IT’S been an incredible few weeks to be a Sunderland supporter. Written off as relegation certainties with six games remaining, Gus Poyet’s team have defied the odds with an incredible escape act.
Here the Gazette looks back at how they pulled off the ‘great escape’...
“I THINK there’s something wrong at the football club and I have to find it.”
So spoke Sunderland boss Gus Poyet on April 12 after watching his side slip to a fifth successive defeat that saw the club rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table.
A 1-0 defeat to Everton at the Stadium of Light left the Black Cats seven points from safety with six games remaining. Relegation, it seemed, was inevitable.
Yet 25 days later, the mood couldn’t be more different.
A 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion on Wednesday night completed a remarkable five-game turnaround in fortunes that saw 13 points taken from a possible 15 and safety achieved with a game to spare.
The ‘great escape’ had been pulled off.
Here, we look back on famous five games for Sunderland fans.
MANCHESTER CITY (A) 2-2
WRITTEN off by many as a guaranteed home win for title-chasing City, only a last-gasp equaliser prevented Sunderland from doing the double over the Premier League’s champions-elect.
Behind to an early strike from Fernandinho, the back-in-favour Connor Wiickham stunned Manuel Pellegrini’s richly-assembled side with two late second-half strikes.
That looked enough to clinch a shock win, only for keeper Vito Mannone to spill a Samir Nasri effort a minute from time.
CHELSEA (A) 2-1
WHEN Samuel Eto’o gave Chelsea an early lead at Stamford Bridge, few imagined Jose Mourinho’s proud record of never losing a Premier League home game as Blues boss would be under threat.
But come full-time it lay in tatters as the Black Cats delivered a crushing blow to the London outfit’s title chances.
That man Wickham netted again to quickly cancel out Chelsea’s lead before Fabio Borini kept his nerve to score from the spot eight minutes from time and inflict a first home league defeat upon Mourinho in 78 games.
The Black Cats had belief again...
CARDIFF CITY 4-0
BILLED as a do-or-die relegation showdown between two basement rivals, it was the Welshmen left reeling after a victory that lifted Sunderland out of the bottom three.
Two more goals from man-of-the-moment Whickham, sandwiched in between another Borini penalty and a strike from Emanuele Giaccherini, delighted a 42,000 crowd.
“We’ve got to continue what we’ve been doing,” said Whickham after the game. His team-mates wouldn’t disappoint...
MANCHESTER UNITED 1-0
A LANDMARK win as a Seb Larsson goal gave Sunderland a first league victory at Old Trafford since 1968.
The win left Gus Poyet’s men effectively needing a point from their remaining two home games to be safe and complete an amazing escape act.
At the Theatre of Dreams – where the Black Cats had booked their Wembley date for the Capital One Cup Final earlier in the year – Gus Poyet, his players and fans were daring to dream again...
WEST BROMWICH ALBION 2-0
FROM the moment Jack Colback put Sunderland ahead in the 13th minute, the celebrations started at the Stadium of Light.
A cool finish from Borini on the half-hour mark swept away any lingering doubts. The ‘miracle’ had happened.
“It is one of the biggest achievements of my life” said an emotional Poyet after taking the acclaim of supporters at the final whistle.
Now the Black Cats can look forward to August with renewed hope and optimism.