AS Gus Poyet stood in a back corridor of St James’s Park on Saturday, basking in the joy of a derby double over local rivals Newcastle United, he reflected that it was a long way from that 4-0 defeat at Swansea City in his opening game in charge of the Black Cats.
The Uruguayan was the first to admit that he could not have predicted the amazing upswing.
But, at the same time, he pointed out that, since October, Sunderland’s coaching and playing staff had been working hard to make it happen.
“If you thought that such a revival would happen, you would be thinking that football is too easy,” noted Poyet.
“It’s not that easy.
“So I’m very pleased.
“It was difficult for me to explain to people that we were a better team in December, because we were not winning.
“I can give you all the explanations I want and explain things, but, at the end of the day, I am realistic, and it is about winning football games.
“I knew we were getting better, but something was missing.
“We needed to work hard on those things, or use the players in a different way.
“For example, over the last month, Adam Johnson has been on another level, and that was a level we were missing.
“That’s something Johnno has given us – that quality in the last third and with the last shot.
“We were missing that and we couldn’t score from two yards – I remember West Ham and Aston Villa away.
“But now we are coming to places like this, creating chances and deserving to win football games – and we do get the three points, which is great.”
Poyet is hopeful, too, that things, as Sunderland fans continue to sing, can only get better.
“I’m not trying to be too big,” he said apologetically.
“But I’m expecting us to get better.
“We have players who are desperate to play and that result will lift them a lot.
“That should help things to get better.
“I am always convinced that if you train in an environment where you have 20 players, and any of those players can play, the session is better.
“The quality gets better because you need to do very well during the week against very good players.
“Then you will put it on the pitch because you know that if you don’t, you will be out.
“The best is still to come.
“I’m not saying we are going to win 3-0 every week, but there is no reason why we cannot perform with this consistency now.
“I am convinced about that.”