Opposition Focus: Sunderland

Image: Getty via iNews

FORM: Well… um… terrible. That’s all you can really say about Sunderland’s general form. One win in their last ten and just overall terrible performances from more or less every player on the pitch. Sunderland come into the game finally having their relegation confirmed after a defeat at home to Burton Albion. Paddy McNair with the goal for The Black Cats.

FORMATION: 4-1-4-1 but with the ability to switch it to a more attacking 4-3-3 by pushing wide men McGeady & McManaman further up the field.

DANGERMAN: Lee Cattermole – The only role Sunderland can play on Friday night, is that of spoiler. There will be no bigger spoiler possible than if Lee Cattermole injures one of our players ahead of Birmingham next week. If I were Slav, I’d personally tell players to just avoid any tackle where he’s concerned and live to fight another day, rather than risk being out of the final game (or games depending on where we finish). Which leads me to…

BATTLE TO WATCH: Lee Cattermole v Johansen, Cairney & McDonald – for all the reason laid out above, we need to make sure we avoid any and all contact with Lee Cattermole, so it’s imperative we keep the ball moving, not too much time on the ball and getting the ball up the field as soon as possible. No dawdling.


  • This is the first season in which Fulham and Sunderland have met in the second tier of English football since 1985-86; Fulham would go on to finish bottom of the table while Wolves and Cardiff were relegated from the division below.
  • Fulham have won 1 of the last 7 meetings with Sunderland in all competitions – a 1-0 victory on the opening day of the 2013-14 Premier League season.
  • Prior to the past 8 meetings, Sunderland had failed to score in 6 of 7 consecutive games against Fulham between 2008 and 2011; Kenwyne Jones’ strike in January 2009 was the Black Cats’ only goal against the Whites in 678 minutes of football.
  • Fulham have lost their last 3 matches with Sunderland at Craven Cottage in all competitions, conceding 10 goals in the process and scoring just 3.
  • Fulham’s 1-0 defeat at the Stadium of Light in December is Marcus Bettinelli’s only experience of losing a Championship game that he has played in this season.

OPPOSING VIEW (@DEG_AJR): I feel like going into this season, the majority of Sunderland fans would have been happy with a mid-table finish, coming off the back of relegation under a side managed by David Moyes, who would struggle to motivate the best of footballers, and a squad of players who, for the most part, seemed to care more about the night out after the game than actually playing for a result. Moyes leaving and Grayson coming in seemed to be a good move at the time, we’d picked up a manager who’d achieved some great things with Preston and had extensive experience in the league.

As the season went on, however, you could still see the same issues on the field that had been a factor in our relegation last season. A seeming lack of leadership, discipline, and at times, effort. Scoring goals wasn’t a problem, on-loan Lewis Grabban was scoring goals for fun, McGeady and Honeyman would chip in with a goal or two for themselves along the way. Our issue was defending. Keeping a clean sheet seemed an impossible task for a back line that just seemed to switch off multiple times a game. Our most consistent starter at the back was the 36-year-old John O’Shea, who was given a contract extension at the end of last season with the intention of keeping him around for his experience and occasional cover.

The managerial change in November seemed to inject a bit of life into the squad but it was short-lived, before falling right back into the same slump that had us sliding closer and closer towards league 1. We’ve had more than enough chances to win games to get ourselves out of this hole, 23 points dropped from winning positions all season, well over 15 goals conceded due to goalkeeping errors, stats like that just can’t happen. Lack of financial backing from Ellis Short and a squad already threadbare left us picking at scraps in the January transfer window, coupled with selling James Vaughan and Lewis Grabban wanting to end his loan spell early, left us with Ashley Fletcher, Josh Maja, and Joel Asoro as the only strikers at the club.

This last weekend was just the culmination of such a poor season. Knowing we had to win, being 1-0 up when public enemy No.1 in Sunderland came on as a sub. I think we can all guess what happened next, Darren Bent, 1-1. Add in the Burton winner in the 93rd minute for good measure and that was it. Condemned to the third tier of English football for the second time in our history. We, as fans, feel hurt. Let down. Disgusted, at the level of mismanagement that has been shown from the very top of the club for years now. Paolo Di Canio was right, and yet he was hounded out by the players. I’d like to think with some new owners, some investment to add to the squad, and rebuilding around the youth we have at the club, we’ll be back. It might take a year, it might take 5, but it will happen.

Prediction for this Friday? 4 – 1 Fulham.

PREDICTION: It’s really hard for me to make any sort of ‘let’s keep it realistic, not get overexcited’ kind of predictions when it comes to this game. They are down there for a reason and as has been pointed out above, they are just awful in more or less every area of the pitch. All we can do is win to guarantee it goes to the last day, and we shall do, comfortably.

Fulham 4 – 0 Sunderland