VITO MANNONE insists rejuvenated Sunderland should cast their gaze upwards, rather than fretting over the narrow two-point gap with the bottom three.
Sunderland’s emergence from the relegation zone after Wednesday night’s victory over Stoke City was a significant psychological hurdle for the Black Cats after a five-month stay in the bottom three.
But, with the bottom half of the table so tightly packed, only three points now separates fourth-bottom Sunderland from 11th-placed Swansea City.
And goalkeeper Mannone says Sunderland should be positive and look to chase those teams above them by keeping their points tally ticking over in tomorrow’s Tyne-Wear derby.
“It’s two points down, but three points to 11th,” said the Italian, man of the match against Stoke.
“We need to be positive and look forward.
“We’re doing well and at the end of the day, we know where we are. But we need to maintain those standards, keep believing and keep getting points from each game.
“It’s a massive game tomorrow, but I want the three points.
“I think the mentality has completely changed and you can see that after we lost one in 12.
“It’s a great feeling, but we need to keep the fire burning.”
Mannone will make his derby debut against the Magpies tomorrow after he was an unused substitute in October’s home victory over Alan Pardew’s side.
And the former Arsenal goalie is under no illusions about the magnitude of the derby, from both bragging rights stakes and the incentive to secure back-to-back league wins for the first time this season.
“I can’t wait, to be honest,” added the 25-year-old.
“Every game is a final now and Wednesday night was one against Stoke.
“We needed the three points and we got them.
“But we’ve still got 15 games to go and we want to do our best in the Premier League.
“We want to be Premier League players next year and enjoy a good summer and have the fans relaxed for next season.
“First of all, we’ve got three massive months and we need to stay focused and keep working hard in training and performing in the games.”
* Don’t miss tomorrow’s derby special Football Echo – it’s online from around 7pm with the biggest and best coverage of the big day