MICHAEL Turner expects Sunderland’s quest for the Premier League’s top 10 to go down to the wire for the second successive year.
Seven teams are bunched together in the middle of the table vying to finish in the top half, with just four points separating eighth placed Liverpool from Stoke City down in 14th.
Sunderland, a point adrift of West Brom in 10th spot after a five-game winless run, faced a similar situation last season, yet leapt four places on the final day of the season to secure a first top half finish in a decade.
Centre-half Turner believes if Sunderland can manage to do the same this time around, it would exceed last year’s achievements after the Black Cats had dropped into the bottom three before Martin O’Neill’s first game in charge last December.
Turner said: “I think with seven teams in there, it’s more or less likely that it will go to the last game to decide those places.
“We just want to win the games coming up and go into the last one seeing where we’re at.
“To finish in the top half again will show some consistency.
“Last season we just about finished 10th so to do it again would be really pleasing for the club.
“When the new manager came in, it was looking like we’d be in a dog-fight at the bottom of the table, but the results pushed us right up the table until we were comfortably mid-table.
“But we want to finish as high as possible going into next season.”
Sunderland need just three more points to match last season’s tally of 44, even though the form of O’Neill’s side has tapered off over the last two months with 12 points from the last 11 games.
But Turner believes there was a sense of inevitability that Sunderland would eventually suffer a dip after O’Neill’s stunning start to life on Wearside, which included seven wins in the former Aston Villa manager’s first 10 Premier League games in charge of the Black Cats.
“Some of the goals we scored were incredible and you did wonder whether that would keep going,” added the 28-year-old.
“But they breed confidence and we’ve been going into the games believing we can win.
“It hasn’t happened over the last few games, but we’re determined to put it right.
“We want to finish as high up the table as possible and achieve something to be proud of at this club, to go into the summer and look back on a good season.”