View from the Bridge: Sunderland need one last big push to avoid the big drop

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SATURDAY’S victory was a flawed one.

It was a 2-1 win over 10 men that required two penalties.

The goal conceded was awful and Sunderland got away with some other, let us call it, eccentric defending. Even though they won, it was not a game that anyone could have particularly enjoyed, with stomachs becoming increasingly knotted as the afternoon wore on. It felt like watching three games.

There were some decent performances, but I personally didn’t think anyone was outstanding.

However, we can offset all of the above with a single fact that trumps all others.

No one cares about anything other than the three points.

We at the Echo could have set up an online poll asking: “Who gives a monkey’s about anything other than winning?” but we already know what the result would be.

Last week we lauded Sunderland’s second half performance at Stoke for the commitment shown and the realisation – finally – that teams outside the top six have been given far too much respect by the lads this season. Southampton are

seventh.

We also said that Southampton “are obviously not mugs and are 11 places higher than Sunderland for a reason.

But that is not the same as invincible” and that sheer effort could be enough to win the game.

It’s nice to be right, if only for rarity value. It was not a high quality game, but victory was deserved.

It must be said that, with varying levels of effectiveness, no one shirked this time and we can’t ask for any more than that.

Seven points have been bagged from the last 12 and this is largely attributable to the players’ physical efforts in three of the four games.

When they don’t give their all, they lose to mediocrities like Crystal Palace and Aston Villa.

When they do give their utmost they cobble points together against mediocrities like Stoke and Southampton. Stop me if I am blinding you with science.

And so to Goodison Park. A victory there last season notwithstanding, it has seldom been much of a fun trip (it is also, quite frankly, a dump).

But again, Everton are a bottom half team and have lost 13 games this season, the same as Sunderland. This includes home defeats to Crystal Palace and Stoke. Home draws have included Hull, Leicester and West Brom.

There are other facts and figures that can be dredged up to throw negativity on Sunderland’s chances on Saturday, but one way to keep spirits raised is to wilfully ignore reality. You can’t beat it.

Everton are a decent team, but are still there to be got at. So get at them. Should Sunderland fall behind then they should regard it as an opportunity to disprove the commonly held opinion that any side taking the lead against them, at any stage of the game, has won.

There is nothing for it but for everyone connected to SAFC, not least the fans, to be mutually supportive and positive. Arguments about what has occurred and what is to be done are hereby postponed until the evening of May 24.

I’m doing my little bit to remain upbeat.

Please, please, please join in.

SUNDERLAND supporters were rooting for Newcastle when they played Leicester four days ago.

This is because every SAFC follower, without exception, likes to see all the North East teams do well. At derby matches, casual observers have long admired the rousing chorus of “May the best team win” from those of a red and white persuasion.

But perhaps I am becoming cynical, because on Saturday there seemed to be a little self-interest in Sunderland fans rooting for their neighbours. There, I’ve said it.

Alas, my prediction of any easy win for Leicester came true; as did my equally bold forecast that the spare royal baby would not be called Barry.

Yet the result may yet prove beneficial to Sunderland. Discussion for weeks now has generally dismissed suggestions that the Toon (sic) will not acquire another point this season. But with eight consecutive defeats and only three games remaining, you really have to wonder.

This week they play West Brom, who having just won at Old Trafford are unlikely to be knock-kneed at the prospect of playing at the Sports Direct. Then it’s QPR who will be relegated by then – and therefore free of pressure.

Their last game is at home to West Ham, with the possibility of Sam Allardyce wishing to help his former employers a remote one.

I believe that Newcastle will stay up, but we can’t exclude the possibility that their downfall could be Sunderland’s salvation.

Newcastle helped Sunderland by replacing Alan Pardew with a man who was available after leaving his position as a bouncer in the Bigg Market. Another boost for SAFC came on Monday, when Newcastle announced that Jim Charver would be manager until the end of the season.

Jed Carper has now added to the scale of the debacle by suggesting that Mike Williamson had got himself sent off “on purpose” at Leicester.

No one would ever mistake Jack for one of the leading lights of a quiz league, but we were surprised to hear him lowering morale even further with defamatory remarks about his own player.

As I say, I still expect Newcastle to somehow wring out the two or three points that would preserve them. It may well also be the case that Sunderland’s latest double over them will be no more than a slice of consolation come May 24.

Yet think back to October 2008 and Sunderland’s 2-1 derby win at the Stadium of Light. At the time it was thought of only as a joyous day for the home side.

But at the end of that season, it meant safety for Sunderland and relegation for Newcastle. Had Kieran Richardson hit the crossbar that day instead of the back of the net, it would have been the other way round.

Similarly, this season’s six points could be more significant than anyone thought.

Let’s just hope that this doesn’t make anyone at the Sports Direct very, very, very, very, very, very, very nervous.