CHRIS YOUNG: Victory over Manchester City paves the way for Sunderland’s transfer window plan

Wes Brown and Jack Colback close Sergio Aguero down.
Wes Brown and Jack Colback close Sergio Aguero down.
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THIS WEEK, Gus Poyet will sit down with Roberto De Fanti and sketch the blueprint for Sunderland’s transfer window plan of attack.

Three successive Stadium of Light victories won’t blind either the head coach or director of football to the investment required if Sunderland are to avoid the far heavier financial outlay of subsidising relegation to the Championship.

The watching Ellis Short realises as much and is thought to be ready to back Poyet in the market.

But when Sunderland are plotting their strategy, at least now there is prospect that any money spent will be worthwhile, rather than needlessly increasing the club’s debt, as was the case with QPR last January.

Six points from three games is a huge return for Sunderland, particularly when those wins have come against Newcastle and Manchester City.

Suddenly, Sunderland are on the coat-tails of those above them and the likes of Fulham, West Ham, Stoke and Norwich will be looking anxiously over their shoulders.

Perhaps though, Poyet’s inevitable request for a few quid will be hampered by his ability to rejuvenate the stock already at his disposal.

Granted, Poyet is only five games into his stewardship and both Martin O’Neill and Paolo Di Canio proved to have only temporary, rather than permanent solutions, to Sunderland’s problems.

But the rejuvenation of Sunderland’s three stand-out players yesterday – admittedly on an afternoon when everyone shone – was testament to Poyet’s recuperative powers.

Wes Brown, Seb Larsson and Phil Bardsley would have been three of the least likely contenders among supporters to be Sunderland’s saviours prior to Poyet’s appointment.

Brown was the perennial crock, unlikely to play again, let alone for a run of games.

Larsson represented the “old guard” of players who had tried and failed to prevent Sunderland making their annual pilgrimage into the relegation dogfight.

And Bardsley was public enemy number one after his casino and Instagram indiscretions.

Poyet could easily have bowed to public opinion, ignored their respective claims and turned instead to the new faces brought in during the summer, who were not sullied by previous failures.

But he didn’t.

Poyet took the braver step of being pragmatic and doing what was best for Sunderland’s survival hopes.

The rewards of that faith were shown yesterday with a remarkable fourth successive Stadium of Light victory against City that transforms Sunderland’s survival hopes and compensated for the debacle at Hull eight days earlier.

Brown rightly stole the limelight and justifiably took the man of the match accolade after a Rolls-Royce display from a defender who had not started in the Premier League since January 2012 and was approached about paying up the remainder of his contract at the end of last season.

The 34-year-old had completed just a game-and-a-half of competitive football before facing the top flight’s most prolific attack.

Yet just 24 hours after Poyet told the Echo that Brown was the best defensive-reader of the game at the club, he justified those lofty words.

He nicked the ball away from Sergio Aguero, had the pace to prevent Samir Nasri lifting it over his head and repeatedly blocked fizzing efforts from range as City searched for an equaliser.

When City began to pepper Sunderland’s penalty area in an Alamo-esque second half, who was repeatedly there to intercept?

It’s not even over-stating Brown’s performance to suggest that his fitness could hold the key to Sunderland’s survival.

The former England international is that much of a stand-out performer, and boasts such quality, that it is imperative Sunderland keep him wrapped in the thickest roll of cotton wool.

Success yesterday was not purely a backs-against-the-wall job though.

Sunderland deservedly went ahead in the first half after a further demonstration of the possession-based philosophy which Poyet has brought from his days at Brighton.

It didn’t matter however sticky the situation was, Sunderland were determined to play their way out of danger, rather than hoof aimlessly up field.

There was composure, a refusal to panic under pressure and an ability to find space in the middle of the park. Their energy endured because of it, rather than expiring prematurely as it did against Liverpool and Manchester United earlier in the season.

Larsson, along with Ki Sung-Yeung and Jack Colback, was at the heart of it.

The Swede was undoubtedly fortunate to escape either yellow or red card for his studs-up challenge on Javi Garcia. Had that been Lee Cattermole...

But Larsson went on to produce one of his best performances in months.

He seemed to relish the passing style introduced by Poyet and was the dogged member of the midfield trio, who nicked the ball away from City and picked up the 50-50s.

Sunderland’s determination in the middle of the park ensure the hugely influential Yaya Toure, never really made size count.

But, despite all their good play, Sunderland still needed a goal hero and, as was the case against Southampton, it again proved to be an unlikely one in Bardsley.

Defensively, Bardsley was as impressive as those alongside him in the back four and even managed to eventually get to grips with half-time substitute Jesus Navas, who initially threatened to turn the game City’s way.

But it is Bardsley’s overall attitude which has shone.

There has been no sulking at being mistreated by Di Canio.

The former Manchester United man has gone about his business quietly, put his head down on the training field and capped that progress with a finish of real quality yesterday.

Perhaps there was a slight nudge on James Milner, but the lack of communication between the England man and central defender Martin Demichelis was City’s real undoing.

Bardsley still had plenty to do, yet, with a drop of the shoulder, he fooled Costel Pantilimon and buried his right-footer low into the bottom corner.

Ironically, if Sunderland had boasted a left-footed left-back, he wouldn’t have attempted such a finish.

Some will continue to insist that Bardsley cannot be forgiven for his indiscretions, yet they are becoming a minority.

The 28-year-old is proving his commitment and the reception he received from the South Stand after the final whistle showed those wounds are healing.

Bardsley’s winner has put Sunderland firmly back into contention in the survival battle.

If they can still be within touching distance in January, then the plans Poyet makes this week will be very worthwhile.

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