Sunderland’s end-of-season form is fast becoming legendary, an upturn in form over the last two weeks leading many to wonder whether another great escape is on the horizon.
Black Cats boss David Moyes has admitted that the performance indicators and statistics have proven an uplift in his players’ displays in recent times.
The 0-0 draw at home to Tottenham and 4-0 drubbing of relegation rivals Crystal Palace have taken the Wearsiders within two points of Premier League safety.
That offers great hope for the rest of this season but is a concern for the Scot looking to the long-term.
He said: “Sunderland, in the past few years, have picked up in the second half of the season.
“I can tell you the team, physically, is working harder and running more than in the first part of the season – I don’t know why, but we are.
“Hopefully that’s showing the signs.
“Hopefully we’ll stay up this year and, if we do, there’ll be a bigger inquest as to ‘why do we always start the season this bad?’
“But, at this moment in time, we need to finish this season well – we’re still up against it, we’re sitting bottom of the league, but we know one or two weeks (with good results) can get us in a much stronger position.”
Moyes has also told his players that they will have to handle the weight of expectation when Southampton visit this afternoon.
Injuries, sales and the distraction of the fast-looming EFL Cup final against Manchester United at Wembley have hampered the Saints in recent weeks, and Moyes has told his players to prove they can cope with the pressure of having a “winnable” home match.
He said: “The difficulty is you (reporters) are building the game up as well, putting much more expectation onto us, which we have to be able to take.
“But there’s been games this season where we’ve not taken that well – I can think of Swansea away, when we could have moved out of the bottom three (and duly lost 3-0).
“There’s a part of me saying, I hear what you’re saying, but there’s a part of me that says ‘just focus on the job, stop thinking about what how we might end up’.
“The biggest thing is the good performances tend to lead to good results.
“The performance last week was good, the players’ individual performances were excellent. Can they show that again?
“Play with confidence, take a bit of heart, if we have to play ugly to get the result we’ll do that.
“If the players play as well as they did last week then they’ll give themselves every chance.
“I think many of them reached a better level than we’d seen, I think not just last week but against Tottenham.
“We’ve cut out the defensive mistakes.”
“We have got forwards that we know can score, but we also need people to create goals and other people to score goals.
“Most of those things fell into place, so I’ll say to the players come on, we need you to show it again.”