STOKE City come to the Stadium of Light for our second consecutive Monday game next week and they will come as a team who, after a torrid second half to the season, just seem to have got the results recently that should just about keep them safe.
Just a few short weeks ago, both ourselves and the Potters were sinking like Premier League stones, and things were looking bleak for for both clubs.
Difficult times can call for difficult decisions and it was interesting that completely different paths were chosen by their respective owners in dealing the with the problem of worryingly poor results.
Sunderland took the ultimate course of action and sacked Martin O’Neill, while Stoke stuck with the tried and tested and kept faith with Tony Pulis.
One problem – two different solutions.
And both sets of fans are now hoping the decisions made will turn out to be the right ones.
Stoke, we know, like to play a direct game, but they have tried to refine it to a degree in the last season or two by adding players like Charlie Adam, who likes to play through the midfield and has an eye for goal.
They are still an uncompromising team however, who are never easy to play against, and you certainly don’t give them unnecessary free-kicks because at set-pieces they are always dangerous and they can make you pay.
They haven’t been good travellers this season though, winning only twice on the road and scoring a meagre 11 goals – the joint lowest in the Premier League.
Sunderland will go into this game as favourites and, after the great atmosphere at the last home game, I personally feel the crowd can be as huge an influence against Stoke, as they certainly were against Everton.
If the Villa defeat is out of the players’ system then Sunderland can make home advantage count and get the three points to take us to the magic 40-point mark.
Whether that would be enough or not remains to be seen, but, with our goal difference still better than others at the bottom and two games still to play, a win against Stoke would be a massive step towards survival.
To read the rest of the Rowell Report, please see tonight’s Sunderland Echo.