SUNDERLAND 10 YEARS AGO: Collins targets revenge, Keane wary of Shrimpers

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

WE WANT REVENGE!

DANNY COLLINS says Sunderland are on a revenge mission against Southend tomorrow as the Black Cats look to erase the memory of their lowest point of the season.

Sunderland’s 3-1 defeat at Roots Hall back in August was the Wearsiders’ fourth defeat on the bounce under chairman/manager Niall Quinn, a dreadful start to the season which had fans wondering whether they could be facing back-to-back relegations.

Six months on and the situation is vastly different, with Sunderland going into the return fixture seventh in the table and level on points with two sides in the play-offs, while Southend are next to bottom.

But Collins, who was in the bench at Southend as a horror show unfolded in front of him, says the players have a score to settle with the Shrimpers.

He said: “At the start of the season, nothing went right for us. Nothing at all. We went down to Southend, got done 3-1 and it was a bad day all round.

“I was on the bench for that match and didn’t get on, but I was also there in the changing room and the mood was understandably very low. I think it was a low point for us all.

“So we owe them one for that.”

Although Southend are embroiled in a relegation battle, they have been in good form of late, a revival topped off by their 5-0 defeat of Queens Park Rangers in their last match a week ago.

They’ve also proved they’re capable of humbling sides at the top of the table with Birmingham, Cardiff, Southampton and West Brom all losing against Steve Tilson’s men.

And Collins insists Sunderland will not be complacent going into the game.

He said: “They went to Birmingham recently and turned them over 2-1, so we know that they are capable of. They’ve beaten some of the top sides in the division, including ourselves, so we won’t take the game lightly.

“They are fighting to stay in the Championship while we are trying to win promotion, so there is a lot at stake for both clubs. We both want the points for different reasons and it’s bound to be very competitive.

“We’re playing well at the moment and I’m sure the fans will look at the league table and expect us to beat Southend easily, but we can’t think like that. If you don’t put the work in, you won’t get the results.

Defender Collins has helped Sunderland keep five clean sheets as they have gone six league games unbeaten since the turn of the year.

He said: “We’re keeping clean sheets and that is pleasing from a defender’s point of view. We’ve got a lot more confidence than at the start of the season when we faced Southend and we need to keep on making games count by taking points.

“We’ve got 14 games to go and with three games against clubs near the top to come, if we do well in those games, then we’ve got a great chance.”

KEANE IS WAY OF IN-FORM SHRIMPERS

ROY KEANE says Sunderland must focus on Southend United’s blistering form rather than their lowly league position when the two teams collide tomorrow.

The Black Cats manager knows that the weight of expectation from the public going into the game is that promotion-chasing Sunderland will comfortably deal with a team second bottom in the Championship.

But he will remind his players that Southend have taken 13 points out of their last 18 – roaring back from the brink to give themselves a good chance of avoiding relegation – with victories along the way against he likes of Cardiff City.

Sunderland’s results over the last six games mean they top the Championship form table with 16 points out of a possible 18.

But Southend are not far behind and have beaten five of the top eight sides in the Championship, including Sunderland, already this season.

Keane said: “They are on a great run at the moment and over the last seven or eight games, their form has been as good as anybody’s.

“They have some good players and they will be a threat, there’s no doubt about that.

“They have beaten several sides in the top eight, including Birmingham City just a few weeks ago, so we will certainly be taking nothing for granted.”

Sunderland’s recent form see them go into tomorrow’s game in seventh-place in the Championship, level on points with Cardiff and Southampton who are sixth and fifth respectively.

For their part, Southend have climbed off the foot of the table and are next-to-bottom, two points away from climbing out of the relegation zone as they arrive on Wearside.

So Keane insists that no-one should assume tomorrow’s game will be a walkover because of their respective league positions.

He said: “We’re at opposite ends of the league table and people will point to that, but football doesn’t work as simply as that.

“The league table only counts at the end of the season.

“You shouldn’t let yourself get too bogged down with it at this stage.

“Teams near the bottom can give you more of a challenge than those in the middle or near the top, because they are fighting for their lives.

“Southend have shown good character recently and I think it will be a cracking game.”

Goalkeeper Darren Ward has returned to training after recovering from the hamstring strain that kept him out of last weekend’s trip to Plymouth,

But Marton Fulop did well, deputising for Ward at Home Park and Keane will leave it late before deciding on his selection.

Centre-back Stanislav Varga missed the Plymouth game with a bug, but he is also available again.