SEB LARSSON is favourite to be crowned Player of the Year at the Sunderland Supporters Association’s awards night next week.
In a season of drudgery where Sunderland have proved masters of the constant let-down, Larsson has been one of the few whose performance levels have boasted a level of consistency.
I don’t think it can get much tougher than it was last yearSEB LARSSON
But there is little to cheer about for Larsson at present; at least while Sunderland’s Premier League existence hangs by a thread.
After helping Sunderland to a fifth derby win in a row, the suspended Swede has watched helpless from the sidelines as the Black Cats have taken a solitary point from the subsequent two games and slipped into the relegation zone. For the third successive year, Larsson is involved in a battle to keep Sunderland in the Premier League and he’s not welcomed the familiar feeling.
He said: “After last year, to think we’re in this situation again is incredibly frustrating.”
But can the likes of Larsson, John O’Shea, Lee Cattermole and Connor Wickham – integral figures in the Great Escape – channel that experience into this season’s battle against the drop?
There is a sense that last year’s fetes were unique after Sunderland took seven points from trips to Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United.
Yet as a seasoned veteran of relegation battles – one which ended unsuccessfully during his final year at former club Birmingham – Larsson believes there are benefits from learning to stay level-headed during the nerve-shredder at the wrong end of the table.
“I don’t think it can get much tougher than it was last year,” said Larsson.
“If you put another team in that situation again, I don’t think it will happen too many times.
“But you’ve got to draw on your experiences from previous year sand unfortunately we’ve got plenty of being in this situation.
“For once, that might be a good thing for us.
“Towards the last few weeks of the season when you’re involved in a relegation battle like this, emotions go up and down.
“One day you feel great, and the next day you feel low, thinking things look difficult.
“That’s when the experience comes in and maybe a few of us who have been involved in it before, have to make sure we keep our emotions in check and realise it’s up to ourselves to sort this out.”
A point in the second game of Larsson’s two-match ban at Stoke City last weekend took Sunderland’s tally of draws this season to 15 – just two shy of equalling the Premier League record.
But draws are no good to Sunderland now, with Larsson admitting that the Black Cats have to chance their arm to get two wins from the remaining five games, which are realistically needed to beat the drop.
“Yeah probably we need to take more risks, at least in the latter part of games if we’re not winning,” added the 29-year-old.
“At times, we maybe haven’t taken enough risks this season.
“But that’s gone. It’s in the past. Earlier on in the season, you might say we’re not going to lose it.
“But now you’ve got to say we’ve got to go for it. We’ll have to look back on the (amount of) draws at the end of the season.
“Of course, that’s a major factor. If you lose seven of those and win the other eight, you’re far better off.”
– CHRIS YOUNG