LEE Cattermole insists that Sunderland are better than other teams at the foot of the Premier League and says he has not doubt the Black Cays have the quality to win the survival race.
The midfielder has seen enough of Sunderland’s opponents, both on the pitch and from the bench this season, to have formed his own strong opinions.
And he is convinced the Black Cats are not among the three worst sides in the division.
He told the Echo: “If you look at the game we had against Crystal Palace at the weekend, there was only one team in it, one team who dominated the whole game and did everything but put the ball in the back of the net.
“And if we go down this season and Palace don’t, there’s something very wrong here.
“When I look at the quality of the players we’ve got at the club and the way it has improved over the course of the season, I can’t see any way that there’s not at least three clubs that we’ll finish higher than this season.”
Sunderland’s position – third from bottom – marks a marked improvement from the position the club was originally in back in October when Gus Poyet took over with the the club firmly rooted to the bottom of the division.
But the Black Cats could be comfortably out of the danger zone if they win the games in hand that have accumulated largely because of successful cup runs in both domestic knockout competitions.
The Wearsiders have played two games fewer than all of their relegation rivals, and in some cases, three fewer.
And although points on the board are priceless, Cattermole reckons that Sunderland aren’t too far away from safety as things stand, ahead of their trip to Norwich City tomorrow, and having games in hand gives Poyet’s men an insurance policy.
“I’d rather take the position we are in at the moment,” said the former Middlesbrough and Wigan midfielder.
“We’re not too far adrift of safety, and we’ve still got the points to play for.
“Even if we had played the same number of games, we’d still fancy our chances of getting out of danger.
“But we are in a better situation than that, because we have got these extra games where we can pick up points.”
Two of Sunderland’s games in hand – against Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion – have come about through the Black Cats’ cup exploits, while a trip to Manchester City last month was postponed due to bad weather.
The Black Cats now go to Anfield on Wednesday, while they will take on City next month and entertain the Baggies in May.
And even though two of those three games are away fixtures against title contenders, Cattermole says Sunderland can still pick up points.
“On our day we have shown we can take points off anyone,” added the ex-England Under-21 international.
“We thrive on games against the bigger teams – it seems to bring out the best in us.
“But we have to make the most of games against the sides around us, like Norwich, too.”
* Don’t miss the biggest and best coverage of Sunderland’s trip to Norwich, plus Tony Gillan’s View From The Bridge, Brian Patterson’s away guide to Liverpool, Yesterdays and much more, in tomorrow’s online Football Echo – it’s available on sunderlandecho.com from around 6.45pm