Gus Poyet admits it will feel like he has guided Sunderland to a trophy if they manage to complete their great escape.
The Black Cats will be sure of another season in the Premier League if they beat West Bromwich Albion at the Stadium of Light this evening, with even a point likely to be enough to avoid the drop regardless of what Norwich do against Arsenal on Sunday because of their superior goal difference.
Poyet, who took over from Paolo Di Canio as manager in October last year with his side having collected just a point from their opening seven league fixtures, said: “Normally you don’t celebrate when you finish 16th or 15th in the league. We will. It’s true, we will.”
After losing to Manchester City in the Capital One Cup final in March, their next six league games yielded just a draw and they looked destined for relegation. But a point at City – but for a late error by keeper Vito Mannone they might have won – led to three successive victories, with two of those coming at Chelsea and Manchester United.
“The problem is if you use the word ‘surprised’ it looks like you cannot believe it,” said Poyet. “I was getting close to wondering what we needed to do to win a game because we were, in my understanding, performing better even at home, but there was always something happening that meant we couldn’t go on and achieve the results.
“Maybe the first goal at Manchester City after two minutes gave the team something that was missing to go on and start performing and winning. We are on a run now and we don’t want to stop. We want to keep playing and winning.”
Sunderland would have been safe on Sunday had Norwich not managed to hold Chelsea to a draw.
And while Poyet would have been delighted to accept that, he is relishing the opportunity for his players to seal their fate in front of their own fans against either the Baggies or Swansea on Sunday.
He said: “It could be a different feeling. It is not the same when you are at home on your own watching the TV and somebody else gets a result. You don’t know how to celebrate then on your own.
“When you are in a group together playing for something and winning a game it’s better – I hope we can win tomorrow and go on and finish the game and be all together.
“Yes, it’s different – but I would take it anyway, I would take any kind of situation.
“Now the idea is we have got a big opportunity tomorrow. From three results in football [win, lose or draw], we have got two that are good for us – we need to take one of those two and then we will see.
“I don’t want things to go ahead to the weekend because it could be really tense, that’s for sure.”