GUS POYET wants Sunderland to break through the 20-point barrier before the turn of the year.
Sunderland have proved to be the draw specialists of the Premier League so far this season after finishing all-square in nine of their 15 outings – five of which have been goalless.
But head coach Poyet is keen for Sunderland to register at least two wins from their remaining four games in 2014 – today’s clash against West Ham, followed by the Tyne-Wear derby, Boxing Day’s visit of Hull and the trip to Aston Villa on December 28.
A pair of victories would take Sunderland beyond 20 points at the halfway mark of the campaign and give Poyet’s side a solid foundation for the second half of the season; certainly a more stable footing than last year when it took the Black Cats until the end of January to reach that benchmark.
Poyet told SportMail: “My idea now is to pass the 20 points before January, somehow.
“We need two, three or four wins. Then we can look at the FA Cup and what is coming after that.
“That would be a much better situation than last year. Perfection would be winning the four.
“Maybe that’s not realistic, but other teams do it somehow.
“If we don’t win four, we need to win three. If we don’t win three, we need to win two.
“I’m not thinking about drawing anymore.
“We’ve been the kings of the draw, but now it’s about winning.
“That doesn’t mean we’re going to play with four strikers and play crazy football. But we need to win.”
Inevitably, thoughts have already begun to turn to next weekend’s clash at St James’s Park, as Sunderland bid for an unprecedented fourth successive win over Newcastle United.
And Poyet admits that if Sunderland can come away with three points against the Hammers, it will give the Cats the perfect platform to face the Magpies. “If we win today, then the derby will come at a great time for us,” he added.
l BLACKPOOL are keeping tabs on Sunderland youngster Connor Oliver, with a view to a January loan move for the midfielder.
Oliver made his professional debut during a two-month loan at League Two Hartlepool United last season and has made nine appearances for Sunderland U21 this time around after initially being dogged by injuries since graduating from the Cats academy.
SportMail understands that Championship Blackpool – now under the stewardship of ex-Sunderland midfielder Lee Clark – have been watching the 20-year-old and are looking to take him on loan when the January transfer window opens.
Sunderland are unlikely to stand in Oliver’s way of playing regular football, with the midfielder not threatening to push for a place in the first-team set-up.
But the Black Cats are now far more conservative in sending their youngsters out on loan to the lower leagues than they have been in previous years.
Only defender Scott Harrison, who has just returned from three months at Pools, and keepers Jordan Pickford and Joel Dixon, have spent time away from the Academy of Light this season.