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Just as at Portman Road, history hangs heavy on the Black Cats

03 November, 2020 - 12:00
Big game tonight for both teams at the Stadium of Light

Big game tonight for both teams at the Stadium of Light

PA Archive/PA Images

Town travel north today seeking League One points at Sunderland. MIKE BACON takes a look at Town’s opposition

Sunderland's Chris Maguire (right) celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the Sky Bet League One match at The Stadium of Light, against Bristol Rovers. Photo: PASunderland's Chris Maguire (right) celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the Sky Bet League One match at The Stadium of Light, against Bristol Rovers. Photo: PA

Under pressure

The last time Ipswich Town were in the Premiership, so were Sunderland.

Who remembers Titus Bramble’s wonderful goal at Portman Road to seal the points for Town at the start of the 2000/01 season?

However, the fact they now both find themselves in League One shows how far they have fallen. A club’s history can be great - but the present is what it is.

Sunderland have won 14 of their last 25 league games under Phil Parkinson's management. Photo: PASunderland have won 14 of their last 25 league games under Phil Parkinson's management. Photo: PA

There is little doubt Sunderland, like Ipswich, are under immense pressure to get themselves out of League One.

The Black Cats have won the First Division championship six times and the FA Cup twice. Admittedly their Division One league title days are pre-40s - but the history hangs heavy.

Relegated to League One at the end of the 2018 season, Sunderland are making their third attempt to get back into the Championship - and it’s going in the right direction at the moment.

Just the one league defeat - a 1-3 reversal by Portsmouth at home last month - the Black Cats are sitting nicely in sixth place with a game in hand on the top four.

Charlton Athletic's Erhun Oztumer (left) and Sunderland's Grant Leadbitter battle for the ball  Photo: PACharlton Athletic's Erhun Oztumer (left) and Sunderland's Grant Leadbitter battle for the ball Photo: PA

Bizarre coincidence!

Sunderland’s 2-0 victory against Gillingham on Saturday - just like Town’s 1-0 win four days earlier over the Kent side - saw Gills boss Steve Evans tell the press ‘the best team lost’.

It was a repeat of his after-match summary of the game at Portman Road, where he said exactly the same thing.

Sunderland's Connor Wickham celebrates scoring for Sunderland after his move there from Ipswich Town.Sunderland's Connor Wickham celebrates scoring for Sunderland after his move there from Ipswich Town.

“The best team has lost but nobody is going to believe that around the country,” Evans said after the Black Cats’ defeat.

MORE: Winning at Sunderland would be huge statement, says Town star

Titus Bramble celebrating his goal against Sunderland in August 2000Titus Bramble celebrating his goal against Sunderland in August 2000

Parkinson and social media

Phil Parkinson was a popular boss at Colchester United between 2003-06. He’s also managed Hull, Charlton, Bradford and Bolton.

He took over at the Stadium of Light in October 2019 but didn’t have an especially auspicious start.

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With only two wins from his first 14 games in charge, a Boxing Day draw at home against bottom of the league Bolton, left Sunderland 15th in the League One table - an historic, record low for the Wearsiders.

His position was already under threat.

However, the amiable Parkinson has turned it around. By the time lockdown came round in March, the Black Cats were up to eighth, three places and seven points ahead of the Blues.

“I’ve said many times that you have to have a thick skin as a manager, it’s an absolute must because when you don’t get results, you’re going to get criticised,” Parkinson said.

“I do think the big thing is kind of blocking out social media as well, I really do. When I speak to managers, you can almost, without them saying it, you can sense the ones who get drawn into that, and the ones who don’t.”

Connor Wickham record buy

Ipswich Town’s record transfer out was Connor Wickham to Sunderland in 2011.

The deal was worth £8m, rising to £12m.

Wickham made his debut for Town on April 11, 2009, aged 16 years and 11 days, and is still the youngest-ever player to play for Town’s first team.

But two years later the Black Cats’ bid proved too good an offer to turn down.

Wickham stayed at the Stadium of Light for four seasons, but spent much of that time out on loan after a bad injury curtailed his progress with the Wearsiders.

He was transferred to Crystal Palace in 2015.

MORE: North Stander: ‘The ultimate test’

Familiar face

Sunderland will have enjoyed their best start to a season since relegation into League One – if they can beat Ipswich Town tonight.

Chris Maguire is currently the team’s top scorer and came off the bench to net the Black Cats second at Gillingham on Saturday in the 2-0 win.

The most familiar face in the Sunderland team for Town fans is Grant Leadbitter.

Leadbitter joined Ipswich from Sunderland for £2.6m in September 2009 - in a move that also saw Carlos Edwards join the Blues.

Today, Leadbitter, 34, is back at the Stadium of Light for a second time. He left Town for Middlesbrough, before rejoining the Black Cats last year.


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