WHEN Phil Parkinson looks along the touchline at the Stadium of Light this afternoon, he could find himself encountering a strange sense of déjà vu if he sees Blackpool boss Simon Grayson in the opposition technical area. Back in October 2017, the pair were also managing against each other at Sunderland’s home ground. The key difference, however, is that they were in opposite roles.

What was to prove Grayson’s final game in charge of Sunderland saw him lead his side into action against a Bolton Wanderers team led by Parkinson. The Black Cats were 23rd in the table, and the atmosphere around the club was every bit as toxic as the one that has returned in the last few weeks.

Down 1-0, ahead 2-1, down 3-2 and then ultimately claiming a 3-3 draw thanks to a late equaliser from Paddy McNair, Sunderland were booed off the field at the final whistle. An hour or so later, and as captured by the Netflix cameras, a press officer was heading into the media suite to announce that Grayson had been dismissed.

Parkinson helped usher him through the exit door thanks to the efforts of his Bolton team, so the irony of today’s situation is not lost on the under-pressure Sunderland boss. If the roles are reversed, and Grayson’s Blackpool team inflict another defeat on the Black Cats, it will be Parkinson nervously awaiting developments with his job under threat.

“It was a very strange night, and the atmosphere on the pitch was very strange,” said the then Bolton, now Sunderland boss. “I remember it, we went ahead, but a goal just before the break changed the atmosphere slightly.

“I didn’t get a chance to speak to Simon afterwards, which was very rare because normally you’ll have a drink home and away with the opposition manager, but the club made the decision.

“But I’m pleased to see him back in work. He’s got a good record, and everyone knows that he’s back at a club he’s been at before and he’s doing well.”

After his dismissal at Sunderland, Grayson returned to management with a brief spell at Bradford City, but his short-term contract came to an end at the end of the 2017-18 season and he had more than a year before he was offered his current post at Blackpool.

The Tangerines start today’s game in fourth position in the League One table, seven places and six points better off than Sunderland, having lost just one of their last ten matches in all competitions.

Grayson is keen to maintain his side’s positive momentum this afternoon, but insists a victory would not taste any sweeter because of the identity of the opposition.

“It’ll just be nice to get another three points regardless of who we’re playing,” said the Blackpool boss. “As you can imagine, the players were buoyant in the changing room after the Fleetwood game (last weekend, when Blackpool won 3-1).

“We’re not going to be complacent or anything because it’s a tough run of games and we have to have players fit and available who haven’t been playing much.”

Grayson’s players are well aware of Sunderland’s predicament, and having encountered at first hand just how difficult it can be to play in a hostile Stadium of Light, the Blackpool boss will be urging his side to use any festering discontent to their own advantage.

“They didn’t have a great result last week, so we will go there full of confidence to try to upset their party,” said Blackpool striker Liam Feeney. “We don’t fear anyone.”