Sam Allardyce begins his attempts to turn around Sunderland’s fortunes as he takes his new side to West Bromwich Albion, who have picked up just one point from a possible 12 at home so far this season.
The hosts might come into this game feeling more wary than they perhaps would have done a couple of weeks ago, with Sunderland surely set to raise their game a little here under a new manager. The Baggies are under a little pressure to return to form having lost their last two games, which has resulted in them slipping to just one place above the bottom three, with their cause not being helped by constant injuries in defence that have prevented boss Tony Pulis from fielding a settled back four.
Even so, there was no excuse for a total capitulation in their last home game against Everton, and they seemed to carry something of a hangover effect into the following weekend’s trip to Crystal Palace. Their lack of attacking ambition at Selhurst Park rendered that display among the dreariest that the Premier League will see this season and despite proving tough to break down at the back, they eventually fell to a deserved 2-0 loss.
The build-up to Sunderland’s last outing at home to West Ham United was dominated by talk regarding the future of Head Coach Dick Advocaat, and in spite of producing arguably their best performance of the campaign so far, the Dutchman duly left his post the following day, leaving them without a win and already five points from safety. So, the Black Cats find themselves in the familiar position of having to be rescued by a new manager – for the fifth season running.
Allardyce, who spent a season with Sunderland as a player, will always split opinion, but his record cannot to be taken lightly. He has taken some ‘less fashionable’ clubs to lofty heights in the Premier League and regularly gets the best out every squad he has at his disposal. It may not require pretty football to get the Wearside club out of the mess they are in, but over the course of his career the 60-year-old Allardyce has been a very reliable presence in the dugout.
West Brom have doubts over several players, with James Morrison, Salomon Rondon, Saido Berahino and Jonathan Evans all in line to be assessed before kick-off.
The visitors are without the suspended Jeremain Lens and Sebastian Coates. Despite initial concerns, Yann M’Vila and Ola Toivonen should be fit to play a part.
Last Meeting: Sunderland have won just one of their last 11 league games against West Brom, but that record would read differently had the hosts not been awarded a disputed penalty kick on the opening day of last season. Saido Berahino converted to double his tally for the afternoon and put his side ahead after Lee Cattermole’s superb strike had put Sunderland ahead late in the first half. However, Sebastian Larsson did earn the away side a point with five minutes left.
Played for both – Kieran Richardson: The versatile Richardson made a terrific impact at West Brom in 2005 after joining on loan from Manchester United, scoring three times in 12 games to help them to their infamous great escape. He joined Sunderland in 2007 upon their promotion and was a consistent performer, hitting the net 14 times in 134 Premier League appearances before leaving in 2012.