AS TWO of the division’s biggest clubs prepare to go head-to-head, Keith Hill says facing Sunderland is one of the sternest on-field challenges of the season.

Premier League rivals not so long ago, Wanderers and the Black Cats now both ply their trade in the third tier of English football.

It is only Sunderland’s third season outside the top two divisions and few clubs at this level can rival the huge stature and loyal following they and league founder members Bolton can command.

But, while fourth-placed Sunderland – beaten in the League One play-off final last May – have their sights fixed firmly on promotion, Hill is looking to steer his hometown team to what would be a remarkable relegation escape.

“There are big clubs in this league – and we are one of them – but there’s no getting around the fact Sunderland are up there,” he said. “I couldn’t say who is the biggest club in League One.

“We have to represent our values against Sunderland.

“We will try and build more blocks after the Oxford result over the next few days going into Saturday.”

The Whites remain winless, and continue to prop up the rest of the division but the performance in Tuesday’s draw at home to Oxford gives Hill hope they can yet pull off something spectacular, starting with the Black Cats’ visit tomorrow.

And the veteran boss insists he has no regrets about taking on the challenge of restoring Wanderers to what many would feel is their rightful place.

“Now that I am fresh and ready to go again I don’t have those emotional ups and downs, I don’t let that weigh me down,” he told the Bolton News.  “I took this job because I really, really wanted it and I don’t want to fall out of love because of the pressures of the position we’re in. I won’t do that.

“I have never been intimidated – I certainly can’t remember being.

“Sunderland are a good outfit and I have a lot of respect for Jack [Ross, manager] but my players will reflect the fact we are sending them out there to reflect the needs of the supporters and the instructions of myself and Flicker.