Sunderland’s 2-0 victory over West Brom on Wednesday night secured safety for the black cats, but just a month ago, it was looking bleak and after their 5-1 drubbing at the hands of Tottenham, Gus Poyet claimed it would take “a miracle” to avoid the drop.
But on the 16th of April, something changed, and Sunderland proved they had a chance of pulling it off. A massive away draw to Manchester City gave them hope and then they went onto smash Jose Mourinho’s undefeated home record in the Premier League by edging Chelsea 2-1 at the bridge. Sunderland started to believe and Gus Poyet finally had them playing with freedom. A relegation six pointer was to follow, and they rose to the challenge by hammering Cardiff 4-0 at the Stadium of Light, but in my opinion, the best was yet to follow.
On the 3rd of May they headed to the theatre of dreams, in his first game as manager Ryan Giggs oversaw a 4-0 thrashing of Norwich and the confidence was back at Manchester United, but Sunderland soon put an end to that by offering another giant killing. Seb Larsson’s first half strike, and Sunderland’s much improved defensive solidity meant that they took all three points, edging ever closer to safety, and also possibly ending Ryan Giggs’s pursuit of the permanent managers position at United.
Then on Wednesday night, they comfortably beat a lacklustre West Brom to assure that they would be mixing it with the best again next season. However, one man instrumental to their recent success has to be Connor Wickham. The 21 year old scored both against City, scored in both of the Chelsea and Cardiff matches and provided the assist for the only goal against Manchester United. A player who was playing for both Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday in the championship not long ago, proved to be the man that dragged them to safety.
Other players also stood out from the rest, the Liverpool loanee Fabio Borini has looked promising and has been probably the most consistently creative in a lacklustre strike force, whilst O’Shea and Brown have finished on a high by conceding just one goal in their last five games. The man though, that has stood out all season, and that has lead from the back, is their player of the season, Vito Mannone. The former Arsenal number three has been superb all season, and bar the incident away at Man City, has proved he is a Premier League goalkeeper. I for one thought he was brought in just for backup to Keiren Westwood, but he has filled the void left by the impressive Mignolet, and will surely only get better.
Gus Poyet also has to take great credit. He took the reins after Paolo Di Canio’s sacking, inheriting a side that were bottom of the table and badly out of form. It may have taken him some time and in my opinion, a little too long, but Gus Poyet has done what he set out to do and kept Sunderland in the Barclays Premier League. He also led them to a Wembley final, beating Chelsea and Man United along the way. He now needs to rebuild the squad, move on the majority of the players Di Canio bought in and invest in new exciting players.
Gus Poyet is a great young manager, and has proved that he is good enough to manage at the highest level. At a club where there has been six managers in five years, I can see Poyet staying for a long time, and finally being the answer, to their inconsistency.
To hear from Poyet following wednesday’s match against West Brom follow this link