CRAIG Gardner insists new head coach Gus Poyet has inherited the foundations of a recovery from caretaker boss Kevin Ball.
Basement boys Sunderland head to Swansea City tomorrow still searching for their first Premier League victory of the campaign after taking just a solitary point from the opening seven games.
But Sunderland produced much-improved displays against Manchester United and Liverpool under Ball’s temporary stewardship before the international break and midfielder Gardner says that has boosted self-belief among Poyet’s new troops in the battle to move out of the doldrums.
“The performances against Liverpool and Manchester United were big positives,” said Gardner, who netted his second goal of the season against the Red Devils.
“Bally got us going again and the new manager has carried that on.
“The lads are right behind him.
“And if we can keep on playing as we did in the last two games, the results will come.
“Confidence is sky-high now. We have come off two good performances and we just can’t wait to get out there tomorrow.
“I know we’ve only got one point so we can’t smile too much, but it is early in the season and we just need to start winning games and climbing up the table.”
Gardner has been encouraged by the signs from Poyet during the Uruguayan’s 10 days on the training ground, despite nine players being away on international duty.
“I think it was good that he came in during the international break,” said the 26-year-old.
“I know a lot of the players have been away, but he has still had over a week to work with the lads who are here.
“The lads have got to know him, and he has got to know us, and, from what we’ve seen, he’s been brilliant.
“Ask anyone in any job, if you don’t enjoy your work then you won’t reach your full potential.
“Everyone has got smiles back on our faces now and hopefully that will show on the pitch in the weeks to come, starting at Swansea.”
Sunderland have secured a point in each of the last two seasons at the Liberty Stadium – drawing 0-0 in 2011 and Steven Fletcher netting a league debut brace for the Black Cats in a 2-2 draw 13 months ago.
That game also saw Gardner involved in an accidental collision with Swansea left-back Neil Taylor, who suffered a broken leg and was ruled out until April.
Taylor could start tomorrow with Wales international Ben Davies an injury doubt this weekend.
“It (the Swansea game) was tainted in a way for me,” added Gardner.
“I had a touch and he came to close me down, I passed the ball and jumped and I landed on him.
“Their fans booed me for a bit and I wondered why, but then I realised he had suffered a break.
“It’s not nice to see a fellow professional get seriously injured like that and I am just glad that he has made a full recovery because he is a very, very good player.”