Vito Mannone is too grown up to believe in every Christmas myth.
You know that one about any club bottom of the Premier League at this time of the year will always get relegated, unless they are called West Bromwich Albion – well the Sunderland goalkeeper isn’t having that.
Who wouldn’t believe in miracles after what happened at Goodison Park on Boxing Day?
Okay, it’s not exactly miraculous for Sunderland to win at Everton.
It was just really unlikely given it was 1996 when they last won on league business on the blue side of Stanley Park.
Yet with Mannone producing the match of his life, plus a lot of hard work by his team-mates, Sunderland did manage to win and all of a sudden things look just a little brighter.
They are at Cardiff today to face a team who have for obvious reasons fallen apart. Then it’s Aston Villa, who are hopeless right now, and then Fulham, a team no better than average. Draws are no good. Not any more. If Mannone and Sunderland can take nine points from these three matches – and to be honest six is a minimum requirement considering where they are – then chances are they will pull themselves out of the bottom three by the end of January.
Yet aside from West Brom, everyone who has been in this position when Santa has finished delivering presents has been doomed, including Sunderland themselves on two occasions.
History is against Sunderland. Just don’t say that to Mannone.
When it was put to him it still didn’t look good for his side, he said: “I don’t believe in that. It may happen many times, but a lot can happen.
“No team had won at Goodison for all of this year and we hadn’t won there since 1996, and yet we’ve managed to get a win.
“Things can change and we must believe and look at ourselves.
“We have a tough second part of the season and still have a lot of teams to play around us.
“We need to believe, because when you do you can make crazy things happen, such as winning against big clubs.
“Cardiff is another massive game for us and that could take us to 16 points if we win. That’s where we want to be after the bad situation we had at the start of the season.
“We did great on Boxing Day but we haven’t achieved anything yet. We have to go home, focus again, enjoy what was a great win and then focus right away on another massive game.”
Sunderland have stopped leaking goals of late, which does help.
Scoring them is still a problem and it’s why Gus Poyet will bring in a striker next month.
However, three clean sheets in a row is decent and it’s why Black Cats fans can just about see a chink of light.
Mannone has played his part in that, especially at Goodison where he made a string of genuinely brilliant saves. At least the Wearsiders now have a platform to build upon. Mannone said: “The last three games have been massive for us.
“I’m really happy now because I’ve had the chance to play and that’s all I’ve been searching for in football for years.
“I have never had a manager who believes in me like Mr Poyet and finally I have a good manager who understands me and I want to push on.
“The more clean sheets which come the happier I am so that’s all you are waiting for. I need to work really hard. The team will need my help and I will need them as well. I think any Premier League game is massive when you make a few saves and especially against the big clubs.
“I had another game in the past with Arsenal (against Fulham) which I thought was my best but I swear it is so tough every game because the level is so high.
“You must keep concentration to make important saves. It is a big responsibility because you are fighting for this club and also for the fans, for yourself, for your team-mates and everyone. We are in a position we are but you need to believe in yourself first and show everyone we can do it together.”
These are fine words but Sunderland are, alas, still in big trouble.
However, they are now just four points behind sixth-bottom West Brom and it’s not as if any of the clubs near the bottom are any good and are just having a bad time of it.
Sunderland themselves aren’t brilliant, but neither are they far behind the sides sitting above them, if they are in fact any worse.
Mannone added: “Football is crazy. One day you are up and one day you are down. I knew it was going to be tough coming here but when I told you we must believe, thankfully all my team-mates did and we showed character to come to a place where nobody has won for a year.
“Every game is tough in the Premier League, but we have showed we can win against the big clubs.
“It’s always a busy afternoon when you come to one of the clubs who are doing really well this season.
“They’re not fourth for nothing and they showed they have quality but we fought for our lives and we took the responsibility and it was a great result and a good base for us.
“Now we have to push on and not take two steps back. It’s important we keep going.”
Now it’s Cardiff. That club could give the big two in the North East a run for their money in the ‘what is the best way to mess everything up’ stakes.
If Sunderland pass the ball as they did the other day, and add in a few more shots and crosses into the box, they have a huge opportunity to get off the bottom of the league.
Mannone said: “Cardiff is another tough game and we have to take it as if they are in the top four.
“Cardiff are fighting with us. They lost on Boxing Day so we are close to the teams above us. We need to believe. We may be bottom but if you don’t believe you don’t get great results like this and you can’t fight.
“Cardiff is massive and we need to be positive and take this game into the next one and not drop our level again.”