Wise Men Say: Sunderland will find West Ham tough to crack

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The previous three fixtures looked a tough ask on paper and in one case proved even more difficult on the pitch.

But if you’d offered any of Sunderland supporter two points from three of last season’s top four, I’m sure they’d have taken them with no questions asked.

These weren’t just tough fixtures, they were also crammed into the space of just a week.

At the end of this formidable Chelsea-Man City-Liverpool shaped tunnel, a West Ham United coloured light glimmered.

On the face of it, a winnable game was on the horizon and unlike other meetings this season with other so called lesser sides, we’d have home advantage.

Typically though, this is not the West Ham of last season, the club in turmoil, helmed by an unloved manager under pressure.

Instead, Gus Poyet’s men come up against a side currently in the top four, riding the crest of a wave of exceptional form.

Last season, Allardyce’s men came to Wearside and claimed a 2-1 win, as Sunderland slid toward what looked at the time to be an inevitable relegation.

The scorer of the first goal that night was Andy Carroll, while the second was celebrated gleefully by Kevin Nolan in front of the South Stand.

After the previous season’s 3-0 win, Nolan had manfully taken the “Your chicken is dead” chants on the chin.

Unsurprisingly, he revelled in revenge as his side hammered a seemingly final nail into a coffin labelled relegation.

This season, West Ham have been a different proposition, entertaining their way to the top of the table.

And with Carroll and Nolan missing for large parts of the season, their charge to the upper echelons of the Premier League has been as surprising as it has been unabated.

Now that Carroll and Nolan are back, Allardyce’s men have not faltered, continuing to rack up the victories and impressive performances.

Given that both are former Newcastle men, facing us the weekend before a festive derby, it would be just our luck for one or the other to pop up and score.

In fact, you’d be more shocked if both were to draw a blank, particularly now Carroll appears to be in the form of his life.

Is there a more obvious recipe for the bitterest of Sunderland disappointments than a Gateshead born, ex-Newcastle player coming to town in goal scoring form, playing for a side managed by a former Newcastle boss, captained by a man who scored the last hat-trick in a derby while clad in black and white?

That’s not to say I’m pessimistic; far from it.

We too are in good form and have a defensive unit that has been tight and solid of late.

The 4-1 defeat to Manchester City was a minor aberration; a milder version of the ignominious hammering Southampton served up.

Given that the match was sandwiched between the Chelsea and Liverpool draws, it was also a lot easier to forgive.

If we continue in the vein of our overall season’s form, then we have an excellent chance of claiming something from the game.

However, as much as we’d love to go into the derby with three points in the bag, I feel we may have to settle for just one.

This may well be a winnable fixture, but it is by no means a game that will be easy to win.


H The Wise Men Say podcast is available from every Monday, with SAFC debate from a variety of guests and post-match reaction from Gus Poyet. You can be stream it direct from wisemensay.co.uk or subscribe to it on iTunes.