VITO MANNONE insists Sunderland’s players are desperate to achieve “something special” by completing a remarkable escape from the jaws of relegation.
Sunderland’s hopes of remaining in the Premier League had seemed a lost cause just five days ago, yet after taking four points from trips to title-chasers Manchester City and Chelsea, the Black Cats are firmly back in the hunt to beat the drop.
The league’s basement boys are now just three points adrift of safety, with a game in hand, and could even more out of the relegation zone next weekend if they emerge victorious in a huge Stadium of Light encounter against third bottom Cardiff on Sunday, while results go in their favour elsewhere.
Goalkeeper Mannone says there is a determination in the Sunderland dressing room to make the most of an unexpected second chance to remain in the top flight and achieve the “miracle” which Poyet admitted he was looking for a fortnight ago.
Mannone told the Echo: “When you go off the end of the world and then come back with great achievements like Chelsea, it gives you a massive boost.
“Now we need to use that boost.
“We’re right in the battle and we won’t give up until the end.
“Whether we stay up or go down, we need to battle until the end for this club.
“There’s four games to go and we’ve got one more than the others which we need to use. We need to go into every game with the same mentality of winning.
“In the last two, somehow, I thought even if we were 1-0 down, we still believed it.
“We won’t give up, we want to do something special and to come out of this would be a miracle. Why not do it?
“We can’t be too much over the moon. We need to stay humble and play in the same way we did in the last two games. But now, it’s again in our hands.”
Mannone looked nervy in the early stages at Stamford Bridge on Saturday night after his howler cost Sunderland two points at Manchester City three days earlier.
But the £2million signing recovered and was part of a dogged rearguard display from Poyet’s side, with the Italian making 14 saves to deny the hosts - the joint highest tally from a Premier League goalkeeper in a decade.
Mannone thanked Sunderland supporters for playing their part in his redemption after the travelling fans chanted his name at both Man City and Chelsea, despite his high-profile error.
“I would say thanks to the fans first because they’ve been brilliant to me all season,” added the 26-year-old.
“I’ve tried to repay them every game. I’ve been a bit down lately because it’s never easy when the team struggles a little bit.
“It’s not easy to keep on top of your form, but I’ve tried my best and they’ve probably seen that.
“I need to say a big thank you to everyone at the football club, my team-mates have been brilliant to me in the last few days too.
“The coaching staff backed me to the end and gave me the confidence to go to Chelsea and perform.
“Sometimes, the media kill goalkeepers. As soon as you make one mistake, you are the villain.
“Thankfully I could show something on Saturday that I’ve got a big heart for this club and I want to fight for them.”