by Susan Jardine
And as they say in the Emerald Isle “Top of the Morning” to you all today, and on St Patrick’s Day one Irishman in particular may well be hoping that the cliché of the luck of the Irish does indeed hold true.
I refer of course to Martin O’Neil who takes his Sunderland team to Everton as the Black Cats face the Merseysiders in the quarter finals of the FA Cup. Ask any Sunderland fan to name a team they regard as their bogey side and the Toffees will surely be the one they name first. Sunderland fans will need no reminding of their matches against David Moyes’s team this season, not least of what happened on Boxing Day when I was witness to a highly dubious penalty decision by referee Howard Webb which ultimately led to Leighton Baines slamming in a spot kick to take a point back to Merseyside.
But Everton are still smarting following an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Liverpool on Tuesday night, where Steven Gerrard scored a hat trick on his 400th league appearance. Bad enough to lose the local derby but to be outplayed makes defeat even harder to take. Changes may well be made by David Moyes to that side – and one player Sunderland fans will not want to see on the team sheet is Tim Cahill. Remember it was Cahill who scored for Millwall in the FA Cup semi final that saw the Bermondsey side through to the Cup final at Sunderland’s expense, and recent history has seen him finding the back of the Sunderland net with what could be described as alarming regularity. Of course Sunderland come into this match on the back of a 1-0 victory over Liverpool, so to complete the Merseyside double and end their Everton hoodoo in the process would be hugely satisfying for the fans.
Meanwhile Newcastle host Norwich on Sunday – and no doubt will be anxious to take out their frustrations on the Canaries. I don’t think Newcastle deserved to lose to Arsenal on Monday night. The Gunners should consider themselves highly fortunate to have emerged with all three points, particularly as the Mags had outplayed them for the majority of the match. And the Toon have a score to settle against the Canaries after losing 4-2 to them at Carrow Road just before Christmas. Norwich though look safe in the Premiership table and Newcastle will be looking to re-establish their claims for European football for next season.
Any predictions I will make will be confined to Dancing on Ice where I think I might be closer to the mark.
What is heartening from Newcastle’s point of view is that Norwich do not have a good away record, Sunderland put three past them at the Stadium of Light on a Wednesday night at the start of February and the Magpies will be aiming to mete out similar punishment on the East Anglian side.
After slipping up at the Riverside against Leeds, Middlesbrough face a difficult match at St Andrew’s against Birmingham. These two have contested 93 matches in league football with the Blues winning 35 to Middlesbrough’s 30. And another stat is that Middlesbrough require one goal tomorrow to notch up 100 league goals scored in the Tony Mowbray era. Will they do it – yes I think they will. Birmingham badly need a victory to stay in the chase for a play off place and will be looking to end a winless run of five league matches in what is their fiftieth match of the season.
Into League 1 and Hartlepool could have had a weekend off had Stevenage beaten Tottenham in a fifth round FA Cup match. Instead though they meet the Hertfordshire side at Victoria Park. All realistic chances of a play off place look to have gone but there is no reason why they shouldn’t push for as higher finish as possible. It is fair to say that they have had their chances this season to claim a play off place and but for more consistency they would surely have been higher than the eleventh place which they hold at the moment. The best possible thank you for the support that Hartlepool have enjoyed this season would be for them to reward their fans with a series of strong performances as the season draws to its conclusion.
And after getting my predictions so badly wrong recently, there is no way I am going to attempt it this weekend. Any predictions I will make will be confined to Dancing on Ice where I think I might be closer to the mark. Who do I want to win on that show- I’ll give you a clue with a question, What time is it?.
And I will say no more in case I have people wondering about my sanity
Let’s just hope that the regions teams are not on thin ice this weekend.