How many points guarantees Championship safety, are Sunderland on track and what can they realistically achieve this season?

After bringing a sudden end to Sunderland's long home hoodoo with an inspired double substitution last week, Chris Coleman struck the perfect note in his post-match press duties.

Friday, 22nd December 2017, 8:00 am
Chris Coleman and Kit Symons issue instructions in last week's vital win over Fulham. Picture by Frank Reid
Chris Coleman and Kit Symons issue instructions in last week's vital win over Fulham. Picture by Frank Reid

Relief and joy there was aplenty, but certainly no triumphalism.

The utterly abject months which followed the first three games of the season have left Sunderland playing catch-up in the Championship and, with money tight, January business is by no means guaranteed to save the season.

Coleman will be well aware, too, that new manager bounces can often be followed by a dip.

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Other sides near the bottom of the table, such as Bolton and tomorrow’s opponents Birmingham, enjoyed a mini-revival this season before flatlining.

The new Sunderland boss will not be getting carried away, despite a hugely encouraging five games so far.

Just how many points will Sunderland need to ensure safety?

Earlier in the season, fans looked worryingly at the last Championship campaign, when Blackburn were relegated despite finishing on 51 points.

The Lancashire side enjoyed something of a revival under Tony Mowbray in the latter stages of the season, but it was not enough to keep the prestigious club dropping into the third tier.

Taking into account the last 10 Championship seasons, 50 certainly seems to be the magic number.

Only three sides have been relegated in that time having reached that number, with 49 the average points haul for sides finishing 21st in the league and therefore achieving safety.

Adjusting that figure to reflect the number of points needed to finish above 22nd in those campaigns, and it drops considerably, to 46.5.

Given that Sunderland currently sit outside the bottom three, despite still being short of a point per game, the signs are that this will not be one of the campaigns where a 50-plus haul is required.

If the Black Cats can reach that target, they are likely to survive.

The signs so far are good. Coleman has achieved 1.4 points per game in his five matches in charge. Continue at that rate and Sunderland will likely arrive at the 52-point mark.

It underlines the scale of the challenge ahead, with the Black Cats trying to make up the significant lost ground in the latter stages of Simon Grayson’s tenure.

With QPR still seven points clear of Sunderland in 18th, continuing to deliver consistency will be absolutely crucial if they are to lift themselves into mid-table.

Of course, the signs outside of the numbers and on the pitch are good and, under Coleman, the Wearsiders have not looked like a side scrapping against relegation.

They have made an impressive transition to a drastically different style of play and, were it not for a pair of frustrating red cards, the picture could look even brighter.

Coleman is hopeful of adding some additions to his frontline in January to make the side less dependent on Lewis Grabban.

Above all else, he has made significant strides in improving Sunderland’s chronic defensive record.

Three clean sheets in five is an excellent return and, if they can continue at that rate, confidence will soar and Sunderland will pick up points even quicker than they have been under the new manager so far.

So the overall picture is one clearly more positive than it has been at any stage this season, bar the first three games when Sunderland found themselves sitting on an encouraging five points.

Big strides have already been made to set the Black Cats on the path to solving the ‘crisis’ owner Ellis Short spoke of after Grayson’s departure.

It is unquestionably still a real challenge, however, and underlines why Coleman is so keen to keep everbody’s feet on the ground.