2016/17 FIXTURES: Sam Allardyce must improve on Sunderland's regular poor starts
Sunderland's struggles in recent season have all stemmed from poor starts.
Last season brought just two points from the opening five games, with four the season before and just one in the 2013/14 campaign.
Next season, they will face away games at Man City, Southampton and Spurs, with home games against Middlesbrough and Everton, in their first five games.
Boss Sam Allardyce has often stressed the need to average more in points than games you play, and Sunderland have not always managed to achieve that in recent seasons.
In 2008/9 they managed only 36 points - but still stayed up, with West Brom (32), Middlesbrough (32) and Newcastle (34) all going down from the Premier League.
In both the 2013/14 and 14/15 seasons, the Black Cats averaged one point per game staying up both times on 38 points.
Here’s a look at Sunderland’s 10-year record for the opening five games of the season ...
The 2006/7 season started with Niall Quinn at the helm - and it wasn’t pretty!
The campaign started with defeats to Coventry, Birmingham, Plymouth and Southend though it was followed with a win against West Brom.
At that point, Sunderland were 23rd in the Championship. Roy Keane came in and by the end of the season, the title was in the bag.
SO, bad starts don’t ALWAYS lead to struggles!
Keane’s full season in the Premier League produced a finish in 15th place.
Sunderland started the season with a 1-0 win against Tottenham, courtesy of a 90th minute Michael Chopra goal. But a draw against Birmingham was then followed by defeats to Wigan, Liverpool and Manchester United as the opening five games brought four points.
The 2008/9 season brought seven points from the opening five games, with wins against Spurs and Middlesbrough, and a draw with Wigan.
Keane was sacked with the Black Cats in the relegation zone, but caretaker boss Ricky Sbragia lifted the team to a final finish of 16th.
Steve Bruce was in the hotseat for the next campaign, and it started well with nine points from the opening five games.
There were wins against Bolton, Blackburn and Hull, sandwiching defeats to Cheslea and Stoke.
The season brought a finish in 13th place with 44 points.
The 2010/11 season saw Bruce lead his side to six points from the opening five games, a win against Manchester City and draws with Birmingham, Wigan and Arsenal. Sunderland finished the season in 10th place with 47 points.
Bruce’s tenure at the Stadium of Light ended towards the end of the 2011-12 campaign with relegation clouds hovering overhead.
The season started with five points from the first five games, a 4-0 win against Stoke and a goalless draw with Swansea.
Bruce was sacked after a 2-1 defeat at home to Wigan, with Martin O’Neill coming in and sealing a final finish of 13th with 45 points.
In something of a familiar case of deja-vu, Sunderland were to sack O’Neill the following season with the drop again a major worry.
He started the season well enough, with seven points from their starting games.
It was a struggle from then on, though, and finally Sunderland made a change and Paolo Di Canio was (controversially) brought in.
Di Canio had two wins in the seven-game run-in - including the 3-0 troumph at Newcastle, and two draws - to steer a path to safety.
The start of the 13/14 season was the beginning of a quick end for Di Canio. Sunderland lost to Fulham, drew with Southampton, and then had successive defeats to Palace, Arsenal and West Brom after which he was shown the door.
Kevin Ball stood in briefly before Gus Poyet got the job. Sunderland finished the season in 14th place, albeit with only 38 points.
The 14/15 season started with a struggle, with just four points from the opening five contests - from four draws.
This time it was Poyet who did not see the season out, with Dock Advocaat getting the job of pulling off an escape from relegation.
He oversaw a run of 12 points from nine games as Sunderland finished 16th, again with 38 points.
And so to last season.
Advocaat started in the hotseat after being talked into returning, having decided to quit.
His stay did not last long.
There were only two points from the first five games and Advocaat and Sunderland soon parted ways.
Big Sam came in and the rest is history - a 17th place finish and another survival, this time on 39 points.