Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Football: The Only Way Is Up for Cats' Battlers

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Football: The Only Way Is Up for Cats' Battlers

Article excerpt


DANNY Higginbotham claims he has the ability to sense a looming relegation battle - which is why the Sunderland defender is convinced a third Premier League demotion of his career is not on the cards, writes STUART RAYNER.

Saturday's 138th Wear-Tyne derby was the first such occasion for 18 months but Higginbotham is determined to make it a regular fixture - and believes the character in the current Black Cats squad will prevent what has become the yoyo club's bi-annual relegation scuppering that.

The 28-year-old scored his first goal for the Wearsiders on Saturday only for James Milner's fortuitous equaliser to deny the hosts the three points their performance merited. It stretched Sunderland's run of games without a win to seven and Higginbotham believes it is time to start turning unlucky draws into lucky wins.

"Family members and friends keep saying we were unlucky but we're sick of that word," he said. "I'd rather someone said we were awful but got three points. We've got to start turning unlucky into lucky."

Having dropped out of the top flight during spells with Derby County and Southampton, the centre-back is certain it will not happen to him again in May. "The atmosphere, the scenario here, couldn't be further apart," he insisted. "This club is going places and we've got to make sure we are part of that.

"Relegation was my worst memory in football. It's an awful feeling and I don't want to go through it again. I don't even want to think, analyse or talk about it because it's not going to be an issue.

"We are 100% determined this club is going to stay in this division." The biggest contrast, he believes, is mental. "The first thing I noticed when I came here is the strength of character is unbelievable," he said. "Everybody has belief in themselves and each other. …

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