SUNDERLAND’S rejuvenation is down to old-fashioned graft in training as well as consistent team selection, says manager Phil Parkinson.

There has been no magic wand and no shortcut behind the Black Cats’ seven-match unbeaten run, one which they wish to extend this evening when they face Doncaster Rovers at the Stadium of Light.

The televised match is the first on home soil since walloping Wycombe Wanderers, the then League One leaders, 4-0, which was one of three successive wins for Sunderland.

The run has pushed Sunderland up the table to sixth, six points off the top, and they aim to make it four in a row against tenth-placed Doncaster.

“It’s a combination of things,” explained the manager, who can call on new signings Bailey Wright and Kyle Lafferty tonight.

“Consistency, team shape, selection and the work on the training pitch towards that. And it takes a while to get to where you want it.

“Sticking with the same team for a number of games helps the cohesion and shape of the team, and everyone understanding their roles.

“If you want a team to play with intensity the players have to be physically capable of doing that and it’s taken us a while to reach that. And there’s still more work to come definitely on that part.

“Work on the training pitch has certainly been very beneficial for the group – fitness levels have gone up a level.

“I feel we are sustaining performances throughout games and the MK Dons one is a very good example of that. As the game went on we got stronger and stronger and we were able to get a late goal.

“So, it’s a combination of factors but we have grown as a team and got better and stronger. I feel the momentum is strong within the training ground but now is not the time to pat ourselves on the back too much. Continue improving and driving forward.”

Parkinson made a poor start on Wearside, but has garnered some support now that the team has risen to sixth – the same position Sunderland were in when Jack Ross was sacked.

He added: “We’ve only just started the progress I’m looking to make as a team. We’re getting better, there’s work to be done.

“I didn’t get too low when I was getting criticised. Even though I didn’t read it you’re obviously aware you are going to be criticised when you’re not winning games.

“Equally, the other way, if there is any praise coming myself and the staff’s way we just keep focused on improving each individual and the team collectively.

“I feel the spirit in the group is growing all the time. There is a real determination. We’ve got a lot of good young players who are really driven and at times we’re having to hold them back on the training pitch, which is a good sign.

“The intensity levels we are getting now is great to see. It’s a good sign for a manager when after training the lads are staying out doing individual things.

“Sometimes I have to tell them to come in now because freshness in the lads’ legs is important to play at the pace we want to play at.

“When players are working hard during the week and getting their reward on a Saturday, they want to maintain it.”

“Maybe further improvement can come from new players coming in. We’ve got Lafferty and Bailey Wright already and hopefully there will be one or two more. The players are enjoying the bit of praise that is coming their way but don’t get carried away with it.”

While Parkinson wants to make more additions to his squad before the transfer window closes next week, he did not indicate there was anything imminent.

He said: “Will they go to the wire? Normally, for one reason or another, the last day of the transfer window is busy. Everyone asks why does everyone wait until the last day, but other club are waiting to get players in and it’s a domino effect.”

Aiden McGeady remains very much out of favour but no closer to leaving, while Parkinson claims he wants to keep Will Grigg, despite not making the starting XI or on the bench last week at MK Dons.

League Two Salford City are understood to be interested in taking Grigg on loan, and Parkinson explained: “There have been one or two calls about Will, which we expected because his record is very good.

“I left him out of the 18 last week which was a tough call. Lafferty had come into the building with a spring in his step and I edged towards him on the bench.

“Will is in the squad tomorrow. I want to keep him because if you look at this career goal record it is very, very good after Christmas. At other clubs he has got a lot of his goals in the second half of the season, when it matters most.

“He is a goalscorer, we want to keep working with him. He might just be one moment away from getting his Sunderland career up and running.”