Sunderland legend Gary Bennett believes the Black Cats can complete their survival mission after coming good at the business end of the relegation battle.
Last weekend’s stalemate against Leicester City has left Sunderland in the midst of a nervy final week of the campaign, with Dick Advocaat’s side still requiring a point from trips to Arsenal and Chelsea to be mathematically certain of their Premier League status.
All of a sudden the players are going out there and putting their bodies on the lineGary Bennett
But unlike relegation rivals Hull and Newcastle, Sunderland are currently enjoying their best run of form of the entire season after taking eight points from the last four games.
Ex-Sunderland captain Bennett, who has watched every minute of the season in his role as BBC Newcastle summariser, says those recent results under Advocaat’s stewardship should provide encouragement that the Black Cats can secure their own destiny at the Emirates tomorrow night or at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
“I’m a lot more confident than I was two weeks ago,” said Bennett, at the launch of the Back 2 Basics half-term football coaching clinic.
“We’ve taken eight points out of 12, which is a big total really. It’s our best run!
“The teams around us have picked up, so it’s important we’ve taken points where we have.
“It’s not going to be easy at Arsenal or Chelsea, we know that, but why can’t we upset the apple cart?
“Yes, we’ve had a bit of luck over the four games, but I think when you look back, we’ve got better.
“We’ve got people in the box, we’re scoring goals, kept clean sheets, so you can see there has been a massive, massive improvement in Sunderland under Dick Advocaat.
“All of a sudden the players are going out there and putting their bodies on the line.”
Even if Sunderland lose both of their final two games, they may not necessarily require another point.
Third bottom Hull need to beat Manchester United on Sunday to stand any chance of survival, while Newcastle will have to end a three-month winless run against West Ham to overtake Sunderland, unless there is a five-goal swing in the goal difference stakes.
“It’s going to be difficult for Hull and Newcastle to win both games,” said Bennett.
“Newcastle thought they’d turned a corner by picking up a point against West Brom and would beat QPR, who were already relegated.
“You look at the form Newcastle are in, one point from 10 games, and it’s not as if they’ll just turn up at St James’s Park and win.
“But we can’t rely on Man United or West Ham.
“It would be nice for us to get a point tomorrow and then not to worry about looking over our shoulders and thinking ‘what’s the score at St James’s or Hull?’”
Bennett and ex-Sunderland pair Julio Arca and Kieron Brady, along with former Middlesbrough defender Dean Gordon, are running coaching sessions for youngsters in Years 4 to 11 at the Castleview Enterprise Academy next week.
“We’re going back to basics with player development, understanding the game, how to tackle, how to pass, how to head, preparation for games,” added Bennett.
The sessions are priced at £25 per day and run from Tuesday to Friday. For more information contact 07749 600498 or visit btbcoaching.co.uk.