Lee Cattermole believes the future is bright for Sunderland - if the Black Cats are left celebrating at the end of their week of reckoning.
Sunderland’s longest-serving first-teamer Cattermole has seen over the last four years how prevailing in the survival scrap has solved none of the club’s problems, with the Black Cats finding themselves back in the same situation 12 months later.
If we do stay up, then on the back of this season, I think the four lads the gaffer has brought in have been great
However, the foundations laid by Sam Allardyce appear to be on firmer ground, with Sunderland consistently performing well since the January transfer window and making themselves slight favourites for survival.
If Sunderland can prevail over the final three games, then Cattermole believes January signings Jan Kirchhoff, Lamine Kone and Wahbi Khazri can finally help the club to the long-held objective of stability after they’ve benefited from a pre-season under Allardyce.
“We’ve played a lot better in games for a while now,” said Cattermole.
“If we do stay up, then on the back of this season, I think the four lads the gaffer has brought in have been great.
“Maybe not so much Dame (N’Doye) because he hasn’t had the time, but with Wahbi, I believe if he gets a good pre-season, he could be a real asset for the club. He could be great.
“With big Jan, I don’t think he’d played too many games before he came and fitness has been a bit of an issue, but he’s been so effective for us, even just from goal kicks being that big presence.
“A lot of us need a good pre-season, but that’s way beyond what we need to concentrate on now.”
In previous years after securing survival, Sunderland’s squad has undergone wholesale changes during the close season.
But that has ebbed away at the collective experience of beating the drop and seen players untested in the Premier League brought to the club.
It’s that experience of English football which Cattermole believes is crucial and will see Kirchhoff, Kone and Khazri improve again if Sunderland are still competing in the top flight.
Cattermole added: “Knowing how to get over the line in the Premier League is massive; knowing how to play, and not having to take too many chances.
“A lot of leagues are very possession based and things are a bit more relaxed, but in the Premier League, you don’t have to be that pretty.
“You see that with West Brom – they’re not the prettiest team in the league, but they get the job done and I think that’s what you learn from playing over the years.
“We’ve brought a lot of inexperienced Premier League players in, but if we can stay up and get them involved, they’ll obviously be stronger next year.”