A three-point cushion? So what was all the fuss about ...
In the end, it was fantastic watching Survival Sunday knowing the game at Chelsea mattered not a bit.
It would be a huge benefit for the club if Congerton was working with a coach like Advocaat with whom he obviously has an excellent working relationshipDavid Jones
It was such a relief to earn the point we needed to guarantee survival at Arsenal last Wednesday after weeks of will we/won’t we debate in these pages and beyond.
There was a very strange atmosphere in the Sky Sports studio at the Emirates.
Niall Quinn was as excitable as you might expect for someone who dedicated so much of his life to the red and white cause, while I was trying to sail above the surface and maintain a professional calm during proceedings.
Thierry Henry. meanwhile. found the whole thing hilarious. Yes, he wanted Arsenal to put on a performance in the game, but, as I’ve told you before, he has a real affinity with Sunderland and he was genuinely pleased that Niall and I left the stadium satisfied.
He’s a good guy.
I couldn’t help but let out a huge sigh of relief in my closing link and there seemed to be quite a reaction to it on social media after the game.
I know a lot of broadcasters will guard their footballing allegiance until the day they retire, but think of the greats: Des Lynam, Brighton fan; Jeff Stelling, Hartlepool fanatic; they’ll do for me.
I’ve supported Sunderland for 32 years and it’s not an emotion you can turn on and off like a tap – we’re not robots after all, and, if anything, I think sometimes it makes me more critical when I’m appraising our team.
This season, I’ve been accused of being a fan of Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool, so it’s clearly not that obvious!
The night at Arsenal was made even more special by the emotional reaction of Dick Advocaat at the final whistle; a hard man of huge experience reduced to tears by a club that has seeped into his soul in the few weeks he’s been at the helm.
As I write this, it’s not clear whether Advocaat will take up Sunderland’s offer to stay for another couple of years, or retire gracefully having completed his final mission with honours.
The sticking point in his mind is perhaps not the much-publicised wishes of his wife for him to return to The Netherlands to concentrate on growing old quietly, but the demands of the job full-time without the required backing.
Advocaat spoke of the need to guarantee quality additions to the group to make the job worthwhile.
It’s what seasoned Sunderland supporters have been saying for a long while and it seems the only way the club can break this cycle of perennial relegation struggles.
Three things need to happen.
First, Ellis Short must step up again and offer the kind of “anti-relegation guarantee” which Niall Quinn spoke of when the American first strode into the Stadium of Light. Remember, this is his investment he’s protecting.
Secondly, the recruitment has to be spot on.
Spending money is not a guarantee of improvement, just trawl through a list of our recent recruits for evidence of that.
I’ve heard enough about Lee Congerton in football circles to know he will have already been scouring the globe drawing up his list of targets, waiting for the go-ahead from the money men and confirmation of the club’s survival.
And it would be a huge benefit for the club if Congerton was working with a coach like Advocaat with whom he obviously has an excellent working relationship.
The third aspect to this is, having identified the talent, it’s convincing them to come to Wearside.
I’m not pursuing a debate here on the relative merits of life in the North East, but it’s a fact of life that London clubs, even those around major cities like Manchester and Birmingham, have an easier job persuading players to join them.
You have to offer them something different: Swansea do it, Stoke persuaded Bojan to join them last summer, Southampton beat big clubs throughout Europe to Graziano Pelle and Toby Alderweireld on loan, Esteban Cambiasso has been a brilliant signing for Leicester City.
It means paying big wages, convincing the players that the club they are signing for is ambitious and it damn well helps if you’ve got a manager they believe in and they want to play for.
Perhaps Advocaat has a value to Sunderland he doesn’t even realise.