1. An Apology
You may have noticed that The H List has been absent for a couple of weeks. You also may not I suppose, but then again you're probably only reading this blog because you searched on google for "transfer list".
Anyway, Mrs Shark is 8 months pregnant, work's a bit hectic, the Cleveland Indians are in the ALCS and I'd rather write about the life and works of the cretin Robbie Williams than a 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa.
So, the stars are back in alignment and Sunderland are coming to town and with that kind of glamour, I could hardly stay away*.
*This is not true - Sunderland are an abysmal football team, and as a result this will be a short preview, but I am trying to win the North East readership**.
** This is not true either.
2. Whilst You Were Gone
Straying briefly from West Ham for a moment, that was one hell of an international break. Steve MacLaren's decision to persevere with Paul Robinson ensured that he will at least have some company on future international weekends, as neither of them will be involved.
I particularly enjoyed the masterstroke of replacing Joe Cole (an excellent professional footballer) with Stewart Downing (a newt). I cannot have been alone in yelling at the television - "Man - you do know they're going to SACK you if we lose?".
Elsewhere, Wales lost to Cyprus and Scotland lost to Georgia. You'll all be needing to adopt a team for Euro 2008. (Except for my Austrian readers, although they have rather amusingly started a petition to have the Austrian host team removed from the tournament because they are so bad).
3. The Opposition
Sunderland remain a sterling advert for why the Championship is nowhere near as good as the Premiership. They regularly look a million dollars in getting promoted and equally regularly look a like a two bob outfit when they get here.
Their relegation season of 2002/03 was a doozy as they accumulated a mighty 19 points, leaving them a mere 17 points adrift of the second worst team in the division. This was actually a rip roaring success compared to the 2005/06 year when they mustered a whole 15 points, as pretty much everyone in the league did the double over them.
You will be surprised to learn that we did not.
So, in short, Sunderland are crap. Now people in glass houses should definitely not lob paving slabs, but yeah they are crap.
3. The History
We have lost at home to The Mackems as recently as 2004/05, although this was during one of their brief forays into competence down in The Championship. Generally we have enjoyed decent results against the visitors at Upton Park.
Since those heady days, Roy Keane has arrived with his swarthy good looks, piercing blue eyes and unintelligible Cork accent. He's done an unquestionably good job given the position that they were in when he took over, but I don't quite go along with the media love in around him though. He's proven nothing yet at the highest level, and has contrived to spend £32m on a slurry load of tripe - £6m on Kenwyne Jones for the Love of Allah - even as his chairman Niall Quinn was criticising our own transfer activity.
(Not that I disagree with criticising our transfer policy, but blimey - show some self awareness, you just spent £5m on Michael Chopra).
4. And This Week's Injury Is...
Not content with just allowing something called "Craig Gardner" to score against us at Villa, we also managed to make it a doubly ridiculous day by losing both Dean Ashton and Henri Camara to injuries.
This resulted in Carlton Cole spearheading our attack, despite forgetting his boots and having to play in flippers. I like Carlton, I really do. Sure he has questionable morals, no discernible cortical activity and the touch of an elephant but something intangible makes me feel sorry for him. At the very least, he is Not Luis Boa Morte.
On the striking front, Craig Bellamy may well return tomorrow, despite having surgery mere days ago. I can foresee no problem with this at all, given our crack medical team.
Elsewhere, Freddie Ljungberg got injured in the warm up against Northern Ireland and is doubtful. This is as surprising to me as the colour of my own eyes. Scott Parker and Kieron Dyer have gone in to business together producing wine, and may well come back for the start of the 2009/10 season.
5. Ashes To Ashes
The loss of Ashton is a dagger to our chances this year. Our paucity of decent attackers, and stunning lack of creativity, sans Tevez and Benayoun, means that we cannot afford to be without our talismanic striker for too long.
I care not that he is unavailable for England, other than that it might affect him personally I suppose, but not being exposed to the insanity that is Steve MacLaren's tactical quagmire is a positive. We need him to hurry back, however, as the prospect of entering the winter with Cole and Camara up front fills me with dread.
6. Dull And Duller
This game has all the hallmarks of an exercise in mind numbing boredom. Sunderland are a functional side, who will most likely try and frustrate us into submission. We are a functional side, who will most likely try and frustrate them into submission.
I have literally no idea why Sky would decide this was worthy of global transmission.....