MARTIN O’Neill admits Sunderland are in a relegation battle as Christmas beckons – but insists so is every other team in the league apart from the established Premier League giants.
His Sunderland side head into the festive programme with the club in an uncomfortable position, having played more games than they have points.
That spell begins this weekend against the team just below them in the league, Southampton, and O’Neill does not deny that the battle at the bottom between 16th and 17th-placed teams has to be seen as a six-pointer.
But he says that many of the teams above Sunderland are in no position to relax and cannot consider themselves out of it until it becomes a statistical fact.
“You look at the league table at the moment and teams in the bottom half have no breathing space,” he said. “Neither the teams above us nor the teams below us.
“That’s the reality of the Premier League these days.
“There’s only about half a dozen side who can start any one season feeling there’s going to be absolutely no danger of the drop.
“I’m talking about your Man Uniteds and Man Citys, Arsenals and Chelseas.
“They, and a few others, know that they don’t realistically have to worry about the possibility of relegation.
“But for the rest of us, the bulk of the Premier League, and a few of the teams in the top half of the table, it’s not something we can rely on.
“It’s all about getting points on the board, about getting to that safety mark where you absolutely know you’re not going down. Until you get to that point, you can’t talk about breathing sighs of relief when you get a good result or two.”