It’s Valentine’s Day, but there hasn’t been much love in the air in recent weeks on Wearside given the stuttering form of Jack Ross’ Sunderland side.
Promotion to the Championship is the target this season, but 13 draws, including six in their last eight games, is causing understandable concern among the fanbase.
One of the key areas for debate is team selection and tactics, given the wealth of options now available to Jack Ross after a busy January and with a near fully fit squad to choose from.
A key factor is whether to play two up top following the dramatic £4million deadline day signing of Will Grigg and partner him with Charlie Wyke?
They are Sunderland’s big signings, though Wyke’s start to life at the Stadium of Light is yet to click into gear, Wyke having missed most of the first half of the season with two knee injuries.
The pair ended the game against Blackpool up front together, Wyke helping link the play and providing more of a focal point than he has previously.
The less said about Grigg’s horror miss second half, when he’d done the hard work of rounding the keeper only to miss with the goal gaping, the better.
But his pedigree proves he scores goals at this level - and plenty of them.
The big question is whether Ross should pair the duo together or proceed with the favoured 4-2-3-1 / 4-3-3 system, with Grigg leading the line?
Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate partnerships so what better day to examine some of the most successful strike pairings at Sunderland over the years.
Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips
What needs to be said about this iconic strike pairing?
Super Kev, who remains Sunderland’s record post-war goalscorer, scored an incredible 130 goals in 235 appearances for the Black Cats, during which time he also won the European
Golden Shoe in the 1999/2000 season.
Quinn - who went on to have a spell as manager and chairman - scored an impressive 69 goals during his 220 games for Sunderland.
Phillips was a clinical goalscorer, while Quinn dominated in the air, their little and large partnership proving a huge success under Peter Reid, Sunderland securing back-to-back seventh-
place finishes in the Premier League.
Marco Gabbiadini and Eric Gates
Gabbiadini, who scored 87 goals in 185 games, joined from York City for just £80,000 and struck a stunning partnership with Gates, their partnership labelled G-Force.
Gabbiadini scored 21 league goals as Sunderland won the Third Division title in his first season at Roker Park.
Gates, meanwhile, netted 54 goals for Sunderland in 218 appearances for the club. Gates scored 19 goals in the 1987-88 Third Division championship campaign.
Darren Bent, Danny Welbeck and Asamoah Gyan
They say three is a crowd but not so when it came to Bent, Welbeck and Gyan, the trio complimenting each other perfectly during their time on Wearside.
It may have been a relatively brief spell together but they certainly made an impact.
In the 2010-11 campaign Bent, whose controversial exit to Aston Villa was confirmed in the January, scored 11 in the first half of the campaign, playing alongside a mix of Gyan and
Gyan netted 11 goals for Sunderland that season, while fan favourite Welbeck contributed six goals in his 29 appearances.
Kenwyne Jones and Djibril Cisse
It isn’t often a Sunderland strike pairing both hit double figures so Jones and Cisse deserve a mention for their efforts in the 2008-09 campaign.
Sunderland were battling against the drop that year, a battle they won, finishing the season in 16th, just two points above the drop zone.
Their goals ultimately proved decisive, Jones scoring 12 in 32 games and striker partner Cisse 11 in 38 games.
Sunderland fans will be hoping Grigg and Wyke can both hit the goal trail between now and the end of the season, as the race for promotion hots up.