WITH Gus Poyet suffering from a head cold which left him peering out between snood and hat during Sunderland’s win over Stoke City, it was left to first-team coach Charlie Oatway to face the Press afterwards.
And Oatway was not afraid to hype up the importance and the significance of the Black Cats’ first Premier League home win since November – a result which took them out of the bottom three for the first time in 151 days.
“It’s fantastic for us to be out of the bottom three, if I’m honest,” he beamed. “It has been a long time coming.
“When Gus and the rest of us first arrived at Sunderland, it was one of our very first aims.
“It has taken a long time to do it but the satisfaction in the camp is fantastic.
“It would be wrong of me to say that now we’re out of the bottom three the shackles will come off because I don’t think we’ve been playing with the shackles on particularly.
“I think we have been improving generally as the season progresses and maybe we’ll feel a little more at ease now that we’ve got a home win and are out of the bottom three.
“But we are taking nothing for granted.”
Oatway admitted that it was not easy for him or Poyet or any of the coaching staff to watch a final half-hour of purgatory when Sunderland laboured against 10-men Stoke and could easily have surrendered their slender lead.
“You know what to expect come to town – they never disappoint you,” he said.
“They look to put balls into the box and they fight tooth and nail for every ball.
“So there were always going to be periods in the game when we were going to have our backs against the wall when you are playing Stoke.
“And that’s when your players have to stand up and be count and thankfully we stood up to it – there were quite a few boys out there who played like real men for us.”