Sunderland assistant manager Paul Bracewell knows what it takes to savour the sweet taste of red and white victory at Arsenal.
Depressingly, it was during his own playing days in a Sunderland shirt more than 30 years ago...
If we got a victory at Arsenal, then it would be one of the biggest results Sunderland have ever achievedSam Allardyce
The Black Cats haven’t won a league game at Arsenal since November 1983, when Bracewell – then just 22 after arriving in a £250,000 deal from Stoke – was in the heart of the visiting midfield when Ian Atkins scored the winner in a 2-1 victory, Colin West scoring the other goal.
Arsenal legend Tony Adams was making his first start for the Gunners, while current Sunderland kitman John Cooke – an ex-team-mate of Sam Allardyce at Roker Park – was in the squad that travelled to Highbury.
In the 16 subsequent visits, Sunderland have managed five draws and 11 losses.
It’s a measure of the task facing Sunderland at the Emirates tomorrow, if Allardyce’s side are to make it three Premier League wins on the spin.
“I’m 61, Cookey’s 53 and Brace is 53, so that’s how long it’s been,” said Allardyce.
“If we got a victory at Arsenal, then it would be one of the biggest results Sunderland have ever achieved.”
While Sunderland haven’t won in any competition at Arsenal since a 2002 League Cup success during Howard Wilkinson’s brief tenure, they have had some joy at the Emirates over recent years.
Four out of Sunderland’s last seven visits to north London have concluded in a stalemate, including the draw last May which rubber-stamped the Black Cats’ survival.
“I wouldn’t be too disappointed in that result!” admitted Allardyce.
“The good thing is that in the recent past, we’ve got a couple of draws there by frustrating them and not conceding, and coming away with a point.
“Even though Arsenal have got a couple of injuries and slipped up at West Brom and Norwich, that wasn’t at the Emirates.
“At home, they’re a major force.”
This weekend’s game begins a daunting month of fixtures for Sunderland, which sees the Black Cats also face Watford, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool.
But after back-to-back wins over Crystal Palace and Stoke lifted Sunderland out of the relegation zone for the first time since August, Allardyce is looking to maintain the much-improved mood around the club.
“We’re in game-by-game mode at the moment,” he added.
“While the wins have lifted everybody’s spirits, it’s not kidded me about what we have to do.
“We’ve got to try to pick up points against Arsenal.
“With the fixture list we’ve got, we could easily go the whole of December without a win, based on the teams we’re playing.
“Then we’d really be in the thick of it again.
“Hopefully that’s not the case.
“We’ve given ourselves a good feeling. Can we hold onto that and continue to get good results?”