Sunderland achieved Premier League survival with a swagger last night – and the planning for next season will now begin in earnest.
The Black Cats collected the three points they required to guarantee another season of Premier League football thanks to goals from Jack Colback and Fabio Borini – the latter volleying home after a sublime pass from Seb Larsson.
A relieved Gus Poyet marched onto the pitch at the end and saluted all four stands at the Stadium of Light after performing the “miracle” that was required to secure safety.
It has led to calls for Poyet to be named manager of the season after leading the dishevelled and apparently doomed Black Cats to survival and a Wembley final in a memorable campaign.
Now thoughts will turn to next season and The Journal understands that a fresh round of talks are planned with Colback in the coming days, who has been one of the heroes of Sunderland’s revival. The Black Cats also want to revive negotiations with Larsson and Phil Bardsley as they look to ensure Poyet’s summer plans are not disrupted by a raft of departures.
That will be music to the ears of Sunderland fans who must have believed that their team were doomed when they suffered a dispiriting home defeat against Everton which saw them cut adrift at the bottom of the Premier League.
Wins against Manchester United, Chelsea, Cardiff and now West Brom have put paid to those anxieties and Sunderland are now breaking all the right kind of records under Poyet.
It was their first run of four straight wins since 2000 and Sunderland may yet finish as high as 12th to cap a remarkable season of ups and downs.
Despite a laboured second half it was never in doubt last night as Sunderland plundered two first-half goals to ease any remaining nerves around the Stadium of Light.
Colback grabbed the first, pouncing on a Marcos Alonso cross in the 13th minute. The second was a thing of beauty as Larsson exchanged passes with Borini before teeing up the Italian with an inch-perfect pass to give Sunderland what turned out to be an unassailable lead.