Black Cats’ late season shock

GOAL: Sunderland attacker Emanuele Giaccherini celebrates his goal

GOAL: Sunderland attacker Emanuele Giaccherini celebrates his goal

First published in Sport

A FEW weeks ago, I suggested we could be seven points adrift of safety by the time we met Cardiff City at home. That looked incredibly likely after the poor result against West Ham.

We were dead and buried and staring relegation down the barrel. I’d genuinely given up. I don’t think there’s any shame in admitting that either. A lot of people surrendered. We’d all seen the team surrender far too many times to think any differently.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and we’re out of the bottom three. It’s crazy really. We have to be favourites for safety now.

The superior goal difference we have on our rivals, and the game in hand at home to West Bromwich Albion, mean our survival chances are firmly in our hands. We all knew this when we arrived at the Stadium of Light on Sunday. It did have that ‘typical Sunderland’ feeling about it all. Get ourselves into a good position. Turn up. Blow it.

Well, again the side proved us all wrong. It really was a superb atmosphere brimming with positivity.

The team were roared on to an emphatic victory against a really poor Cardiff. We finally put to bed one of the teams around us in a home game. Finally!

Connor Wickham’s resurgence has been paramount in this. I’ve criticised him heavily in the past for a number of reasons. However, in the last four games he’s been absolutely outstanding and deserves all of the plaudits he gets.

A superbly taken brace and a lovely touch in the build-up to Giaccherini’s goal were the highlights of probably his quietest performance since he hit form.

If you score goals, then who cares?

So we go to Old Trafford next. The promotion of Ryan Giggs to manager seems to have created a media whirlwind of extraordinary proportions. The only thing missing from Sunday’s coverage of their game against Norwich was a heat map of the Welshman’s armpit areas. I think this is a good thing for us, though. I felt Manchester United were just okay, and that their first half performance was particularly flat. Norwich were also pretty bad.

There’s no reason why we can’t go give them a good game. These are type of matches we’ve excelled in for most of the season and I really fancy us to give a good account of ourselves. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to think we can get ourselves a positive result either. If things go well, then we could be looking at the West Brom game to seal our survival.

Hopefully we don’t get ourselves into another pickle with even less time to get out of it. Hopefully.

GARETH BARKER

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