LEE CATTERMOLE insists it’s a case of the more, the merrier in the relegation dogfight after Sunderland dragged rivals Newcastle back into the scrap for survival.
Sunderland and Newcastle are now among five teams hoping to avoid the final spot in the Championship, with bottom two QPR and Burnley cast adrift and realistically looking doomed.
It’s absolutely no relevance that it’s Newcastle, we’ve done our jobs with them this season.
The Black Cats’ victory over Southampton, coupled with Newcastle’s defeat at fourth bottom Leicester – their eighth successive loss – left just two points separating the two North East rivals, with Dick Advocaat’s men boasting a superior goal difference.
Cattermole says the rivalry aspect of Newcastle’s free-fall is irrelevant after Sunderland’s back-to-back wins over the Magpies this season, but the midfielder has welcomed the presence of another relegation contender.
The midfielder told the Echo: “It’s absolutely no relevance that it’s Newcastle, we’ve done our jobs with them this season.
“But if they get dragged into it, that means there’s another team there.
“We saw the Leicester result before we went out, although that was a game where we weren’t really sure which way we wanted it to go.
“But it’s important that we focus on what we’re doing and if we play like we did against Southampton, we look dangerous.
“We’ve dragged some other teams into it now.”
On paper, Sunderland face the toughest run-in of the five teams battling to remain in the Premier League, albeit they have a game in hand on all-bar Hull City, who host Arsenal tonight.
Sunderland only have one home remaining – a potential survival showdown against Leicester – with daunting trips to Everton, Arsenal and Chelsea completing their programme.
“Every game now we’ve got to look to pick up points from,” said Cattermole.
“We’re not writing off Arsenal and Chelsea.
“They’re going to be games where we go out on the pitch believing we can win.
“It’s been difficult, but we’re showing a lot of character, a lot of fight and that’s what we’ve got to do.”
Two penalties from Jordi Gomez secured only a sixth league win of the season against the 10-man Saints, with the Black Cats holding their nerve in a game where they realistically needed to register maximum points.
Sunderland conceded an equaliser within two minutes of going ahead during the first half, and endured a nervy finale, yet their determination shone through, as it had done in the previous weekend’s draw at Stoke.
“The point at Stoke was so big from a performance point of view,” added Cattermole.
“We left there with loads of confidence and we thought if we could start a game like that, we would be able to build on a point and we’ve done that.
“We’ve said ‘must-win’ in the past and I think that (Southampton) was one of them.
“The lads know the importance of what it means to stay in the league and I think it showed on the pitch.
“There were a couple of dodgy moments, but I think as a team, we were really solid, determined, dogged and that’s what it’s going to take.
“We’ve got four really important games to go now.”