STEVE Bruce hopes Sunderland can lay their Goodison Park ghosts to rest tomorrow.
Sunderland have not beaten bogey team Everton on Merseyside since 1996, while a decade has passed since The Black Cats tasted victory over the Toffees on Wearside.
Bruce experienced Sunderland’s Goodison curse last season when his side found themselves 2-0 down within the first 20 minutes before the game headed to an inevitable conclusion.
“The game there last year was probably our worst of last season,” he said.
“In the first half we were absolutely inept.”
Even though Everton boast such a formidable record against Sunderland, Bruce retains his admiration for the job done by opposite number David Moyes in his nine years at the club.
Despite languishing in the bottom half of the table for much of the season, Everton showed they are still a force to be reckoned with by beating FA Cup holders Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last weekend.
Bruce said: “We’ve got to get ourselves established in the Premier League like Everton.
“They seem to have been in the top flight in this country since the year dot.
“David Moyes has maybe not had the financial muscle of other clubs but you have to admire what he does.
“It shows you how tough the Premier League is when a club like Everton are still in the bottom half of the table.
“He has done a fabulous job over the years and he’s given them huge stability.
“When he first went in there, they were always at the bottom but he’s turned them round and they had a wonderful result last week.
“That’s my vision of where Sunderland should be – cemented in the Premier League year-in, year-out.”
A trip to Everton hardly promises to be the solution to ending Sunderland’s run of three successive defeats.
And it won’t get any easier over the subsequent three games with trips to Arsenal and Manchester City sandwiching a Stadium of Light clash against Liverpool.
But Bruce points to the way Sunderland have already upset the odds this season as evidence that they won’t be overawed by the task ahead.
“I remember after losing against Newcastle that we had Stoke at home, Tottenham away and Chelsea away,” he said.
“Everybody said ‘here we go’, but we picked up seven points from it.
“We know they’re tough games but that’s the way the Premier League is.
“It’s important we stick in there and keep ourselves in the top 10.
“If we can, come April and May when we’ve got a few coming back from injury, we’ve got an outstanding chance of having a good season.”