SUNDERLAND boss Steve Bruce was thrilled with a victory on Saturday which not only banished any remote fears of relegation but also offered the prospect of a season’s end which will not be quite as demoralising as feared a few weeks ago.
“Two wins in our last three games means we’ve put an end to our awful run; and it was awful,” Bruce reflected, after Sunderland snatched a last-minute 2-1 victory at Bolton.
“The timing of it was awful, too, but we have to have belief in what we are trying to do at the club and keep this good run going.
“Overall, I think there has been a little bit of improvement in ourselves this season, despite the horrific run.
“To come to Bolton and get the good result we did shows we have that bit of strength in depth needed to see us through, to see us not get sucked into the relegation zone.
“We are in the Premier League again for another season, and that’s something that we shouldn’t overlook for a club that was a yo-yo club for so long.
“We’re started looking beyond that now.
“We want to be a club that isn’t involved in staying up on goal difference or going into the last game of the season fearing relegation and I think that we’ve done that now, too, over the last couple of seasons.
“The next step forward is the more difficult one of taking the club forward so that it can be seen as a top-10 side.
“It’s very difficult, though.
“The disappointment for me is that since January, we’ve hit such a bad patch.
“We’ve still got a slim chance of the top 10 this season, but the downside from our point of view is what might have been.
“It could have been a special season for us, but the injuries have killed us.
“I do think we’ve made progress though.
“We’ve made progress from when I first walked in the door two years ago and that’s what football is all about – improving.
“Now we have to keep adding to the squad and continue taking the club forward next season.”
Saturday’s win saw Sunderland climb three places to 11th in the Premier League table, though Stoke’s win yesterday dropped the Black Cats back to 12th.
Nevertheless, the Wearsiders guaranteed their survival for a fifth season in the top flight – for the first time since the five successive campaigns from 1980-85.
Only once – since Sunderland’s first ever relegation in 1958 – have the club managed more than five straight seasons in the big time, with the 1960s team staying up for six seasons from 1964-70.