AS SUNDERLAND well know, sacking the manager can produce an immediate upturn in results.
Martin O’Neill, Paolo Di Canio and Gus Poyet all savoured the winning feeling in their early days in the hotseat after the Black Cats could previously barely buy a point, let alone a victory.
Tim Sherwood is enjoying that same bounce effect now with double derby euphoria immediately banishing the memories of back-to-back defeats in his opening two games at the helm.
But that new manager syndrome doesn’t last... again, as Sunderland know all too well.
Sherwood’s Zebedee enthusiasm and wins against what was on two occasions a distinctly under-par West Brom side, have not suddenly morphed Villa into a side challenging for the Champions League.
Perhaps there was some naivety on Wearside after the feats of O’Neill, Di Canio and Poyet during their bit-part first seasons at the helm.
The underlying problems still remained and that’s why there is no lust in the Stadium of Light boardroom to banish Poyet and hope for another short-term injection from the dug-out during the season’s finale.
The club’s powerbrokers are well aware that some stability is essential to ending the constant cycle of relegation battles, even if the speculation continues over Poyet’s long-term status on Wearside.
Although Villa’s confidence levels may be higher, the Premier League’s lowest scorers will still have their problems finding the net – particularly if Christian Benteke remains sidelined with a hip injury – while they have a host of defenders on the treatment table, including the hugely influential Ron Vlaar.
This is another of those huge opportunities for Poyet’s side to create some real daylight with the bottom three.
Sunderland have their own hefty list of absentees – Adam Johnson, Emanuele Giaccherini, Will Buckley and arguably most significantly of all, Lee Cattermole.
There’s no use trying to pretend the suspended Cattermole won’t be a big miss during the next two games (and it could get even worse against West Ham next week if Seb Larsson gets a 10th booking of the campaign tomorrow).
Larsson, Liam Bridcutt and Jack Rodwell – the likely midfield trio this weekend – have to demonstrate that they can provide the same drive in the middle of the park that is invariably present when Cattermole is in the side.
But the midfield battle is a sub-plot to the basic, obvious theme of tomorrow’s encounter.
Can either of the Premier League’s two lowest scoring sides actually find the net and prevent a repeat of the goalless draw from Villa Park in December?
On the back of just one goal from the last five games, it might prove to be a tall order for Sunderland.
Patrick van Aanholt and Ricky Alvarez will add extra attacking dynamism if they return to the fold – and they surely will after their influential cameos from the bench secured a point at Hull.
With Johnson absent, Alvarez has a weighty responsibility on his shoulders for the final 10 games.
Connor Wickham could also be recalled after a positive contribution as a substitute at Hull.
For all Danny Graham is a work horse, Wickham continues to look the more likely scorer and a player who worries defenders more.
There will surely be a place on the bench for Under-21 prospect Duncan Watmore too, as the only other genuine candidate who can offer width and pace.
But whoever is given the task of orchestrating the supply lines, there needs to be far, far better service than there has been over recent games.
There is little point in fielding an arch-poacher like Jermain Defoe if he is continually fed on scraps.
Sherwood knows the predatory powers of Defoe well after working alongside the England international as both a player and manager at White Hart Lane.
Sunderland’s January signing needs to ensure that the Sherwood feel-good factor at Villa is brought to an abrupt halt tomorrow.
Verdict: Home win