Carlos Cuellar is hoping to survive Sunderland’s summer cull and earn a new deal for next season – whatever division the Black Cats end up in.
Monday’s hammering at White Hart Lane leaves the Black Cats precariously placed in the Premier League table and prompted Gus Poyet to admit that Sunderland need a “miracle” to retain their top-flight status.
It is an incredible turnaround from the mood at the Stadium of Light after beating Newcastle United in the Tyne-Wear derby, with Sunderland having sustained eight defeats in ten games and sinking to a position seven points shy of safety.
They retain two games in hand – one of which is against Manchester City at the Etihad – but it is out of their hands now and they look like certainties to slip into the second tier.
That will fast-track Poyet’s plans for a complete overhaul of the squad, with every single player’s role in this season’s fiasco coming under intense scrutiny. The Uruguyan is known to favour a root and branch reform of his Cats squad, but that is simply not practical, and not every one of the players out of contract in the close season will be discarded.
He privately acknowledges that one or two may be kept on if they agree to reduced terms. Cuellar is one who is out-of-contract and after returning to the team in a surprise move on Monday, he admits that he would like to stay at the Stadium of Light.
“I don’t know what will happen next season,” he said. “I would like to be here whatever division we are in but I don’t know what is going to happen with me because my contract is finished in the summer. My main thing that I am thinking about is to try and keep the club in the Premier League. I am not asking the club what they are doing because the main focus has to be on this season.
“I don’t know what is going to happen, but I am really happy at Sunderland and I want to play more games for Sunderland.” Poyet’s downbeat analysis of Sunderland’s predicament raised eyebrows after the game. Seven points shy of safety, they look to be in serious trouble and the Uruguyan’s message is a stark one.
Cuellar, perhaps by necessity, retains more optimism than his manager. “It is really, really difficult now but we still believe,” he said. “We have too many games to go to give up on survival now.” With confidence so low, picking themselves up for the rest of the run-in is far from an easy task, but Cuellar thinks that they can take some credit from the way they competed in the first half against Tottenham.
Next up are Everton, who are serious contenders for the top four. “We have to look over our shoulders at the game now. In bits of it we were playing really well,” he said. “A few months ago we were putting on good performances. We must try and clear our minds of the last few weeks and we need to get back to the performances at the start of the year when we were playing well.”
On Monday, Sunderland paid a heavy price for chasing the game against a team that have been safely nestled in the top six for most of the campaign. Cuellar felt that the reason for the lop-sided scoreline was the Black Cats’ efforts to chase a game that they would have shut up shop in earlier in the season.
“Our only mistake is that we came to win the game. They have a good team and they were on top in the second half but we made it difficult for them in the first half.
“It hurt us to lose the game like we did. It was a really disappointing result because we went to Tottenham believing that we could do it.”