SAFC 10 YEARS AGO: Nine lives for Black Cats

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Here’s what the Echo was reporting 10 years ago today.

KEEP THE WINS COMING

Cats make the most of nine lives – Whitehead

SUNDERLAND skipper Dean Whitehead says the Black Cats will have to make the most of their nine lives to claim promotion.

There are nine games to go and Whitehead believes there is every chance that only nine wins will be good enough for a top two slot.

Stoke City are tonight’ visitors to the Stadium of Light as the Wearsiders look to stretch their unbeaten run to 12 Championship contests.

Whitehead said: “We want automatic promotion and we might have to win every game from now on to get that.

“None of the teams around us seems to be letting up – they all seem to be winning. It would be nice to get a break along the way, but they’ll be looking at our results and be thinking the same.

“As long as we concentrate on our own performance and get that right, that’s all we can do.

“We have a good strong squad going into the last nine games and with the results we’ve produced, we have to start every game feeling confident.”

Stoke still have a chance of making the play-offs and gave themselves a great chance of doing so by claiming a 2-1 home win over fellow promotion hopefuls Southampton on Saturday. And there’s added spice as Liam Lawrence returns to the Stadium of Light for the first time since he was sold to the Potters for £500,000 in January.

The winger played 80 times for Sunderland before falling out of favour under Roy Keane.

Whitehead said: “Lenny (Lawrence) will want to do well, but there’s a lot at stake for both teams. We’re flying at the moment and I don’t think Stoke will fancy coming to play us. We’re looking forward to every game.”

 Lawrence’s replacement on the right flank was Carlos Edwards, but he could miss the rest of the season with a damaged shoulder. “He’ll be a great miss,” admitted Whitehead. “Carlos has been great for us in the last couple of months and we want to keep winning for him. Hopefully he’ll be back before the season finishes and we’ll all have something positive to look back on.”

LIAM: YOU CAN BE MASSIVE

LIAM LAWRENCE returns to the Stadium of Light tonight saying he believes Sunderland could become one of the biggest clubs in the country in the next few seasons.

The Stoke City right-winger spent two seasons at Sunderland between 2004 and 2006 and experienced the highs and lows of life on Wearside.

In his first season at the club he was part of the roller-coaster ride which led to Sunderland’s promotion to the Premiership.

They were heady days for the ex-Mansfield Town midfielder who put in big performances and scored important goals.

But that was followed by the season from hell as Sunderland slumped spectacularly in the top flight, taking only 15 points from the whole campaign – though Lawrence was among the side’s better performers.

The 24-year-old did not see eye-to-eye with Roy Keane this season and left the club – initially on loan to Stoke City in November – before making the move permanent in January.

But despite not leaving Sunderland in ideal circumstances, he says he still has great affection for the club and reckons it could finally realise its potential in the next few seasons.

He said: “Ever since Niall Quinn came into the club the place has been lifted up. And if Sunderland get it right on the pitch, I believe they can become one of the biggest clubs in the Premiership.”

Lawrence is hopeful of a positive welcome on his return to the Stadium of Light this evening and says he wishes Sunderland all the best for the rest of the season after tonight’s game.

“I got on very well with Sunderland fans, so hopefully I will get a decent reception off them.

“I had some great times there with the club, especially the promotion season, and I gave them my all on the pitch. As far as Stoke are concerned tonight, we will try to be strong defensively but also go out trying to win the game as well.”