Wise Men Say: Perfect time for Sunderland to be coupon-busters at Everton

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THE hope is still alive in us all, it seems.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who had that awful sense of despair leading up to the Southampton game last weekend. The content of any SAFC discussion would be very different had we lost the game; as huge “must-win” games go, that really was the big one.

We hate the phrase “must-win” over at Wise Men Say Towers as it goes, but there you go. We’re all being swept away in this pulsating end to the Premier League season.

At the bottom end anyway.

It will be interesting now to see how the players react to playing before the rest of the relegation rivals. Leicester’s win against them lot up the road piled extra pressures on the lads to get a result against Ronald Koeman’s side last weekend.

Dick Advocaat has alluded to the fact that the players were pumped up on a new scale last Saturday; that they really did feel like they were slurping in last-chance saloon. You’d hope, as a fan, that players would approach every game in this manner, but now doesn’t feel like the time for criticism of the players.

Not now.

Not after a performance that matched the recent derby win in terms of application, dedication and desire.

As with that Newcastle game, the quality wasn’t overly apparent, but there clearly isn’t much of that in this squad.

I found it interesting that the gaffer (feels weird referring to Dick as that) said he was “proud” of the players. Maybe I’m overthinking things, but, as with other recent musings made by the Little General, I sense he doesn’t rate them much and feels 100 per cent effort and concentration levels are a necessity to have a chance.

“Proud” would be a strange choice of word to use for a side you feel is more than capable of beating Southampton at home.

It would be hard to argue with him when studying the evidence.

A hard-earned win at home to Stoke was followed by an 8-0 walloping at Southampton. An early lead against an awful-looking Hull side was followed by a shocking second-half display and defeat.

The win against Newcastle recently was followed by that capitulation against Crystal Palace. Thereare lots of examples of this and it’s remarkable that this side have taken so long to fall into the bottom three, to be honest.

And though I do feel that this squad would be sitting mid-table had the players applied themselves correctly all season, it’s that maximum effort and application that’s needed from them to make themselves half-decent.

That’s the sad fact of it all. They simply aren’t good enough to stroll through the season thinking they’ll be alright. They won’t be and they clearly aren’t.

But, credit where it’s due, we’ve seen enough from them in the last two games to suggest they’re up for the fight and that’s all we’ve ever asked of them.

Forget formations, styles, systems and transfer policies – get onto the pitch and give it your all.

At this stage of the season, effort and commitment really can go a long way.

Look at Leicester, are they suddenly world-beaters? Are they nelly.

A defeat tomorrow could leave us on the brink and it’s imperative that the players are able to respond correctly should we go a goal down, because that’s where my main concern lies for the game at Goodison Park.

Every season, sides near the bottom will win games nobody expects them to. We’ve yet to do that this season while the others all have.

Let us be that coupon-buster tomorrow, eh?

Our Premier League survival could depend on it.

The Wise Men Say podcast is available every Monday, with SAFC debate from a variety of guests and post-match reaction. You can stream it direct from wisemensay.co.uk or subscribe to it on iTunes.