Chris Young: End the Hull hoodoo and Black Cats can dream of another great escape

A Covent Garden Round Two had just about become appealing when the whistle blew away the remaining hangovers at the KC Stadium.

Wednesday, 9th November 2016, 1:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 16th November 2016, 3:08 pm
Sunderlands Paddy McNair gets stuck in at Bournemouth, with Patrick van Aanholt eager to join the scrap. Picture by Frank Reid

Then the travelling hordes realised Nacho Scocco and Andrea Dossena were both featuring and the Alka Seltzer were required to ease a returning headache.

Two-and-a-half years on, and it’s no wonder why Gus Poyet’s selection at Hull City remains such an infamous moment in Sunderland’s modern folklore.

The idea of rotating players fatigued by League Cup and relegation battle commitments was an understandable one, yet it was a ploy which backfired badly on the then Black Cats boss.

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This was the FA Cup quarter-final, for God’s sake.

Wembley was beckoning again.

Instead, the momentum gained from running Manchester City so close in the Capital One Cup final was simply sucked out on a Sunday afternoon which was as dispiriting, as it was annoying.

But it was a period when fate seemed to constantly conspire against Sunderland and turn in the favour of Hull and Steve Bruce.

There was the nine-man loss on Humberside when Dossena and Lee Cattermole were both given their marching orders within a bonkers four-minute spell.

There was the return fixture later that season when Wes Brown didn’t even last four minutes before he was sent off too.

Then came the Boxing Day Stadium of Light loss in 2014, just five days after Tyne-Wear derby joy had made it a very merry Christmas.

That defeat really was a damaging one for Poyet, particularly after Sunderland utterly dominated a rag-bag Hull side in the opening 25 minutes.

If they had been 3-0 up in that spell, it wouldn’t have been unjust. Instead, the Black Cats lost 3-1 and any traction of moving away from danger was lost.

There was always a sense that Poyet never quite got over that one.

Perhaps the lingering frustration was one of the factors which led to Poyet boiling over on the touchline at the KC later that season and bizarrely initiating a bout of hand-bags with Bruce.

At least Sunderland avoided defeat in that one, thanks to a late Jack Rodwell leveller. A loss would have been curtains for their survival hopes.

But the Hull curse MUST lift when Sunderland return to action after the international break because, make no mistake, this might be their last prayer of remaining in the Premier League.

There are insufficient fingers and toes to count how many games have been branded as ‘must-win’ over the last four or five years. Somehow Sunderland have spared their souls even in the ones where they have been unable to register maximum points.

However, even in November, this is D-day.

All that the ballsy and timely victory at Bournemouth has done is move Sunderland into the tunnel. As yet, there isn’t any light at the end of it.

Even Aston Villa were able to win the odd game last season. Sunderland have merely restored a few morsels of pride back in a fan-base which was on the verge of becoming downright apathetic.

Although David Moyes’ men have moved level on points with second-bottom Swansea, Sunderland rightly remain firm favourites for relegation.

This squad still desperately lacks quality – albeit the return of the injured players should help matters on that score – and it will need several more characterful defensive displays before anyone will be convinced by the back four.

But if Sunderland can register back-to-back wins by overcoming the third-bottom Tigers, then, make no mistake, it’s game-on again.

Eight points from 12 games would still represent an awful start to the season. But it wouldn’t be an irreversible situation.

A slight margin of leeway would remain for yet another of those late charges away from danger.

It’s not an impossible task either, even if Sunderland’s tally on home soil this season stands at a pathetic one point.

Hull secured an unlikely first win since August with a second half comeback against Southampton on Sunday, but the Tigers are still a fragile beast and like Sunderland, lack genuine quality.

So many empty seats inside the KC at the weekend demonstrated how faith has ebbed away among the locals.

Inevitably, it will be one of those ugly Stadium of Light scraps, with both sides struggling to overcome the nerves, despite the recent feeling of confidence stemming from that rare sense of victory.

But Sunderland have the chance to give their season a lifeline. Well, as long as they don’t succumb to that Hull hoodoo again....