Skipper looks back on late surge.
John O’Shea has picked up medals galore during a glittering career, but he says Sunderland’s late-season revival ranks up there amongst the more satisfying achievements of his time in football so far.
The Black Cats’ captain was a key figure as Gus Poyet’s side recovered from being seven points adrift with less than a month of the season remaining.
We’re already thinking about making sure that next year we start off much better, so we don’t find ourselves in the situation we’ve just come through
- John O'Shea
Famous wins at Chelsea and Manchester United, plus home victories over Cardiff and West Brom plus an action-packed draw at Manchester City saw Sunderland finish a comfortable 14th after securing safety with a game to spare.
And the defender – a five-time Premier League winner with Manchester United – is keen to push on and ensure no such late charge is required next season when the club line up for an eighth straight top-flight campaign.
“You don’t get any medals from climbing away from the foot of the table, but I was asked how the feeling we have at the moment compares with collecting a winners’ medal,” he said.
“Undoubtedly the elation we’re all experiencing has got to be up there.
“The achievement is all the more satisfying because of the teams we’ve had to face in recent weeks and the pressure we were under when we were written off.
“We’ve stood up to it and after last season and we’re already thinking about making sure that next year we start off much better, so we don’t find ourselves in the situation we’ve just come through.”
Sunderland averaged better than a point a game after Poyet’s arrival in October as well as reaching the Capital One Cup final.
And O’Shea praised the head coach after the club’s successful survival bid, particularly highlighting the way the coaching staff stuck to their footballing principles.
“We took only one point from the first seven games so right from the moment the gaffer came in we’ve been chasing teams, but it’s to the credit of the head coach and his staff that they’ve stuck to their guns in terms of how they wanted us to play.
“They’ve got their ideas across about how they want to see us create chances, and so credit is due to them as well as to the players who have worked hard to put these ideas into practice.”
Meanwhile O’Shea has also thanked the club’s supporters for their backing, with the average attendance at the Stadium of Light increasing to over 41,000.
Each of the last three home games were attended by more than 45,000 people as the red and white army roared their side over the line.
“The fans have been brilliant,” said O’Shea, who has just finished his third season on Wearside.
“On behalf of all the players, let me say a big thank you to each and every one of you.”