When there's a trip to Everton on the horizon, the mood on Wearside invariably slumps to one of it's lowest of the season. Why? Because Everton are by in large seen as our "bogey team", and have been for a number of years. Is the concept of a bogey team based in fact or paranoia though?
Simon Walsh: Bogey Teams Are Based In Fact
First of all you have to examine the nature of what makes up a so called "bogey team". Primarily it's one team who have enjoyed a rich success over another, secondly those teams are supposedly evenly matched. Therefore we can't exactly say that Manchester United are a bogey team for the likes of ourselves. They're a considerably better side and should beat us.
This weekend we travel to Everton, a team long seen as a bogey team of ours. Rightly so too that they are seen as a bogey side. Everton are a team we should consider our equals, and within the Premier League, like us, they're in that mini-league of teams not bothering the top four, and not bothering the relegation spots.
While they have had slightly more recent success, we've spent a hell of a lot more money and have a seemingly larger fan base. There's certainly reason for each side to envy the other in one way or another, which is what puts the teams standings as relatively level. So why can't we beat them?
In 173 games overall, we've failed to beat the Blues on 107 occasions. A win ratio of just 38.1%. Looking around teams of a similar stature we fare much better. Against Fulham it's 39.2%, Blackburn Rovers 42.6%, Stoke City 44.2% and so on.
The facts just continue to look even worse when you look at recent history between the two sides. You need to go back to the 22nd December 2001 for our last victory, when a 77th minute strike from Claudio Reyna took the points. Only two players from the starting XI that day still play football in England. You need go back to 1996 for an away win, 3-1 at Goodison Park.
It's not just us and Everton though, plenty other teams have that one side they just can't beat. Between 1950 and 2010, Barnsley failed to record a single win in 22 games against QPR. Between 1989 and 2010 Stoke City held a monopoly over West Bromwich Albion, beating them 20 times out of 27, drawing the other 7. Between 1987 and 2006 Chelsea routinely beat Tottenham Hotspur without a single victor for the whites.
The fact is every team has that one, seemingly even matched enemy that they can't overcome. It's just one of the quirks of the game that keeps football interesting.
Dan Williams: There's No Such Thing As A Bogey Team
Okay, so we all know that Sunderland have struggled against Everton in recent seasons. We all know that we've struggled against Newcastle too, in fairness. But to claim that bogey teams are in some way fact, we're not actually going to give that statement credit, surely?
As Simon has already said, we can only take teams into account that we are on a level playing field with, so to speak. However, are we being arrogant by claiming that we are Everton's equal? Yes we've got a bigger stadium then them, and yes, they rarely have any money to spend, whereas we've just splashed almost £25m, but almost all neutrals would say that the Toffees have a better squad than us. If we are willing to accept that Everton are just better than us, does that mean that they are no longer a bogey team for us?
I am genuinely unwilling to accept that, when Sunderland's players line up on a field of play in the Premier League, at whatever ground they are at, they begin the game in the mindset that they won't be able to win. I include teams such as Manchester United and Arsenal in this list, so if we can go to Old Trafford or the Emirates and expect to pick up points, as we already have this season, why would we expect to lose at Everton on the strength of them being our 'bogey team'.
Even the name, 'bogey team' suggests ridicule. As if we are the metaphorical child laying in bed, worried about the big, bad boogey man in his Everton shirt hiding under the bed, ready to scare us to death (Okay, so that was something of an abstract sentence, but I stick by its sentiment).
Whenever professionals are asked before a big game, or ex-pros discuss historical results as pundits, they always claim that the past is not important, and that former results mean nothing to a player as they take to the field.
Do I expect us to come away from Goodison Park with three points this weekend? No. But that's because we are on a poor run of form and they are a good team. Is it because we always lose there for some kind of supernatural reason? Hell no.