Gus Poyet has repeated his belief Sunderland can win their survival fight – even though he admits the Premier League table looks “terrible” for his struggling side.
The Black Cats are at Upton Park today with the onus on them to get something from a meeting with fellow strugglers West Ham United which will set the tone for their festive programme.
A pair of defeats against Chelsea and Spurs dimmed the burgeoning optimism which followed a competent and professional awayday display against Aston Villa and also saw Poyet cut a downbeat figure in his post-match briefing.
It was the first time the Sunderland boss had appeared pessimistic as he railed against the basic errors which have undermined his team’s attempts to gain ground of the teams around them.
Yet after three days spent feeling “low”, Poyet has regained some of the optimism which has marked his tenure – and remains convinced Sunderland still have the ability and resources to stay in the top flight.
He said: “I believe it because I see things whch are getting better.
“We are good enough to get two or three wins and a draw before January 2. If we make some adjustments it is possible.
“There have been things which have been better than I thought and some things I thought were worse.
“It is difficult to put it all together. Sometimes the things you don’t expect come very quickly.”
While Poyet is remaining upbeat about his team’s chances of survival, the question of whether his players share his belief remains a valid one.
They looked like a beaten squad at times last weekend and the mental toll of a terrible 2013 must have had an effect. No team in the Football League or Premier League has won fewer points than the Black Cats’ 25 this calendar year.
Yet Poyet has not seen any signs his players are beginning to lose their conviction. He added: “From what I know, no. It would be silly to because there are so many games.
“Today I still believe it is possible, even looking at the table which looks terrible.
“You will see me in a few weeks time and I will tell you what I think then.
“Or you won’t see me, which will mean something has not worked.”
One player Poyet has utmost faith in is John O’Shea, who has come in for criticism since scoring the own goal which helped to sink Sunderland in their Tottenham defeat.
Poyet said: “He is the captain. It would be very easy to drop him if somebody else criticises him but I know what I want from him. “