Sam Allardyce now acknowledges that Sunderland are going to have to be escape artists for the third season on the spin, if they are to preserve their Premier League status.
Sunderland have looked destined for the drop in each of the previous two campaigns, yet have managed to haul themselves away from danger with a dramatic improvement in results during the final few games.
With Sunderland four points adrift of fourth-bottom Norwich – and seven behind 16th-laced Swansea – ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Liverpool, the Black Cats’ plight is looking similarly bleak this season.
Allardyce makes no attempt to mask the peril of Sunderland’s current situation, but hopes they can produce a coupon-busting run sooner than the last couple of campaigns.
“We’re going to have to win three out of four or something like that,” he said.
“We’ve got to that stage now and it’s all about how early we can do it.
“Some teams will do it, and we’re going to have to be one of them.
“At West Ham two years ago, I did it at the back end of February and March when we won four in a row, which took us out of the danger zone.
“It’s whether you can hold your nerve. The lads here have done it before, so can we do it with a different squad of players?”
Sunderland produced a heartening sign of their survival credentials when they put title-chasing Manchester City on the back foot for long periods at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday night.
But Allardyce’s men ultimately came away empty-handed from a game where should have added to their tally. “I can’t fault the overall performance much, but it didn’t get us the result in the end,” added Allardyce.
“We can be encouraged by it and if we maintain it, we’ll win or draw more games than we lose in the last 14 games.
“But the players haven’t been able to show that level of consistency.
“They have to now. That’s the bottom line. Results need to start tomorrow. Games can’t keep slipping away without getting a result.
“That point would have been massive against Manchester City. It would have been a huge bonus because it’s a point nobody expected.”