The Opposition: Sunderland
What a great job Sam Allardyce did at Sunderland last season.
With just three points from their opening eight games, few gave Allardyce a chance when he was appointed manager.
But he did what he does best, grinding points out- including four from Stoke- and ultimately guiding Sunderland to safety at Newcastle’s expense.
Now comes the hard part. Sunderland have a habit of staying up against the odds in recent seasons but struggling the following campaign.
In Allardyce you believe they have a manager who could stay there for longer than a handful of games this coming season though, and if he does who would bet against Sunderland prolonging their stay in the top flight?
Jermain Defoe has signed a new contract, but his ageing legs may find the pace tough around Christmas time. It’s not Defoe who impresses me most at Sunderland though.
Duncan Watmore gave us the runaround at the Stadium of Light last season and continued to shine in a poor side. If he’s given a prolonged spell in the side he may well end the season with full international honours.
Memorable match: Stoke 3-2 Sunderland. 5 February 2011. This was a match heading to a drab defeat in the rain until a late explosion brought the game to life. Kieran Richardson and Asamoah Gyan’s goals sandwiched John Carew’s header and were seemingly enough to give Sunderland an away victory. But Robert Huth had different ideas, with his late brace winning the match against the odds.
2016-17 Fixtures: 15 October (H), 14 January (A).
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