Sam Allardyce hopes victory in Saturday’s make-or-break nerve-jangler at Norwich City proves to be the catalyst for Sunderland’s survival.
Allardyce has been speaking with Sunderland’s senior players over recent weeks over what the key has been for the Black Cats’ escapes from relegation in each of the three previous years.
The feedback received by the Sunderland boss was that one positive result had provided a spark which prompted a dramatic upturn in their fortunes – derby successes in 2012-13 and 2014-15, sandwiched by the 2-2 draw at Manchester City in 2013-14.
Allardyce hopes that pattern continues after a 3-0 weekend triumph at fourth-bottom Norwich, which he described as the “biggest win of the season”.
“The players who’ve been here before have said that one result has changed the whole of the last few games,” said Allardyce.
“I spoke to Lee Cattermole a few times about it and he said players have performed better at this stage of the season, the best they’ve performed all season, to get out of trouble.
“They’ve had that bit more about them at that stage, and a bit of luck too.
“With a result like Saturday, hopefully it can spur us on to more victories to make sure we’re the ones who get out of trouble.
“I hope that’s the same this time around because a 3-0 victory away from home is massive. We got a 4-2 at Swansea, but they were down to 10 men after 20 minutes.
“We’ve had a 3-0 win at home against our rivals (Newcastle), but to win away at our relegation rivals is the biggest win of the season for us.”
In the build-up to Saturday’s game, Allardyce had stopped just start of declaring that a defeat at Norwich would spell curtains for Sunderland, but admitted that the Black Cats would require another “miracle”.
Even after the win, Sunderland remain a point adrift of Norwich, with second-bottom Newcastle having the chance to leapfrog the pair when they play their game in hand against Manchester City tomorrow night.
And after a first victory since February, Allardyce believes Sunderland still require another eight points to beat the drop.
“We want to pick up the points as we go along,” he said.
“I still think 38 will be enough to stay up.”
With so much at stake for both clubs at Carrow Road, the game was predictably nervy and scrappy, yet Sunderland defended superbly and were a constant threat on the counter-attack after Fabio Borini opened the scoring from the penalty spot just before half-time.
Sunderland made the most of their threat on the break, with Jermain Defoe doubling the advantage with his 13th goal of the season before Duncan Watmore sealed all three points at the death.
“We handled the pressure better,” added Allardyce.
“I think there was a huge amount of pressure on both teams and that didn’t bode well for the game in terms of passing and stuff like that.
“It was a bit scrappy at times, but sometimes you’ve got to dig it out.
“We had our front three score a goal each which is very important for us.
“I said to the players before the game that if we got a clean sheet, there were enough goals in our team to win it.
“And we won it handsomely by scoring three.
“Once we got the first goal, I thought that settled us down.
“The amount of times we were catching them on the break, I always felt there was another goal coming.
“It came at the perfect time, just after half-time, and then obviously, when they threw caution to the wind, the goal at the end finished them off.”