Two huge games for new regime to get Sunderland off to good start
Sunderland face two tough away fixtures in four days starting with tonight's game against Aston Villa then a trip to Burton Albion and in terms of size, history and tradition those two clubs couldn't be further apart.
Villa are one of England’s biggest and most successful clubs, though like Sunderland most of it is in the past, but they do have a European Cup win as recently as the 80s while Burton haven’t even played in the top level of English football but they have worked their way upwards and if Sunderland underestimate them on Saturday they will pay the price.
Both clubs have managers with strong Sunderland links in Steve Bruce, the former Sunderland boss, and Nigel Clough son of the late great Brian – who many fans believe should have been our manager but for a variety of reasons sadly it never happened.
Tonight’s game against Villa should always be a Premier League fixture.
There was a time when these two clubs met it was one of the biggest games in the country, a long time ago admittedly, but both clubs have let their fans down in recent years and find themselves deservedly in the Championship.
Villa started the season slowly and Steve Bruce was coming in for strong criticism from his own fans, but he has turned it around and now they are in a play-off spot.
One danger tonight is sure to be Robert Snodgrass, a player Simon Grayson was very interested in and would have definitely improved our starting XI, but Villa’s extra financial muscle tipped the scales and he ended up at Villa Park.
When I was playing, Villa Park was one of my favourite away grounds, it was usually a cracking atmosphere and behind one of the goals the Holte End was a huge terrace, all standing in those days and it was impressive just like the Fulwell End was at Roker Park.
Burton on the other hand is a club I know little about, never played there, never been there but any club that rises from non-league to Championship level has my respect and has got to be well organised from top to bottom to survive in higher company.
The Burton game is probably a bigger one than Villa given the respective league positions of both clubs so Sunderland are going to have to be switched on mentally to perform in a tight little stadium where their fans will be fully behind their team and hostile to the visitors.
This is a massive four days for Sunderland with a new regime, this is a new era and we are all desperate for it to have a good start.