Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Football: Cats Have Stamina to Go the Distance

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Football: Cats Have Stamina to Go the Distance

Article excerpt

Byline: By Luke Edwards

DEAN Whitehead believes both he and Sunderland are getting stronger at precisely the right stage of the season as the Black Cats prepare for their vital relegation showdown with Wigan at the weekend.

Despite hovering in and around the drop zone all season, the Black Cats have begun to offer an increasingly persuasive argument that they have the quality to avoid another immediate return to the Coca Cola Championship. Despite a dreadful 3-0 home defeat to Wigan in the FA Cup last month, the Wearsiders have won three successive home games in the Premier League and are two points above the bottom three ahead of another clash with their fellow strugglers at the Stadium of Light on Saturday. And Whitehead, who is only just starting to find his form after a serious knee injury is confident the Black Cats will be safe because they traditionally get better as the season goes on.

"Our destiny is in our own hands and it's a good position to be in not to rely on anyone else," said Whitehead, who suffered a knee ligament injury in August which was initially believed to have ended his season.

"If we do our jobs properly we'll be fine. We've got a lot of confidence in the squad so there is no reason why we can't push up the table and start to look at the middle rather than the bottom. We haven't set any points targets, we just want to get as many as we can.

"We're getting a bit more momentum. We've brought in a lot of players and we've got stronger as the season has gone on. That's something Sunderland have always had, certainly since I've been here."

Despite three successive home wins in the league, Sunderland have not been able to pull clear of trouble because they have not picked up any points on the road since the 2-2 draw against Middlesbrough on September 22, a run of nine successive defeats.

It is a failing, Whitehead concedes, that may yet prove to be their undoing unless they can solve the problem in the coming weeks. He said: "We haven't been able to pull away from trouble. It's the same for all the teams down there. …

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