Priest's prayers answered as Sunderland achieve Premier League survival
A priest from a Sunderland church has hailed Black Cats boss Sam Allardyce after the team secured top-flight status.
Just a few weeks ago, Father Marc Lyden-Smith, of St Mary's Church, in Sunderland's Bridge Street, was praying for divine intervention as the team faced a crunch relegation clash away at Norwich City.
He and thousands of others fans' calls were answered as the team won that game 3-0.
Now, following another 3-0 victory, this time over Everton at the Stadium of Light, the club have guaranteed Premier League football for another year and sent Newcastle United and Norwich City into the Championship.
Speaking to the Echo, Fr Marc, who is also club chaplain at SAFC, said: "I'm over the moon that the team have stayed up.
"I was at the Everton game and I thought the players showed tremendous spirit, fight and courage.
"It was a real joy to be in the stadium and experience that atmosphere."
Fr Marc pinpointed "Big Sam" as the main reason the club have beaten the drop.
The former Bolton Wanderers, Newcastle United, Blackburn Rovers and West Ham boss was appointed in October when the Wearsiders had not won any of their first eight games.
"It's great to see Sam putting forward a vision and plan with his coaching staff which the players have stuck to," he said.
"It has really unified everyone. They knew what they had to do and it's just fantastic to see."
The priest also spoke of how he expects Wearside to enjoy a prolonged celebration over the next few weeks as the result sinks in.
"The economic side of being a Premier League team brings in benefits to everyone," said Fr Marc.
"Thankfully there won't have to be any redundancies at the club and it just gives the city a huge bounce.
"There's a great celebration going on in the city and long may it continue."