Former Sunderland player Darren Williams believes the club can end its playoff jinx in the coming days and secure promotion to the EFL Championship.
The Black Cats take on Portsmouth in the first leg of their League One playoff semifinal at the Stadium of Light on Saturday night – the match will be live on Fox Sports 1 from 20h25 CAT.
Williams twice suffered the pain of defeat with Sunderland in the playoffs, in 1998 and 2004. The club has lost four times in post-season knockout football, heading back as far as 1987.
Jack Ross’ present-day Sunderland will now look to succeed where their predecessors failed, and Williams believes they have a great shot at securing promotion to the Championship.
"It is a tough league to get out of - much tougher, I think, than many people realised,” he explained.
"Sunderland had to rebuild their squad last summer and they've been in the automatic promotion race right to the last week of the season, before they dropped points over the last month and then those two defeat against Fleetwood and Southend meant they finished on a low.
"But the playoffs gives them another chance to win promotion.
"Obviously, they've played Portsmouth three times this season - twice in the league and once in the Checkatrade Trophy final - and haven't beaten them but I don't think that will play on their minds.
"On Saturday I'd like to see Sunderland play as they did in the first half of the Trophy final at Wembley when they took the game to Portsmouth, it was only when they began to sit back and defend deeper that they let them back in the game.
"They could have had the game won by half-time in the Trophy final, and if they play well this weekend they can give themselves a massive chance of seeing the job through at Fratton Park and getting to Wembley again.
"And if they get to Wembley, there's always a chance they will be up against Charlton again!"