Meet the opposition, Sunderland: Black Cats not quite purring
- Credit: PA
Ipswich Town head to Sunderland this afternoon in another big League One clash for the Blues. MIKE BACON takes a look at Town's opponents.
WOBBLY TIMES FOR BLACK CATS
Like Town, Sunderland began the season as one of the tips for automatic promotion to the Championship.
And the Black Cats started well with a plethora of good results and performances.
However, in recent weeks the wheels have rather come off and they have lost four of their last six league games, as well as being put out of the FA Cup by League Two Mansfield at the Stadium of Light.
They've lost their last three League One clashes, against Charlton, Rotherham and Sheffield Wednesday and the team have slipped to 18th in the last-six current form guide. Sunderland have also slipped out of the play-off places. They sit seventh.
These are tricky times at the Stadium of Light. However, most of the defeats have been on the road.
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Town in comparison are sitting in fifth place in the last-six current form guide and two places and four points behind Sunderland in the League One table. Sunderland do have two games in hand on Town.
STRONG AT HOME
Despite the Black Cats' recent poor form, in general they are strong at home and Town have found it hard to pick up many points in the north-east.
At the old Roker Park, the Blues had more success than they have enjoyed at the Stadium of Light, which was opened in July 1997.
Indeed, since the Stadium of Light opened, Town have only won once in 11 attempts there. And even this season, only Charlton have lowered Sunderland's colours in the League at home.
Overall, Town and the Black Cats have gone head to head evenly since they first met in 1958, with both teams having won 23 times each in all competitions against each other. Eight have been drawn.
MEET THE GAFFER
Sunderland boss Lee Johnson was born in Newmarket.
As a midfielder he played more than 400 League games, mainly with Yeovil and then Bristol City where he was a fine Championship player.
In March 2013, Johnson was appointed manager of League One side Oldham Athletic, signing a two-year contract. At the age of 31, his appointment made him the youngest manager in the Football League.
Since then he has gone on to boss at Barnsley and a four-year spell at Bristol City, where he was a successful player.
Indeed, when he parted company with the Robins in July 2020, he was the then longest-serving manager in the Championship. On 5 December 2020, Johnson was appointed the new head coach of Sunderland following the departure of Phil Parkinson.
In March 2021, Sunderland won the 2021 EFL Trophy Final, beating Tranmere Rovers 1-0.
HOPES ON ROSS
Sunderland striker and top scorer Ross Stewart has given the Black Cats a boost and been in training ahead of today's game after being monitored for a shoulder injury.
Manager Lee Johnson revealed that Stewart will receive injections to lighten the load on his firing frontman, who has got 10 goals to his name this season.
After the beginning of his Black Cats career has hampered by injury following his signing in January this year, Stewart has been in great form this season and has become a major part of Sunderland's attack.
STATUE OF STOKOE
Outside the Stadium of Light is a statue of Bob Stokoe.
Stokoe was the manager of the Sunderland team that won the FA Cup in 1973. The team was in the Second Division, yet beat high-flying Manchester City, Arsenal and Leeds United on their way to lifting the Cup in what was a thrilling run to FA Cup glory with Stokoe memorably running arms aloft onto the Wembley turf at the final whistle.
WHAT THE BOOKIES SAY
It hasn't been often this season Town haven't been favourites with the bookies to win a game, home or away. But the bookies fancy Sunderland for this one, likely because of their good home form.
TOWN WIN: 21/10: SUNDERLAND WIN: 13/10: THE DRAW: 12/5
DID YOU KNOW?
First opened in 1907 on High Street West, Sunderland Empire is a large theatre with a capacity of 2,000.
Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren made her stage debut at the Sunderland Empire.
The theatre is infamous for playing host to the final performance of British comic actor Sid James who died of a heart attack while on stage on April 26, 1976. Indeed, after his death, it was rumoured that his ghost was in the dressing room he occupied on the night of his death and it's said comedian Les Dawson refused to play the venue again after a particularly spooky experience.