“Thank god for that!” These are the first thoughts that go through a manager’s head after completing a great escape.
Nigel Pearson’s own path to rescuing a football club has been more troubled than most.
There have been arguments with his own club’s supporters, battles with opposing teams’ players and more recently an unseemly spat with a journalist that blew out of even his control.
Through it all, in a dramatic final two months, his team kept playing well and winning. In the final eight-game stretch that has guaranteed Leicester will be a Premier League team next season, there were six victories, just one defeat and the point at the Stadium of Light that meant it all ended in glory.
“What was my first thought when the whistle went? ‘Thank god for that!’” said Pearson.
“There was a bit of relief. There is no point in me trying to flower over it. It’s not been an easy season.
“There’s been highlights and plenty of lowlights. We’ve managed to stay together through it all. Even when there have been question marks, about my position, or the integrity of the club.
“Throughout it all we’ve kept a low profile, apart from one or two occasions! We’re not as insular as some people make out. We’ve had setbacks and that tests your resolve.”
Now it is whether Sunderland have enough. They were indebted once more to the endless failings of their neighbours and rivals, Newcastle.
The biggest cheer of the afternoon came when Leroy Fer scored the second goal for Queens Park Rangers that ensured Newcastle had lost a ninth game out of 10.
It edged Sunderland a point above their rivals, and that distance, for a team who has won point from 30, could yet prove huge. Sunderland must go to Arsenal and Chelsea. Dick Advocaat accepted the 37 points his team has now amassed may be enough to secure Premier league football.
“It is 11 points from six games [since he took charge],” he said. “If you had said we would get four points from the last two games (including the victory at Everton) before, you would be very happy.
“I cannot complain about the team for today. They work very hard. The organisation was okay. I cannot ask more, that is what we have.
“Will the total we have now be enough to keep us up? It is difficult to say.”
They fought for their latest manager in charge at the Stadium of Light to get that point. It could go down to goal difference even if Hull win and Newcastle draw. Sunderland will want that same spirit at the Emirates and at Stamford Bridge.
Seb Larsson went close with a free-kick in the first half and Danny Graham was also denied by Kasper Schmeichel.
Sunderland were almost the architects of their own downfall in the closing stages, when the lines of communication between their captain John O’Shea and the goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon broke down.
The ball fell to Andrej Kramaric on the corner of the Sunderland penalty area, Pantilimon was way out of position but the shot was high and wide and that of a substitute who had recently entered the field of play.
For all the effort of both sides, that was pretty much it in terms of attempting to add a goal to the Stadium of Light. Instead it was the ninth goalless game the ground has seen this season. Still, it was enough to have Pearson hailing higher powers.
Sunderland: (4-1-4-1) Pantilimon; Jones (Reveillere, 86), Coates, O’Shea, Van Annholt; Larsson; Defoe, Bridcutt (Johnson, 60), Larsson, Wickham; Graham (Fletcher, 80).
Leicester: (4-2-3-1) Schmeichel; Wasilewski, Huth, Morgan, Schlupp; King, Cambiasso; Albrighton, Mahrez (Drinkwater, 67), Ulloa (Kramaric, 75); Vardy.
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Man of the match: Coates (Sunderland)
Match rating: 4/10Reuse content