Don Hutchison: Sunderland look safe now - and one more win might do it

Gus Poyet has stumbled on a formation which works, which is great news for Sunderland, who are potentially only one more win from safety

PA Wire Sunderland manager Gustavo Poyet
Sunderland manager Gustavo Poyet

I think that 35 points will be enough to secure survival in the Premier League this season – which is great news for Sunderland, who are potentially only one more win from safety.

Did anyone think we’d be saying that about them after they lost to Everton and West Ham in their last two home games?

I don’t mind admitting that I didn’t see those two results against Manchester City and Chelsea coming – in truth, I don’t think Gus Poyet or his team did either – but they’ve changed everything from Sunderland’s perspective. There were doubts around the weekend’s game but it was a great win against Cardiff on Sunday.

We wondered whether they could make the most of the chance, but the team answered those questions with a performance full of confidence and bravery.

They look like the form team among the struggling pack all of a sudden and with the games they’ve got it’s now looking very good for them.

In a season of incredible twists and turns Sunderland are probably the team that have typified that more than anyone. Now Gus will be hoping there’s not one more sting in the tail before the season is out.

Two things are behind this revival. The first is those two results at Manchester City and Chelsea, which have filled the team full of confidence and eliminated the fear that was troubling them in the weeks after the Capital One Cup final.

The second is that Gus has been able to pick a settled side and the players look like they know what the plan is. Knowing you’ve got the confidence of the manager to go and perform is a huge thing and when you look at the transformation of Connor Wickham you can see why it has turned around for Sunderland.

I used to play with Danny Dichio and John Oster at Sunderland, two great players who were never able to show what they could do.

Danny in particular was Niall Quinn’s understudy which meant that whatever he did on a Saturday he was pretty certain that he would be out of the team the next week – unless he scored a couple and made a couple.

It was tough mentally for him and he grew frustrated. Wickham is in the opposite situation, with the manager having told him he is in possession of the jersey and he has his full confidence. He’s taken that chance and Sunderland are benefiting.

I don’t think it’s been any moment of genius from Gus to get this line-up. He’s sort of stumbled on it with all the changes he’s made but the starting XI looks balanced, it looks brave and it looks like it will cause problems for teams.

Cautiously, I’m going to say I think they’re going to be safe now. They might even have it wrapped up by the last game of the season, which would be remarkable.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer