This key summer signing will have big say as Sunderland and Portsmouth prepare to do battle again
Sunderland are in cup and league action this week starting with tonight’s League Cup tie away at Accrington, quickly followed by what is sure to be a feisty clash with Portsmouth - a team we saw plenty of last season.
Five times the two teams faced up to each other over the course of the season just gone and there always seemed to be an edge and controversy, that often led to bad tempers and flare-ups.
I suppose it was inevitable when two teams played each other so often in massive games in a short time span that things would sometimes boil over.
Portsmouth took points off Sunderland in the league and triumphed at Wembley in the Checkatrade Trophy but Sunderland ended Portsmouth’s promotion dreams in the play-offs so both teams can say with justification they did one another damage.
It might have been Charlton Athletic who ultimately broke the hearts of Sunderland fans in the play-off final but I think most fans would say it was Portsmouth who were our main rivals.
Not in geographical terms, of course, the two teams couldn’t be further apart, but in terms of two heavyweights in this division who went toe-to-toe, taking a lot out of each other before both eventually failed in their main objective - promotion.
So both clubs meet again, and this meeting has all the hallmarks of being a pivotal clash even at this early stage of the season.
Portsmouth got their season up and running with a win last Saturday after losing their opener, while Sunderland are still looking for their first league win and being at home another draw will not be seen as a good result.
Both teams made changes over the summer, in Portsmouth’s case I think they have made a good signing in John Marquis, a player who was heavily linked with Sunderland.
Any player who has scored 20+ goals for Doncaster has to be given due respect and he is a player I would have liked to see in a red and white shirt, unfortunately he will be in Portsmouth colours on Saturday and he will be a major threat if he starts.
So two teams playing each other with a lively recent history, and I think if you ask both Sunderland and Portsmouth fans who would you most like to beat this season, their respective opponents on Saturday would be high up the list.