Ricky Sbragia, the Sunderland manager, will take points before plaudits as he attempts to secure the club's top-flight status. The Scot, a renowned coach before he stepped into the job vacated by Roy Keane in December, has very definite ideas about how he would like his side to play. Until they drag themselves clear of the scrap at the bottom of the table, he will take each point however it comes.
Sunderland were not at their best in beating Fulham and Stoke in their last two home games, and in the second half of the 1-1 draw at Newcastle in between. However, that three-game unbeaten run in the Premier League has eased them into 11th place, seven points above the bottom three and within touching distance of the top half. With tough away trips to Arsenal and Liverpool to come in their next two games, the task is certain to become even more difficult, but Sbragia will have only one focus.
He said: "The idea is to try to get up that table. I'm not really concerned about how the other teams are playing, I just have to concern myself with us. I couldn't have told you who most of the other teams were playing on Saturday. I don't look at it. It doesn't concern me, I can't have any affect on that. But I know what we can do against teams we have to play. We knew on Saturday [against Stoke] of the importance of the game. It was important to get the three points. Whether we played well or badly, I was not that concerned as long as we got the three points."
A return of seven points from three games was welcome after a run of four league games without a win. Sbragia said: "That was the target and we have achieved that. I have said many a time at home, we have got to start picking up points and getting wins especially, and try to pick something up away from home.
"In general, we are getting a little bit more difficult to beat. It's important to beat the teams around us."Reuse content