Sunderland AFC Preview – Tuesday night lights a chance to make it four points from two home games

Jon Lambert takes a look at the challenge facing Sunderland against Blackpool tonight

Tuesday night lights are back on this week for the visit of Michael Appleton’s Blackpool in what is a packed October of fixtures pre-World Cup. The Tangerines of course left us behind in League One back in 2021 with the assistance of our very own Elliot Embleton, who ironically wasn’t deemed good enough to help get us up.. <change subject before League One PTSD kicks in>.

Now it’s fair to say when we think of the pain of back to back relegations and four seasons in League One, it’s hard to look past ourselves as a set of fans that was shat on from a great height. Well Blackpool fans can probably take that and raise that with the last 11 years they’ve endured, in this game of EFL basket case roulette.

In 2010 Blackpool got promoted to the Premier League for the first time in their history, and come 17:00 on the opening day fans were in euphoria as they beat Wigan Athletic 4-0 away from home. Top of the Premier League… well not quite, as come 19:30 that day Chelsea had beaten West Brom 6-0 to push them into second. But still a great start which continued until around Christmas when it all when down hill, eventually leading to relegation on the final day of the season.

Now it’s not unusual for a side to have a season like that as the better sides soon find them out and pick them off, but what happened over the following few years was utter car crash. A play-off final defeat to West Ham the next season before three managers the season after that, and then come 2014 a crisis as 27 players left the club. A fortnight before the season started the Tangerine’s had only eight outfield players and no goalkeeper, it was no surprise they got relegated to League One come April. During the final game of the season an on field protest by the fans against the ownership led to the abandonment of the game.

In 2016 Blackpool suffered another relegation which saw them in the bottom tier of the football league and onto their eighth manager in just over three years. And later that year if the clubs reputation wasn’t already in tatters, former youth coach Frank Roper was embroiled in a sexual abuse scandal following claims by former Blackpool (and Sunderland) striker Paul Stewart. The Oyston family hadn’t had the greatest tenure, which also involved long spells with no fans in the ground as the Blackpool faithful sacrificed their support for the greater good of the football club.

But they are back in Championship and far more stable as a club these days, so what do we have to look out for Tuesday night? Well with just 11 points from 11 games, not many trees have been pulled up, with defeats in their last three outings leaving them floating around the drop zone. They mainly dabbled in the loan market this summer, both in and out, but did sell one of their better assets, Josh Bowler for just over £2m to big spenders Nottingham Forest. They also just brought in pantomime villain Liam Bridcutt who was all lonely loitering in the free agent market.

Last time out they played a fairly attacking 4-3-3 formation with the Canadian Wolves loanee Theo Corbeanu the player to watch out wide on the left of the front three. But Blackpool have played four other systems this year which suggests they haven’t got a trusted style of play yet, or Appleton just doesn’t know his best side. Defender James Husband is likely to miss out through injury, joining Keshi Anderson, Lewis Fiorini, Kev Stewart and Jake Beesley on the physio’s table.

For the lads it’s a case of getting though this month as unscathed as possible with no strike force as not only a goalscoring threat, but an outlet of relief up top, and a physical presence in both defence and attack. And it’s that physical presence that makes the selection of Aji Alese a must for the game, as himself and the excellent Danny Batth bring much needed physicality to the back line. That being said the attacking approach by Blackpool may allow our small but elite attacking midfielders to break through the lines and really hurt the Seasiders.

There’s no fresh injury news as such, we know Ross Stewart and Ellis Simms are both out for a while, and we expect Dennis Cirkin to be welcomed back to the matchday squad. IF we can get through with the wider squad this month, things will be looking far better post the World Cup break as both strikers, Dan Ballard, and you never know, the ghost of Niall Huggins maybe all back.

This is very much the game to win, at home where we perform well under the lights against a team down on their luck and seemingly without a plan. Win this one and Saturday’s draw becomes a good point as the cliché goes, with four points from two being the much desired two points per game magical promotion number. Get into them, get those quick triangles and balls down the line and hurt them in the final third. Ha’way the Lads!