WHEN even the manager admits his side “need a miracle” then you know gravity is bringing the hammer down on the final nail in the coffin.
Just over five months ago, Gus Poyet experienced his darkest day as Sunderland boss.
Sitting in the same White Hart Lane auditorium where Paolo Di Canio had delivered such an explosive address at the conclusion of the previous season, Poyet made no attempt to mask the magnitude of Sunderland’s plight.
A 5-1 rout at the hands of Spurs - after Lee Cattermole’s first Sunderland goal had given the Black Cats the lead - came in the midst of a run of five successive defeats which put the club on a collision course with the Championship.
As he looks back on that fateful Monday night now, Poyet insists he hadn’t accepted Sunderland were doomed at that stage.
But he realised the magnitude of what was needed to achieve the near-impossible - hence the now familiar comments about miracles.
“In that press conference, I was trying to show my common sense,” Poyet said, prior to renewing acquaintances with his former club tomorrow.
“I’m very realistic.
“We needed to win four or five games, and with the teams we still had to play against - Everton, Man City, Chelsea etc - it was difficult to see how we’d do that after we hadn’t won six in the whole season.
“That was the idea of saying ‘miracle’ nothing else.
“After Tottenham, we played Everton - who were on fire - and we played the same game, but still lost by an own goal.
“Those situations get you down.
“But then we clicked and for whatever reason, it was at the right time.
“Now we’ve got the final group this season, I’m going to challenge the players to show commitment and be in the team when it clicks again this time.”
Poyet admits his comments at Spurs were tinged by a return of just one point from the previous five league games, where nothing seemed to be going in Sunderland’s favour.
“Whatever we were doing, we couldn’t win,” he said.
“We had a great 88 minutes against Palace, but couldn’t score and nearly lost.
“We played a more than decent game against Liverpool away and we didn’t get a point.
“We played well enough to win against West Ham, but we lost.
“It was every single game.
“And then we went to Spurs and we got destroyed.
“So yes, it looked really, really bad at that time. The team was quite lost.”
Sunderland are in a far more positive place ahead of tomorrow’s visit of Spurs, although the Black Cats remain on the look-out for a first Premier League win this time around.
But Poyet, who has a fully fit squad at his disposal, knows Sunderland need to produce their best performance of the season if they are to break their league duck.
“Last year, we got destroyed at Spurs away and even at home (December’s 2-1 defeat) it was one of my darkest days,” he added.
“I didn’t like the way we played in the second half at the Stadium of Light at all.
“They’ve got quality and a very interesting team with a new manager, so we need to be good.
“Sometimes I say to the players, okay is not enough and this is a game where we need to be better than okay.
“We need to take advantage of certain things. We’ve got no excuses, everyone is fit, we’ll see.”