Lee Cattermole has warned the rest of the Premier League’s strugglers that Sunderland’s annual scrap for survival is finally under way.
The Black Cats battled their way to a 2-2 draw with West Ham at the Stadium of Light on Saturday, in the process collecting two fewer points than they craved, but closing the gap to safety to nine.
They have dragged themselves back from the brink in each of the last four seasons – although admittedly from positions which have been marginally less taxing – and while their cause looks forlorn with just six games remaining, Cattermole is convinced the charge is on.
He said: “Honestly, that’s as positive as I’ve felt after a game for a long time. If we have to start with a draw, we’ll start with a draw, but I think you’ll definitely see us look to build on that.
“We will behind the scenes.”
As ever, the Sunderland fans among a crowd of 40,168 were put through the wringer as they saw the home side succumb to Andre Ayew’s fifth-minute opener before Wahbi Khazri, starting a game for the first time since October 29, levelled direct from a corner.
David Moyes’ men conceded once again within two minutes of the restart when James Collins glanced home a header and it took a last-gasp equaliser from substitute Fabio Borini, thrown into the mix after full-back Billy Jones was carried off on a stretcher after being knocked out when his head hit the turf, to salvage a point.
The Hammers had defender Sam Byram sent off for a second bookable offence deep into 10 minutes of added time, but there was no further drama and locals left with mixed feelings.
Backing the boss
Some had booed Moyes during the game and questioned in song his decision not to use man of the match Khazri to any significant extent in recent months, although the Scot took it on the chin afterwards.
He said: “When you’re a football manager, if you’re not doing well, you expect to be criticised. They’ve had a lot of football managers here and they’ve criticised a lot of them.”
Moyes is not the first Sunderland boss to find himself in the firing line during a miserable period in the club’s recent history, but Cattermole is not convinced the crowd has turned on him.
The 29-year-old midfielder said: “Listen, I don’t think they turned against the manager, not the way I have seen other managers being treated. I don’t think they’ve turned against him.
“Which fans are happy? Which players are happy? Which manager is happy? No-one is happy at the football club at the minute because of the position we are in.”