GUS POYET says it will be his “biggest achievement” if Sunderland can rubber-stamp their Premier League survival tonight.
A solitary point from the visit of West Brom will be sufficient for the Black Cats to extend their seven-year stay in the top flight and cap a stunning escape from the jaws of relegation.
Sunderland would become only the second team in Premier League history - ironically following the Baggies - to be bottom of the table at Christmas and avoid the drop, after the Black Cats boasted just a point on the board when Poyet took charge in October.
Even after Sunderland enjoyed a change of fortunes under Poyet at the turn of the year, the Wearsiders were seven points adrift of safety with six games to go.
But now Sunderland have the chance to seal their top flight status, with a draw tonight effectively confirming Norwich’s relegation, due to their inferior goal difference.
Poyet realises the significance of that achievement, both financially and in terms of the club’s development, and says it would exceed taking Sunderland to March’s Capital One Cup final.
“I think the cup final is a moment of pride; walking out with the team on a very special day for the fans,” said Poyet.
“But keeping Sunderland up would be my biggest achievement.
“For the consequences of going down and what it means to be in the Premier League, it’s huge.
“It gives you fans right across the world. It’s going to be expensive for me to take a few shirts over to Uruguay!
“Right or wrong, it gives the club that exposure and that always helps.
“People are talking about Sunderland now in many, many places - Spain, Argentina - and that brings something to the club for the future.”
While a point from either tonight’s clash or Sunday’s visit of Swansea would be sufficient for Sunderland, Poyet is targeting a fourth successive Premier League victory tonight.
West Brom have won seven of their last eight meetings with Sunderland, but Poyet says the Black Cats cannot be content with a draw in front of a crowd well in excess of 40,000.
The head coach added: “We need to make sure we don’t play for a point. We need to win the game. I think that’s the best way to get over the line.
“It would be wrong to prepare the game to draw it. I don’t know how to prepare for a draw.
“Of course, if there’s three minutes to go and it’s a draw and there’s a possibility to slow down the game, fantastic.
“But from the beginning of the game, it’s about winning.
“That means playing at a high tempo, creating chances and being solid. Those are things we have been doing for the last seven or eight games, but have got over the line in the last four.
“We know it’s going to be another difficult game because West Brom have always done well against us.
“West Brom defended well at Norwich and got their result from working hard.
“They made it difficult for Arsenal the other day too and had a couple of chances.
“It’s going to be difficult, but it’s possible.”