SUNDERLAND will have to overcome another unwanted record – as well as Stoke City – if they are to banish relegation fears next week.
The Black Cats have not won a Monday night game in their last 17 attempts, dating back over a decade to 2002 and it is a curse Paolo Di Canio needs to bring to an end if Sunderland are not to get sucked right back into relegation trouble again.
The last time the Wearsiders won a Monday night league match was April 1, 2002, when Leicester City were beaten 2-1 at the Stadium of Light – 45,000 fans watching a brace from American midfielder Claudio Reyna overcome a strike from Paul Dickov.
Peter Reid was still manager of Sunderland, while Dave Bassett was in the opposition dug-out.
The fact that the Black Cats have had seven managers since then, Leicester City have had 10, only underlines the weight of history against the Wearsiders.
But that will not worry Di Canio who, in his first month, has improved the club’s appalling records against Newcastle and Everton with inspiring victories.
Instead, the Italian will be more concerned with ensuring Sunderland’s second-half implosion at Aston Villa on Monday this week, is not repeated again this season.
He will also need to find an effective line-up with Sunderland facing the loss of their most creative player Stephane Sessegnon to a three-match ban after his sending off at Villa Park.
Di Canio has promised a full inquest into the humiliating defeat to Aston Villa which leaves Sunderland on the very edge of the relegation battle.
Their superior goal difference – despite their 6-1 hammering on Monday – is significant, counting for an extra point as things stand with Sunderland topping a trio of teams, Newcastle and Aston Villa below them, all on 37 points.
But the Italian knows that Sunderland cannot rely on that saving their skins.
The Black Cats need at least one victory if they are to achieve a reasonable expectation of safety this season and Di Canio is determined it will happen when the Potters’ visit.
“We will stay up. We will get the victory we need – if not against Aston Villa, then against Stoke City the following Monday,” Di Canio told the Echo before his trip to the West Midlands.
And he will no doubt retain every confidence that, particularly with home advantage, Sunderland can overcome Stoke next Monday.
But the crushing nature of their defeat to Aston Villa and the loss of Sessegnon has put a whole new gloss on things and Di Canio knows he and his players have to pull out the stops next time they take to the field.
“We apologised to our fans for the Villa performance, because you have to apologise when they are let down as badly as they were,” he said.
“But preparation for the Stoke game began the minute the whistle sounded to end the game against Aston Villa, and we are determined that the will be a response.