Lee Cattermole insists the hard work starts here for Sunderland after they moved within sight of the greatest of escapes.
The Black Cats have their fate back in their own hands after a remarkable week in which they took four points off Manchester City and Chelsea but they now need to capitalise on that when Cardiff visit the Stadium of Light on Sunday.
The home form against the basement dwellers has been a major reason for Sunderland’s struggles this season, and Cattermole recognises that there is still plenty of work to do as the team aim to make the most of their unexpected second chance.
“We had a celebration in the dressing room, but it probably lasted for about a minute and then we pulled ourselves back together and said, ‘This isn’t finished yet’,” he said.
“As a group, I think we all recognised straight away that the hard work has to start here. It was a great result and it’s nice to have made that bit of history by being the first team to win at Chelsea (under Mourinho), but it’ll count for absolutely nothing if we don’t follow it up.
“We’re going to have to get quite a few points yet if we’re going to stay up, and that’s the only thing we’re focusing on now. Everybody has been writing us off, but inside those four walls we’ve always believed and that’s one thing we’ve always got to fall back on.
“We’ve got a really strong belief, and that’s never disappeared. We don’t let anything knock us down, and we’ve come back from setbacks all season. We’ve given ourselves a real chance, and hopefully we’ll go on and finish the job.”
There remains a sizeable job ahead for Sunderland, who take on Cardiff, Swansea and West Brom – with a trip to Manchester United in between. The fixtures look favourable but Sunderland’s record against fellow strugglers is poor.
After weeks of chopping and changing Gus Poyet has found a formation and line-up that suits his team and will hope to be able to field it again this weekend. Cattermole reckons the performance against Everton was the catalyst for their performances in the last two matches.
“We’re not safe yet and we know that. No one is thinking that we’ve done the job, but we’ve given ourselves a much better chance of getting out of this now,” he said.
“To be honest, I think it started after Everton. We left the Everton game and said, ‘That was a good performance – if we maintain that in every game, we’ll pick points up and give ourselves a chance’.
“We did that all week and got two results that people probably weren’t expecting. Chelsea had had a free week and we were coming off the back of a hard game at Manchester City – one of the best teams in Europe – but you wouldn’t have known that from how hard we were working at the end. That just shows how much all of this means to us.”
Quite how Sunderland have managed to pull off such fine performances when they have struggled since February is unclear, but Cattermole is sure that the Cats still believe.
“We’ve always known we have performances like this in us, and that’s probably been one of the most frustrating things,” he said.
“We’ve picked most of our points up against the top teams, so at the start of last week we said, ‘If that’s the way we’re going to do this, stay up by beating the top teams, then that’s what will have to happen’.
“Inside the dressing room, we always knew we were capable of it. But we only got three points at the weekend and we’re going to need quite a few more.
“We can’t get carried away – this just has to be the start of it. It gives everyone a big lift, and I’m sure the city will be buzzing in the build-up to Sunday’s game, but as a group of lads, we need to get back to work and go again.”