SUNDERLAND are alive and kicking and doesn’t it feel great?
Didn’t the Echo make for good reading this week after all the months of turmoil and negativity?
We know as Sunderland supporters that winning doesn’t come easily; it takes guts, endeavour, pushing yourself through the wall both physically and mentally. And it takes time to recover from.
Yes it’s only one win, and no, our cause hasn’t been helped by the ridiculous late season form of Leicester City, Hull City and Aston Villa.
But even in the midst of this stomach churning high stakes game of survival, it’s vital to stop and cherish each and every victory when it comes, so seldom have we had the chance this season.
And it’s particularly important the players enjoy the feeling as well.
Losing is a hard habit to break but winning quickly becomes addictive: that feeling of adulation from the crowd; the praise from the manager; the genuine messages of joy from friends and family; the positive headlines after weeks of finger pointing.
Just ask some of those who’ve emerged from our most successful clubs like Thierry Henry and Gary Neville: when you start to win, nothing else matters.
Conversations with these guys reveal that for them it became a drug that they lived for from week to week, making personal sacrifice and embracing the pain because the pleasure of victory was always worth it.
Roy Keane was the same and that’s why he’s struggled as a manager: he just couldn’t tolerate those who didn’t demonstrate the same desire as him.
We know as Sunderland supporters that winning doesn’t come easily; it takes guts, endeavour, pushing yourself through the wall both physically and mentally.
And it takes time to recover from.
Hopefully this week the players have had the chance to reflect on how hard they had to work to bring down Southampton, before they even started to consider what they need to do to unravel Everton.
Not for a moment can they allow their minds to drift beyond Goodison Park, to Leicester, Arsenal and Chelsea.
The oldest cliche in the book needs to be their one and only commandment at this moment: one game at a time.
And if Sunderland can look after their own business match by match everything else will fall into place: there are enough games, there are enough points to play for.
Four more might be enough, six would be fantastic, any more than that and Dick Advocaat can stay as long as he wants.
Everton have had a funny season, a real come down from last term which was their best to date in the Premier League era.
Of late it seemed they had rediscovered their mojo, coincidentally around the same time that they were knocked out of the Europa League.
A fine run of results was capped by their 3-0 win over Manchester United, a performance characterised by Everton’s willingness to surrender possession and hit their opponents on the break.
They won’t be able to do that against Sunderland.
Advocaat’s team won’t expect to dominate the ball but they will have to make sound decisions at the back while they grow into the contest.
And then ... who knows.
Roberto Martinez complained his team was flat at Aston Villa but they still scored twice – although one was a Romelu Lukaku penalty which reminded me of Micky Gray at Wembley, the only difference was this one trickled in.
They are a team who can’t wait for the season to end, may struggle to find motivation for an early Saturday kick off and Sunderland could easily take advantage.
And if they do just sit back, smile and watch the panic set in elsewhere.
It’s being anticipated as a battle between Newcastle and Sunderland as the sides most likely to drop with Burnley and QPR, and how interesting that the defences of two North East clubs now rest on three South Americans.
When John O’Shea was replaced on Saturday, Santiago Vergini and Sebastian Coates became the pair assigned to shut out Southampton.
Newcastle’s shambolic descent plummed new depths at Leicester with two defenders sent off, leaving Fabricio Coloccini as practically the last man standing.
Two Argentinians and a Uruguayan: whoever rises to the challenge best could go a long way to deciding the future of their clubs.