Time has come to turn things around when Swansea City meet Sunderland
THERE was a suggestion on Wearside that Gus Poyet's appointment as Sunderland manager was delayed so that he would not face too difficult a start in his new job.
Whether that is accurate or not, Swansea City might want to use the idea that a trip to the Liberty Stadium might be regarded as a gentle opening to the Poyet era as motivation come 3pm tomorrow.
Then again, Swansea's recent form on their own patch is not the sort that will not strike fear into Sunderland's squad.
The 'Fortress Liberty' sign which Swansea's players have painted themselves in the last few years has been temporarily taken down.
At least Michael Laudrup will be hoping it is only a temporary thing, for he needs his team to rediscover the impressive home form which has been the basis of two successful seasons in the Premier League.
It has been seven-and-a-half months since Swansea last took three league points from a game in SA1, which is quite some time even when the close-season break is taken into account.
It was party time at the Liberty — and in Sunderland, no doubt — when Luke Moore's scruffy finish saw off Newcastle United back on March 2.
Winners in the Capital One Cup final the previous weekend, Swansea had 40 points for the 2012-13 Premier League season thanks to the Toon triumph.
But, outside the Europa League, there has not been too much for Swansea's supporters to shout about at the end of home fixtures since then.
Following the Newcastle victory, Arsenal, Spurs and Fulham all won in these parts at the tail-end of last season, while the visits of Manchester City and Southampton ended in goalless draws.
This season, meantime, Swansea have set out on home soil with defeats to Manchester United and Arsenal either side of that pulsating 2-2 draw with Liverpool.
It is fair to say that most of the fixtures which have featured in the winless sequence have been among the more demanding Swansea will face in the Premier League.
And Swansea's fans can probably accept some of the struggles their team faced in the closing stages of last season given all the success that had gone before.
The time has come, however, for Laudrup's team to turn things around.
For a club of Swansea's stature, the foundations for every top-flight campaign must be laid in the back yard.
And with that exacting start to the new season out of the way, there is now some pressure on Laudrup's players to deliver.
After Sunderland come West Ham in nine days' time. Next up after that in the Premier League on home turf are Stoke City, then come Newcastle, Hull and Everton before Christmas.
With the possible exception of Everton, it is a sequence of games against teams who Laudrup would say belong in Swansea's 'league'.
And that means his side must set out to deliver a sizeable haul of points over the next couple of months, because it is unrealistic to expect a consistent flow of away victories.
Swansea have won twice on the road already this season, at West Brom and Crystal Palace, and hence there has been no panic about the way 2013-14 has opened up.
But the jitters will quickly set in if Laudrup's men continue to stutter at home.
"We are not worried — we have had some great results in the Europa League," an unruffled Chico Flores points out.
And Swansea have not been playing particularly badly either, yet they have consistently come up short in recent times.
The visit of Sunderland presents a golden opportunity to change the record — although the timing could have been better.
The Black Cats were all over the place a few weeks ago, when Paolo Di Canio's brief, traumatic and ultimately fairly desperate reign at the Stadium of Light was coming to a close.
After two league games — which ended in home defeats by Manchester United and Liverpool — under caretaker manager Kevin Ball, Sunderland will be led off the team bus by a new man at the Liberty tomorrow.
Gus Poyet has been to the stadium before. In fact, he has been given a guided tour by Huw Jenkins.
The Uruguayan came within a whisker of landing the Swansea job when Roberto Martinez left in 2009, losing out to Paulo Sousa at the last minute.
Now, having cut his managerial teeth at Brighton, he has been handed a first crack at the Premier League in the North East.
"When you have a new manager you need to prove yourselves as players to be in the first XI," says Angel Rangel, "so the Sunderland players will be really motivated this weekend."
Given their awful form, a draw would be a decent result for Sunderland.
They have taken only one point from a possible 21 so far this season — thanks to a 1-1 draw at Southampton in the opening week — while the last campaign ended with four winless games.
Sunderland ended up fourth from bottom last term.
Right now they would probably accept a repeat of that come next May, though the ambitious Poyet may have loftier ambitions.
He has made it clear that his first target is a victory on debut, and the odds on him getting one are shorter against Swansea than they would have been had he been in charge for United or Liverpool.
But an easy start? It is up to Laudrup's players to make a mockery of that theory tomorrow afternoon.