KIERAN Richardson says he and his Sunderland team-mates have been on a high since last weekend’s victory at Blackpool and are already looking forward to Tuesday’s home clash with Chelsea.
The 2-1 win over the Tangerines, in which Richardson scored both of Sunderland’s goals, cemented the Black Cats’ sixth-place spot in the Premier League and even if they lose to the Blues in midweek they will remain in the top half-dozen in the division.
But Richardson says there’s a buzz in the camp at the Academy of Light now and a sense of anticipation for the games coming up.
“I think the Blackpool result made a big difference,” he told the Echo. “It has lifted everyone and given us a sense of confidence going forward.
“We didn’t really perform as we had hoped in the derby game against Newcastle the other week and then came the whole transfer thing with Darren Bent moving to Aston Villa.
“So, all in all, it was a difficult week for the squad and the Blackpool result and performance was exactly what we needed.
“It’s a difficult place to go and you could quite easily get caught out if you’re not on your game. But we went there and produced a very good performance and it was great at the end to see our fans celebrating on the terraces.
“We all went over to them after the final whistle to join in the celebrations because it felt a bit special – as though we’d come through a difficult time.
“I think if we’d lost to Blackpool it would have been tougher for us to move on, but winning in the way we did was great and now we’re looking forward to the Chelsea game.”
Manager Steve Bruce hopes to have signed targets Sulley Muntari and Stephane Sessegnon for that game and Richardson says, if they arrive, they’ll be made to feel more than welcome.
“You only have to look at their pedigrees to see they’re top-class players,” said the former Manchester United man. “But we’ve got plenty of top players already here, so new signings have to be top players if they’re going to improve the squad.
“As footballers, there’s nothing you can do really about speculation, or players coming in or going out, so you just get your head down and get on with it.
“Our focus is on training and on the Chelsea game and it’s a great fixture for us to be involved in. It should be a really good night for our fans too.
“They’re one of the best teams around and these are the sort of games you want to be involved in. We’ve been on a decent run of form of late and we’ll be hoping to keep that going next Tuesday.”
H Brad Friedel will become the oldest player to ever represent Aston Villa next week – but will decide nearer the end of the season whether he wants to extend his career past the age of 40.
Friedel will surpass the record of 39 years and 257 days set by Ernie Callaghan in 1947 if he plays against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Tuesday.