Thursday 23 November 2017

Leicester celebrate as Black Cats look over shoulder

Sunderland 0-0 Leicester

Leicester manager Nigel Pearson saw his side secure their place in the Premier League
Leicester manager Nigel Pearson saw his side secure their place in the Premier League

Luke Edwards

For Leicester City, there was euphoria mixed with relief.

Mission impossible turned out to be possible after all. Relegation had been avoided, gloomy predictions had been proved wrong and there is optimism for the future.

For Sunderland, there was a similar sense of satisfaction, yet there was something else too. A nagging sense that something could still go horribly wrong.

The disaster of relegation has probably been averted, the decision to sack Gus Poyet and bring in Dick Advocaat on a short-term contract appears to have been vindicated, but appearances can be deceptive.

Sunderland have two teams below them in the table who are far more at risk of going down.

Hull City are three points behind, Newcastle United one, yet there could still be tears and recriminations next weekend.

The problem is that, while Sunderland may have two games left to play, one more than their rivals, they could not be two tougher tests as they travel to Arsenal on Wednesday and Chelsea on the final day of the season.

"The feelings are pretty mixed, although the most important thing is that we're now three points clear of Hull," said striker Connor Wickham. "I wouldn't say we're too disappointed because we know what we have to do now."

Leicester have no such worries thanks to a phenomenal run which saw them win seven of their past nine games. They end the season at the top of the Premier League form table, which is remarkable given they went three months without a win between September and December.

Nigel Pearson came close to losing his job, but he has earned admirers because of the way he kept Leicester going through it all.

"I'm a human being," he said. "I'm not going to lie. There have been moments where you question whether we could do it (stay up). But if there were moments like that, they certainly didn't last very long.

Meanwhile, Sam Allardyce has a strange seven days coming up. This time next week he may have helped to relegate his former club Newcastle, achieved West Ham's pre-season target of 50 points and 10th place, as well as qualifying for Europe, yet still find himself out of work.

Allardyce's contract expires in the summer and there has been no indication that he will be given a chance to lead the club into their new home at the Olympic Stadium.

"I've never heard the board say I'm not doing a good job," he said. "I want to see this through.

West Ham looked set for victory against Everton when Stewart Downing put them ahead in the 62nd minute, but Leon Osman equalised and Romelu Lukaku hit the winner in stoppage-time.

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