This week’s Durham Times column was written by Gareth Barker. It was first published in the paper on Friday.
I think we’ve probably gloated just about enough. The euphoria of yet another derby victory, a sixth in a row to be precise, has to be put to the back of our minds as we look to build on it at Everton.
It’s not the first time in recent seasons that we’ve faced Everton immediately after a derby win.
Dick Advocaat got Sunderland a 2-0 victory at Goodison last season. Paolo Di Canio’s side destroyed Newcastle, then broke The Toffee’s hoodoo with a 1-0 win at the Stadium of Light. Unfortunately, that was about as good as it got for both former Head Coaches. That is something that Sam Allardyce needs to address.
We always talk about kick starting our season after a derby victory. But it’s often a positive blip before a long run of poor results. By the time we get back round to the return fixture with Newcastle, we’re struggling. Again.
That’s not exclusive to the recent run of derby victories though.
Roy Keane delivered Sunderland’s first win on Wearside against the mags in 28 years. We looked to be moving in the right direction. After survival the previous season, we’d added quality in the form of Djibril Cisse and Steed Malbranque. That game made me feel as though the tide had turned. It was Sunderland that would finally realise their potential under the charismatic Keane/Quinn administration.
Keano was gone in about six weeks.
We did have the last laugh that year though, even though it was probably more a wry smile. Newcastle we’re guided into the Championship by their hero, Alan Shearer. We scraped survival under Ricky Sbragia. Apart from brief spells under Steve Bruce and Martin O’Neill, we’ve been fighting against the tide ever since.
Sam Allardyce is a practical, logical appointment for Sunderland, and he has to deliver the stability that he prides himself on.
Everton won’t be as charitable as our neighbours on Sunday. We can’t rely on their captain to inexplicably throw the game away before capitalising. It’ll be a much sterner test and I think the Sunderland manager will set the side up to be tough to beat once more.
Jordi Gomez and Seb Larsson will be battling for a recall given the fitness concerns within the squad. We might even see Wes Brown in the starting line up should Younes Kaboul fail to recover from a groin issue. I wonder if his body went into shock after his incredible run and assist for Steven Fletcher.
We’ve seen a massive improvement defensively in the last two games and I’m hopeful that will continue on Sunday. We’ve got a threat on the break in Jeremain Lens, and Fletcher looks to have rediscovered some of the form he showed nearly 18 months ago.
I’ll happily lose on corner kicks. I’ll happily lose on shots on target. All I’m bothered about is winning the football match. If we have to win ugly at the moment, then so be it. I couldn’t care less.