SAFC 10 YEARS AGO: Toughest run in, says Roy Keane

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Here’s what the Echo was reporting on Sunderland 10 years ago.

IT’S TOUCH AND GO!

... but we are ready for the fight, says Keane

SUNDERLAND have the toughest promotion run-in, says boss Roy Keane.

But he takes his side to Plymouth tomorrow full of praise for the fact his players have lifted the club into the promotion shake-up.

The Black Cats go to Home Park sitting seventh in the Championship and a win could propel them into the play-off slots for the first time this season.

It’s a landmark that seems to have been on the horizon for weeks, but a position that seemed mission impossible in the opening month of the campaign – when a 3-2 home loss to Plymouth was one of five straight defeats.

Keane said: “I still think we’ve got the most difficult run-in of all the teams up there. Of those clubs above us, we still have to play five of them.

“I think it’s going to be touch and go but I’m just delighted that we’re giving ourselves a chance.

“I always say that when I took the job I asked the players to give ourselves a chance and that’s what we’re doing, we’re giving ourselves a chance.

“You can’t get away from the league tables. They are always in front of you, it’s on the television, and I suppose it reminds us where we are.

“If it means going through the play-offs at the end of the season than that’s what we have to face. But if you said that to the supporters a few months ago I’m sure they would have taken it.”

The play-offs have their critics, but they have kept Plymouth and Sunderland’s seasons alive going into the final third of the campaign.

Argyle are 11th in the league, seven points behind Sunderland, and are unbeaten in six at home.

Keane said: “We’ve seen plenty of them. They had a good result here earlier in the season, but we want to be going there and getting a positive result.

“They seem to do very well at home. They’re enthusiastic, they’re hungry and they really play as a team, and they never give up.

“We know we’re in for a tough game, but hopefully Plymouth are in for a tough game.”

Keane will assess the fitness of David Connolly (facial injury), Jonny Evans (ankle) and Liam Miller (hamstring) before tomorrow’s game.

There has been no snow or frost in Plymouth so there should be no threat to the game from the weather.

HYSEN: WE HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO GO UP

SWEDISH WINGER Toby Hysen never doubted Sunderland’s promotion credentials, despite arriving at a club that had lost its first five games of the season.

The Black Cats head to Plymouth tomorrow looking to finally climb into the play-off positions.

The mood around the club is a far cry from when Hysen signed five days before Niall Quinn stepped down as manager on the back of league defeats to Coventry, Birmingham, Southend and Plymouth, and an embarrassing Carling Cup exit at Football League basement club Bury.

Quinn at lease went out on a high with a 2-0 home win over West Brom in his final game as manager – a match that saw Hysen make his debut.

The Swede said: “I didn’t really think that there were many problems at Sunderland when I first came in.

“The players were obviously worried about the start they’d made, but after my debut against West Brom, I couldn’t understand how they had lost the first five games.

“Normally a struggling team can manage a scrappy win to relieve a but of pressure, but we played West Brom off the park that day and I felt pretty optimistic. I’m not too surprised that we’ve got into this position. From that point on, things have improved and improved.”

The promotion quest continues with a long trek to the West Country tomorrow. An 82nd minute Nicky Chadwick goal denied the Wearsiders their first point of the season back on August 12 as the Pilgrims ran out 3-2 winners at the Stadium of Light.

Hysen knows the Home Park visit is a test.

“We’ll need all our belief at Plymouth,” he said. “They are in the middle of the table and need to win their home games if they are going to push for the play-offs. But I think that is going to suit us a bit better. It will be a tough game, but they will have to come at us as the home side and hopefully that might give us the chance to play a bit more going forward.”

Crystal Palace frustrated Sunderland with a defensive performance at the Stadium of Light the game before last. Coventry were more ambitious on Wearside last weekend, but still opted for only one out-and-out striker for most of the match.

Sunderland have kept four clean sheets in their last five games and Hysen has scored twice during that time.

He said: “I have played quite a lot recently and obviously I’m happy with that. I’d started the five games before Coventry last weekend, and got on for half-an-hour in that game so I was happy about that.

“I think I have done quite well, but it is easy to play in a team that is doing well and winning games.

“It’s nice to have got a couple of goals and I would like more before the season’s over, but at the other end the clean sheets are really important.

“We had the one blip at Sheffield Wednesday when we conceded a couple of sloppy goals, but otherwise we’ve been strong and it’s good to know that if you score the first goal, you have a great chance to win because the defenders and goalkeeper are playing so well.”