goal inside a minute.
2013/14: P6 W1 D3 L2
Sunderland’s December highpoint came in the League Cup, with Chelsea beaten 2-1 after extra time to reach the semi-finals. In the league, Sunderland stayed bottom throughout despite a point a game haul. Ki Sung-Yueng’s penalty won the day at 10-man Everton, while there were goalless draws against West Ham and Norwich and a dramatic 2-2 draw at Cardiff, where Steven Fletcher and Jack Colback struck in the final seven minutes. Narrow home defeats to Chelsea (4-3) and Tottenham (2-1) started the month.
2012/13: P7 W3 D0 L4
An up and down month nevertheless brought nine points to lift Sunderland from 17th to 13th place. Defeats at Norwich (2-1) and at home to Chelsea were followed by a 3-0 beating of Reading, thanks to James McClean, Steven Fletcher and Stephane Sessegnon. Fraizer Campbell hit a consolation in a 3-1 loss at Manchester United, but Sunderland rallied to win 1-0 at Southampton, with a Fletcher goal, and then beat Manchester City with a single Adam Johnson strike. The last game of the year brought a 2-1 home loss to Tottenham, despite John O’Shea giving the Red and Whites the lead.
2011/12: P5 W2 D1 L2
Eric Black oversaw the first match of December following Steve Bruce’s sacking, with Sunderland losing 2-1 at Wolves, to a late Steven Fletcher double, after Kieran Richardson had them ahead. New appointment Martin O’Neill was heading for a debut defeat against a resilient Blackburn until sub James McClean transformed the game, with a great strike from David Vaughan, and a memorable last-minute Seb Larsson free-kick, sparking a turnaround in Sunderland’s season. Though they lost 1-0 at Tottenham, the year ended with a 3-2 win at QPR, courtesy of Nicklas Bendtner, Stephane Sessegnon and a last-minute Wes Brown goal, and a hard-earned 1-1 draw with Everton.
2010/11: P5 W2 D1 L2
Sunderland started and ended the month in seventh place under Steve Bruce. Jordan Henderson’s first goal for almost a year saw off West Ham 1-0, then a 0-0 draw at Fulham was followed by a Danny Welbeck strike to sink Bolton. Boxing Day brought a 2-0 defeat at Manchester United, Anton Ferdinand scoring an own goal, and a poor display in a 2-0 loss at home to impressive Blackpool, old foe DJ Campbell netting twice.
2009/10: P6 W0 D3 L3
A winless December started with a 1-0 defeat at Fulham, Bobby Zamora scoring, before Younes Kaboul’s last-gasp strike earned relegation-bound Portsmouth a 1-1 Stadium of Light draw, cancelling out Darren Bent’s goal. Sunderland then lost 2-0 at home to Aston Villa, with Lorik Cana sent off late on, before putting up a spirited performance in a controversial 4-3 loss at Manchester City, with Michael Turner red-carded after goals from John Mensah, Jordan Henderson and Kenwyne Jones got Sunderland back to 2-2 and 3-3. The month ended with three Darren Bent goals, in a 1-1 draw against Everton, for whom Marouane Fellaini bagged an 86th-minute leveller, and a 2-2 draw at Blackburn.
2008/09: P5 W2 D1 L2
Sunderland, under caretaker Ricky Sbragia, suffered heartbreak as Nemanja Vidic bagged a last-minute Manchester United strike in a 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford, but two precious, confidence-boosting wins followed. Kenwyne Jones (2), Andy Reid and Djibril Cisse scored by the 47th minute to wallop West Brom 4-0, then Steed Malbranque, Jones, Cisse and an own goal, with the last three coming in the final 12 minutes, saw off Hull 4-1 away. A 0-0 home draw with Blackburn and a 3-0 defeat at Everton, when it could have been five or six, closed out the year.
2007/08: P6 W2 D1 L3
Anthony Stokes’ last-gasp winner against Derby opened the month, lifting Sunderland out of the drop zone to 14th place. A routine 2-0 defeat at Chelsea, with Liam Miller sent off late on, followed, before Danny Higginbotham’s opener was cancelled out by a classy Shaun Maloney free-kick in a 1-1 home draw with Aston Villa. Michael Chopra levelled for Sunderland at Reading, only for Stephen Hunt to hit the Royals’ last-gasp winner for 2-1. Youngster Martyn Waghorn struggled on his debut in a 4-0 drubbing from Manchester United, but the month ended brightly, with a 3-1 defeat of Bolton, with Kieran Richardson, Kenwyne Jones and, in the last minute, Daryl Murphy all scoring.
Total: P46 W13 D13 L20