How many points will keep Sunderland up? Chris Coleman on his team’s survival challenge

Sunderland boss Chris Coleman. Picture by Frank Reid
Sunderland boss Chris Coleman. Picture by Frank Reid
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Chris Coleman thinks Sunderland may be able to survive this season without reaching the magic 50-point mark.

But he will focus only on the near future as he looks to end a woeful run of form.

Blackburn Rovers were relegated from the Championship despite picking up 51 points last season, but, on current form, that will be well ahead of the number needed to finish fourth-bottom this season.

Coleman said: “If you average it over five or 10 years, it’s between 45 and 50, isn’t it?

“It’s tough to call.

“In the Premier League, people say 40 points, but really it’s more like 37 or 38.

“I think this year it could be less than 50 [in the Championship].

“I think we have to forget that, forget what figure we need to have by the end of the season, it’s where we need to be at 5pm on Saturday – that’s what we need to concentrate on.

“If we get that right more often than we get it wrong, everything else will take care of itself.

“We have to get on the right road this Saturday, start closing the gap.”

Coleman says a mini-league has formed in the bottom section of the table and says his team must focus on finishing top of the grouping.

He said: “I think there’s four or five teams that could be involved and that’s our league.

“We’ve just got to try and finish top of that league.

“That’s the only way we can look at it, keep that league tight, keep that league narrow, make sure we’re in with a fighting chance at the end of it.

“When you’ve lost four out of five games, it is really tough, but we’re still within touching distance. We’ve got to keep hope, stay positive because I think it will swing for us.

“We’ve been in the bottom three for so long now, if we get out of that it will feel really good, and then it is, ‘can we build on that?’”

Sunderland tomorrow host a Middlesbrough side pushing for the play-offs and Coleman says his players must not worry about ‘what-ifs’ if the Black Cats are to succeed.

He added: “Our fans are massive to us.

“I know it is tough at the moment and they are disappointed with us and we let them down again in the last home game.

“I still think they are the key for us, but we have to earn their support with performances and results.

“We have to quickly turn them round and get them back with us.

“Look at the game at Bristol City – we were booed off at half-time, and cheered and clapped off at full-time.

“We didn’t win the game, but we gave them something to shout about and to be proud of in our second-half performance.

“Sometimes we don’t perform because we are always thinking about the ‘what ifs’ – ‘what if we don’t win’, ‘what if we end up relegated,’ ‘what if I play badly and make a mistake that costs us?’

“We never escape all that negativity.

“I think, ‘sod that, this is my job and I am going to concentrate on doing it’.

When you do that, you’ll be surprised where that gets you.

“We haven’t done it enough, and if you don’t then the fans will not come with you – why would they?”