DAVID MOYES is hoping managerial stability will be the key to Sunderland achieving an unlikely success as they battle to avoid relegation in the final two months of the season.
With Aitor Karanka having left Middlesbrough on Thursday, the Black Cats are now the only club involved in the Premier League relegation battle not to have changed their manager this term.
That is a marked contrast to previous years, when a change at the top has sparked Sunderland into life and inspired a late-season surge away from the relegation zone.
If the Black Cats are to avoid the drop this term, they will do so with Moyes in charge, with owner Ellis Short having no desire to switch managers as he looks to keep his monetary outlay to a minimum.
That could look a misguided strategy if Boro enjoy a post-Karanka bounce when they entertain Manchester United tomorrow, but with Sunderland having dug themselves into a financial hole because of their constant chopping and changing of managers, Moyes insists a period of stability is essential if long-term security is to be secured.
“There’s a lot of good managers who have lost their jobs, which is sad,” said the Sunderland boss, ahead of this afternoon’s home game with Burnley. “Whatever walk of life you’re in, if you lose (your job), it’s not something anybody likes.
“I’ve got a lot of experience, a lot of Premier League games under my belt, and the players here have a lot of experience of this situation too. So let’s hope we can pull it together.
“It (sacking the manager) might prove to work for some clubs, but I think over the piece, changing isn’t the answer.
“I think having stability at a football club would always outweigh changing, unless you’re a club that’s always changing manager and spending money. But if you want to build a football club, you’ve got to have stability.”
Karanka’s departure from Teesside has turned the spotlight onto Moyes, with some Sunderland fans claiming the Scotsman has been given too easy a ride this season.
There are undoubtedly mitigating factors to Sunderland’s struggles, most notably a lack of investment in the last two transfer windows, the untimely departure of Sam Allardyce last summer and a horrendous injury list that shows no sign of improving, but shouldn’t Moyes be doing better given the Black Cats’ strong finish to last season?
Moyes has only spent two weeks of the season outside the bottom three, and has struggled to address many of the problems that have contributed to Sunderland’s struggles this term, yet he retains complete faith in his abilities.
He enjoyed considerable success during his time at Everton, but readily admits guiding Sunderland to safety would rate as one of the biggest achievements of his career.
“It would obviously have to rank incredibly high,” he said. “But I think whatever club you’re at, you have different levels of what you’re trying to do.
“At Everton, it was trying to qualify for Europe or finish above Liverpool. Manchester United was winning the Premier League and Champions League, and winning cups. Sunderland at the moment is avoiding relegation. They all have their own level of achievement, and I see it as a really big job.”
That job has not got any easier over the last seven days, with Jan Kirchhoff having suffered a recurrence of his knee injury that could keep him out of action for another six weeks.
Lee Cattermole and Victor Anichebe could be available for the start of next month, but neither will feature in today’s game against the Clarets.
Goodness knows what would happen if Jermain Defoe was to be unavailable for the run-in, so while there is a strong sense of pride at the striker’s recall to the England squad, there is also understandable trepidation at the 34-year-old being subjected to an extra two matches.
Moyes admits he will be watch England’s games with Germany and Lithuania with a sense of nervousness, but accepts there is no chance of withdrawing Defoe from the international ranks.
“At all the clubs I’ve been at, I’ve never pulled anyone out of an international,” he said. “It’s prestige for the player, for the football club, and I just think people playing for their country is a great honour. Why would you ever take a player away from that?
“We’ve got to hope he doesn’t come back injured, but I hope it lifts his level of performances and the level of the supporters. I also hope it shows English players out on loan at an English club right now, if you come to Sunderland, you can play for England.
“Even an old player can resurrect their career here, and I always thought having England internationals in your squad was a sign of where your club was.”
The brutal reality is that Sunderland kick off today’s game at the foot of the table, and a win is surely essential if they are to have any chance of clambering to safety.
“Sometimes in games like this, we’ve not performed that well, so we have to show we can win when the stakes are high,” said Moyes. “It’s an opportunity to try to take three points – and a big one. Things can look so much different if that happens.”