Black Cats' spirit fires safety fight

Sbragia praises team as Sunderland boost chances of Premier League survival

The Sunderland manager, Ricky Sbragia, insists he is happy with the squad at his disposal after they boosted their Premier League survival hopes with victory over Hull at the weekend. The Black Cats eased into 15th place as a result of Saturday's 1-0 win and, while they remain only four points clear of the drop zone, their position looks a little less precarious with a trip to rock-bottom West Bromwich to come this weekend.

Sbragia, who succeeded Roy Keane at the Stadium of Light in December, recently appeared to question the depth and quality of his squad after they slipped dangerously close to the bottom three.

However, he insists that, with all his players fit, he has a good group from which to choose. "I felt the squad I had at Christmas time was a good squad to have around," Sbragia said. "There is good team spirit within the squad, they are a good group, they do work hard. Sometimes, we could just do with a bit of luck in games, and at vital times we have switched off and been punished. There have been games we have played where we have not done it the other way around – teams have switched off and we have not punished them. I am happy with the squad, I am happy with the players I have got."

Sunderland's descent towards the relegation zone – the win over Hull was only their second in 10 league games – led to a growing disquiet on Wearside following an investment of more than £70m by Keane during his 26 months in charge.

Sbragia was appointed days before the winter transfer window opened and, having had little opportunity to run the rule over potential permanent signings, opted to recruit only Tal Ben Haim and Calum Davenport on loan deals.

The manager's own position has been called into question in recent weeks, forcing his chairman, Niall Quinn, to dismiss speculation that another manager – Alan Curbishley was one name mentioned in dispatches – was being lined up to replace him.

Now, with Quinn's endorsement ringing in his ears, Sbragia will set about the task of securing the club's top-flight status, before turning his attention to strengthening the squad he inherited from Keane.

The situation of Sunderland's leading scorer Djibril Cissé, who is on a season's loan from Marseilles, is one which will need to be resolved quickly, but the manager does not see the need for wholesale change.

"When we have injuries, it might knock us a little bit," Sbragia said. "I would prefer to have all the squad on the playing field but it's not going to happen. But I am really pleased with them and I am happy with what I have got in general.

"We can always improve, we know that, but the bunch we have got, they are a good bunch. The team spirit is decent in the dressing room, they do work hard and that's all I can ask for."

At fellow strugglers Blackburn Rovers, the striker Jason Roberts does not believe he will be fit in time for Sunday's visit of his former club Wigan. The 31-year-old was sidelined by a stress fracture of his foot a fortnight ago and was expected to be out for at least three weeks. Rovers' manager, Sam Allardyce, is keen to get at least one of his injured strikers – Roque Santa Cruz is also out after a minor knee operation – back for the relegation run-in.But Roberts believes it is unlikely he will be ready to face the Latics at Ewood Park, although the club may be prepared to take a risk because of their precarious position three points above the drop zone.

"The injury is a strange one because if you have a broken bone then you know exactly how long you are going to be out for," Roberts said. "However, with a stress fracture you can't be sure as it isn't as straightforward, so you have to be careful in case it happens again and you have a setback. It is doubtful I will be ready for next week."

Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Raheem Sterling of Liverpool celebrates scoring the opening goal
footballLIVE: Follow all the latest from tonight's Capital One quarter-finals
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Life and Style
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Scandi crush: Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

Th Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
Radio 1’s new chart host must placate the Swifties and Azaleans

Radio 1 to mediate between the Swifties and Azaleans

New chart host Clara Amfo must placate pop's fan armies
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

The head of Veterans Aid on how his charity is changing perceptions of ex-servicemen and women in need
Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

Its use is always wrong and, despite CIA justifications post 9/11, the information obtained from it is invariably tainted, argues Patrick Cockburn