NEVER mind the position; cherish the points.
That was Martin O’Neill’s view as Sunderland’s victory over Norwich City last night took them to their highest league position of the season.
The Black Cats now lie eighth in the Premier League having reached 30 points, but the Sunderland manager made it crystal clear that that second statistic carries far more weight with him than the first.
“I’m very, very pleased with us going up the table,” he admitted. “That’s great.
“But I’m much more concerned about the points on the board.
“And, from my point of view, I’m really pleased to have got to that landmark of 30 because you never know how long you’re going to have to wait to see the points total tick on again.
“Getting to 30 points is a bit of a landmark, if you like.
“Points on the board are very important; the eighth position less so, because the league is so concertinaed that you can easily leap up and down the division.
“It’s all about the points for me, because I’m a pessimist when I look at every fixture, so it’s always a relief to get a good result.
“The way I look at things – with my normal defensive mechanism – I look at Norwich, for example, and appreciate that if we don’t get a point in that game, then we’ve got a very tough away game at Stoke at the weekend.
“You can easily lose that game at Stoke.
“Then it’s Arsenal at home – a game you can easily lose – and all of a sudden you’re wondering where your next point is coming from.
“I’ve been there before, so all I’m thinking about is accumulating the points because they give you much more of an indication of where you are than league position at this stage.”
While he was thrilled at Sunderland’s rise to eighth, he was mildly irritated at the thought of anyone even beginning to look even higher up the league.
“It is foolhardy to look up the table – especially on the first day of February,” said the Irishman.
“Please, let’s not get carried away with what has been a good start so far.
“We’ve got some points on the board.
“So it’s really important to just keep the players going.
“At the moment, we are playing with really great confidence and real desire and that’s all we have to focus on.”