Two-goal hero Lamine Kone believes Sunderland’s road to Premier League survival has demonstrated the foundations for the club to break the annual pattern of struggle.
Sunderland secured their place in the top flight – and sent both Norwich and neighbours Newcastle United into the Championship – after romping over the finishing line to safety with a 3-0 rout over Everton last night.
Sam Allardyce’s men built on Saturday’s stunning comeback against Chelsea – and continued a positive run of form since the January transfer window, which has seen Sunderland register 26 points from 18 league games in 2016.
Boss Allardyce has insisted that Sunderland now need to ensure their summer recruitment is as successful as their January buys if they are to avoid yet another relegation scrap next season.
But Kone believes there is a back-bone of a successful side at Allardyce’s disposal after Sunderland have suffered just four defeats in their last 18 games.
Kone told the Gazette: “Definitely the club should be higher up than it is and I think we’ve proven that with some of the performances we’ve put in during the last few games.
“We’ve been solid, strong and I think our home form has been a lot better as well.
“We certainly shouldn’t be struggling down in 17th and struggling to stay up.
“I wouldn’t say we knew we were going to stay up after Norwich (last month’s win) but that was a massive step because they could have gone seven points ahead of us.
“But for me, the match that really sealed it was Chelsea after we were trailing 2-1 and then came back to win it 3-2.
“From that point on, I knew that nothing would stop us against Everton.”
Kone’s brace from a pair of corners opened his Sunderland tally after his header in February’s victory over Manchester United was officially registered as a David De Gea own goal.
“The goal against Man United didn’t count, so scoring last night was a bit like revenge!” said Kone.
“The most important thing though was the three points. It was such an important thing for us, the fans, the gaffer, the staff and the whole city.
“We’re staying in the Premier League and that feels great.”
After the victory over Chelsea, Sunderland knew that two points from the final two games would be sufficient for them to remain in the Premier League, yet Kone admits there is a big sense of relief that there is nothing riding on Sunday’s final day trip to Watford.
“It was a really big evening for the club and we really wanted to win it,” added the 27-year-old.
“I think we wanted it more than Everton and the most important thing is Sunderland staying in the Premier League.
“It was really important to avoid going to the last day, because I think we’d have had a bigger pressure on us going away from home, all the more so because Norwich won last night.
“It would have still been possible on the last day, which we knew, but we were really strong, wanted it and we got it.”