I’M sure you won’t need reminding, but Sunderland have only won five games this season.
One of those cherished victories came against this weekend’s opponents, Stoke City.
Even the fact that we’ve already beaten Stoke this season won’t act as any sort of comfort or confidence boost.
When Gus Poyet’s side powered to a 3-1 win back in October, it finally looked like we’d built a platform upon which to construct a solid season, of the type Stoke themselves have gone on to have.
This being Sunderland, we put a bulldozer through that platform, losing our next game 8-0 at Southampton – our next opponents in the now annual Wearside relegation battle – and arguably haven’t recovered since.
At this point, even the fact that we’ve already beaten Stoke this season won’t act as any sort of comfort or confidence boost.
If anything, we should probably be even more wary; after all we beat Crystal Palace 3-1 earlier in the season and look what they did to us in our most recent ignominious capitulation.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that Stoke have also beaten us this term, 2-1 at the Stadium of Light in the League Cup.
On that night, we were given a torrid time by the lively winger Oussama Assaidi, whose pace and trickery were just too much for a now familiarly labouring Sunderland defence.
Stoke actually possess exactly the right sort of ingredients to hurt Sunderland.
Assaidi’s performance wasn’t quite as effective as Yannick Bolasie’s for Palace the other week, and he has left Stoke now, but the likes of Mame Biram Diouf have exactly the sort of pace and power to give John O’Shea nightmares.
Stoke may have little or nothing to play for, but then again neither did Palace.
If Mark Hughes can get them motivated, it’ll be another potentially torrid afternoon for Sunderland.
Speaking of the Stoke manager, he’s done an excellent job in rebuilding his career at the Britannia after a disastrous time at QPR. Around the time we appointed Martin O’Neill, there was a chance that Hughes may have ended up on Wearside.
At the time, I thought he’d be quite an underwhelming appointment.
Now I look at Stoke with envy, while Hughes must be glad he came nowhere near the Academy of Light.
Perhaps if we’d gotten Hughes in, things would have been different, but I doubt it.
Tony Pulis left him the basis for a decent squad at the Britannia Stadium, which he’s built upon nicely; if he’d come to Sunderland, he’d have been dealt a hand containing David Vaughan and Craig Gardner.
Stoke’s solidity is a barometer for what a well-managed Sunderland could have been.
Instead, we languish near the bottom of the table, hoping to escape the jaws of relegation once again.
With each passing season, the prospect of the Championship seems less daunting and in a sense almost appealing – at least we’d see a win or two – and Saturday’s result will go a long way to telling us whether that is our likely destination.
I hope the lads prove me wrong, but all I can see is more misery ahead at the Britannia.
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