November’s 6-2 drubbing at Everton left Sunderland with a paltry six points on the board from 11 games and had the club plummeting head-first towards the Championship.
It was to be another two months before Sunderland’s survival bid had genuine lift-off under Sam Allardyce.
But in the 25 games since that rout at Goodison Park, Sunderland have registered 29 points, with victory over Everton tonight finally fulfilling Allardyce’s long-held objective of averaging a point per game.
If Sunderland can seal their Premier League survival, Allardyce will rightly receive the plaudits, but the Black Cats boss insists the credit has to go to his players.
“I can only give the players my ultimate knowledge of the game and experience, and show the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition, and pick a team that I think is capable of winning,” he said.
“But the responsibility lies with the players to go and deliver the best performance.
“My decisions on a match-day may make a difference, my team-talk may make a difference, but it won’t make as big a one as the players out on the field and driving themselves into giving the best performance they can give.
“I can help them, but they are the ones who are ultimately responsible to deliver.”
Victory tonight would also see Allardyce maintain his record of never being relegated from the Premier League as a manager, although he brushed that off as an important factor.
“Yes as a manager, you don’t want a relegation put on your CV, but you work for the football club and it’s about keeping the football club safe and then if that’s the case, we’re both okay, aren’t we?” he added.
“My CV still says there’s no relegation from the Premier League on there – in fact, I’ve only ever suffered one relegation, with Notts County where I didn’t take over until late January or early February, so in terms of my management career, it’s been pretty good at avoiding relegation all the way through.
“Hopefully there’ll be no blemish on it by the end of the season.”