David Jones column: Sunderland might need another miracle

Sunderland's manager Dick Advocaat.
Sunderland's manager Dick Advocaat.
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As the Premier League readies itself to roll out the red carpet for Bournemouth and Watford, it prepares to wave goodbye to Burnley and QPR.

I don’t see a way back now for those two, but the third relegation place is harder to call.

Ourselves, Hull, Aston Villa, Leicester and maybe even Newcastle will fight it out, though I’m afraid the view from outside the North East seems to be our time is up.

But if Sunderland can somehow find the points they need to secure their status over the remaining five games, I don’t think anyone will begrudge them.

The run-in which we’ve been worrying about for weeks, now looks like some sort of sick joke cooked up by Sunderland’s rivals to guarantee that, having slipped into the bottom three for only the second time this season, this time there will be no way out.

One win will alter the picture dramatically, two would be a dream, but where are they going to come from?

Next up it’s Southampton, a model of consistency, with a better defence even than Chelsea, built on the principles of two fantastic holding midfield players who so rarely allow their central defenders to be exposed in the manner we’ve come to expect from our own team.

They have a totemic striker in Graziano Pelle, who even when he lost his touch in front of goal in recent weeks, was still able to offer his team a focal point and a cutting edge thanks to the darting pace of players alongside him.

It will not be easy.

And after that, the final four games against the four teams with the best current form in the division.

A Saturday lunchtime trip to Goodison, which is bouncing again after Everton’s season defying run of five wins from six games, and where the locals will be demanding nothing less than a convincing win over Sunderland to set them up for a top 10 finish.

Then it’s the last home game of the campaign against Leicester: the final chance to rescue something from this wrecking ball of a season.

The game looked like a gimme a few weeks back, but having been written off time and time again, Leicester have leapt from the depths of despair, out of the relegation zone for the first time since November, by virtue of four straight wins: a feat they hadn’t achieved at this level since England were on top of the world in 1966.

How’s your luck Sunderland?

And we all know how it ends: five days in London which could be the biggest party since we ate cheesy chips on Wembley Way or we could be in for some capital punishment.

To date, Arsenal have beaten 10 out of 11 teams outside the top six on their own patch (Hull got a draw); they are chasing a top two finish for the first time in a decade; they are the Premier League’s undisputed flat track bullies and they will relish our visit.

We finish at Stamford Bridge where Chelsea haven’t lost in the league since, well, since we needed a miracle 12 months ago.

The shackles will be off the home side after the ‘strategic’ performances Mourinho has insisted upon since Easter to see his team over the line.

There will be a carnival atmosphere in south west London as they celebrate their first league title since 2010 and it will be up to Sunderland to spoil the party.

Be under no illusions, from here on in it’s going to take something extraordinary.

But as we all witnessed this time 12 months ago, they do sometimes happen.

Whether Sunderland survive or not, we will remember this as a horrible season.

Dragged into the gutter by the Adam Johnson saga – whether he is guilty or not – kicked from pillar to post by swirling inuendo of a drinking culture that casts Sunderland as anachronistic misfits in football’s modern age.

Those same players who’ve been accused of amateur preparation should remember those words now.

The fans are behind the club every step of the way as you can see in the Echo today.

So ram the criticism down the accusers’ throats; throw the form book out of the window and give us one more footballing miracle.