Once again I find myself praying that ‘WBA’ wont convert into “We’re Bloody Awful” as Sunderland were blasted 4-0 by the Baggies during the corresponding fixture last season. This horror show was repeated in November 2012 at the Stadium of Light, when Albion bagged another 4 goals against the maligned and miserable Mackems.
After a short-lived mini revival, a solitary point from the last three games has once again raised relegation concerns for Sunderland, with several teams near the bottom picking up points and the gap to the relegation trap door being whittled down to six points. The Mackems mood seems flat, which is hardly surprising after a two-week break where the only excitement has been a Sunderland Echo poll asking readers if ‘Should Sunderland have done more to keep James McFadden at the Stadium of Light?’ You certainly didn’t need to be Einstein to predict that over 90% of respondents would say ‘no’ in what must be an early contender for most pointless survey of 2013. I mean, he only played 30 minutes during his three-month stay!
At least Adam Johnson is upbeat – after his mid-season break in the sun with the Sunderland squad – claiming he can win back his England place and not say ‘Dubai’ to his international career, despite only showing glimpses of his potential since joining the Black Cats for £10m. Certainly I would argue that Stephane Sessegnon must continue operating in a wide midfield role, replacing either the disappointing Seb Larsson or James McClean. As Sunderland have bolstered their attacking ranks with Danny Graham, many would like to see him partner Stephen Fletcher in a two-pronged attack.
I don’t understand the clamour to have Calamity Cattermole back in the team, despite him being a Premiership record-breaker. Yes, lovely-Lee has amassed 62 bookings in 180 games which means he has now been given a card in a higher proportion of appearances (34.4%) than any other player in Premiership history. Interestingly Sunderland dominate this area, with Stefan Schwartz in second place with 32 cards in 101 games (31.7%). If only we could had kept suicidal tackler Lorik Cana a little bit longer, then we may have had the top three sewn up. Amazingly, Joey Barton languishes in sixth place with a pitiful 68 bookings in 227 games.
WBA fresh from their impressive win at Anfield will feel they have little to fear from Sunderland (just read my first paragraph again if you need a reminder). The Wearsiders have lost five of their last six meetings against the Baggies and the 4-0 reverse at the Hawthorns 12 months ago was Martin O’Neill’s worst defeat as Sunderland boss. Chelsea striker, Romelu Lukaku, is shaping up to be one of the loan deals of the season already having plundered 10 league goals, with Shane Long just behind him with nine. In fact it’s been an impressive season for the Baggies with them falling no lower than ninth in the league. This is in stark contrast to Sunderland, who nearly had a nose bleed when they achieved their season best of twelfth place last month.
However, all is not rosy at the Hawthorns as demonstrated by the Peter Odemwingie Twitter attack on the club after having a transfer request refused, then travelled to QPR on deadline day in the vain and tragic hope of forcing through a move. It could have been worse; I believe he was a Sunderland target last season.
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