Al­lardyce talks up chances of sur­vival af­ter tri­umph

The Daily Telegraph - Total Football - - BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE - By Jonathan Liew at Car­row Road

No man­ager en­joys talk­ing about his own vic­to­ries as much as Sam Al­lardyce. In the af­ter­math of a big win – and there can have been few big­ger than this – he gushes with the self-sat­is­fied vain­glory of a man savour­ing his own farts. He leaves no de­tail un­touched in ex­plain­ing ex­actly how he pulled it off. And af­ter this leviathan of a tri­umph we were treated to it yet again.

“We han­dled the pres­sure bet­ter than them,” the Sun­der­land man­ager said af­ter a 3-0 win that blew the rel­e­ga­tion bat­tle wide open. “It was scrappy at times, but some­times you have to dig it out: the back four, the goal­keeper, the fin­ish­ing and the counter-at­tack­ing style we used to­day to great ef­fect. Stand­ing up to the long balls into the box. We used the ball ex­tremely well, so the counter-at­tack­ing foot­ball paid off in the end and it’s a mas­sive re­sult for us.”

And that was the edited-down ver­sion. Yet who could blame him? This was a game that could have sealed Sun­der­land’s fate – and his own. From the mo­ment he got into a touch­line scrap with the Nor­wich bench in the third minute, no­body could doubt how pumped he was. A win for Nor­wich would have left Sun­der­land seven points adrift of their East Anglian ri­vals, in­stead they are now one point from safety with a game in hand. “It’s the big­gest per­for­mance and win of the sea­son for us,” he said.

Alex Neil dis­puted Al­lardyce’s sug­ges­tion that Nor­wich had failed to han­dle the pres­sure of the oc­ca­sion. “I think that’s a lot of rub­bish,” the man­ager said. “They got a penalty against the run of play, then a break­away goal, ar­guably af­ter a free-kick. We had 14 cor­ners, they had zero. We were dom­i­nant. If he deems that to be han­dling the pres­sure bet­ter then I don’t agree.”

This was a mas­ter­class of an away per­for­mance from Sun­der­land, but

one that does not in it­self point to their sur­vival. Against su­pe­rior op­po­nents they will need to show more qual­ity. They will not get as much space nor as many op­por­tu­ni­ties to counter-at­tack against, say, Ar­se­nal next Sun­day.

But we did learn that Sun­der­land have heart in abun­dance. “We are all team-mates and we look af­ter each other,” said Fabio Borini, scorer of the first goal from the penalty spot and cre­ator of the sec­ond. “Our chang­ing room is out­stand­ing and one of the best I have ever been in. We showed that when we work to­gether we can play foot­ball.”

This, as much as the three points, was the real value of Satur­day’s per­for­mance. In each of the All for one: Fabio Borini praised his team’s spirit last three sea­sons, Sun­der­land have man­aged to es­cape from the seem­ingly ir­re­sistible clutches of Cham­pi­onship foot­ball. How do they man­age it?

“I spoke to Lee Cattermole,” Al­lardyce said. “He said that play­ers have given that lit­tle bit more, had a bit more qual­ity, and had a bit more luck.”

Nor­wich have the op­po­site predica­ment. They have the qual­ity, but Neil does not know what sort of per­for­mance he can ex­pect from one week to the next.

But here is the is­sue: of the 14 Nor­wich play­ers who played on Satur­day, 11 have been rel­e­gated be­fore. This is a squad fight­ing not just Sun­der­land and New­cas­tle, but its own haunt­ing mem­o­ries.

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