Sunderland set for happy holidays

ROY KEANE is beginning to look forward to his summer. Ten weeks which could have been spent in bitter recrimination over a season gone horribly wrong now promise giddy excitement in Sunderland, with Premier League status virtually assured after Keane’s team found their form at just the right time.

Keane is hardly the holidaying type so he will instead spend the break drawing up battle-plans for a campaign which traditionally derails newly-promoted sides. He has been promised funds — up to €60 million — by the club owners and targets will be discussed as soon as safety is mathematically confirmed.

“You are always in discussions with your scouts, looking at potential targets,” he said.

“We will be in a lot better position this summer than last year because things happen quickly. We didn’t have a scouting system and we were chasing our tail a little bit.

“If, and it’s a big if because we have to get over that finishing line, I think we’re in a better position to bring in a certain type of player.

“The summer is an important period for any club but all these lads are doing themselves proud.”

“I had great backing last summer and great backing since I came to the club. I’ve made a lot of changes, not just with the players but the staff too. I do believe that we haven’t really got started yet so we have to try to improve the club on every level.”

Roy Hodgson, the Fulham manager, is facing a similar challenge, except his building will almost certainly be taking place in the championship.

Hodgson was visibly upset after his side were nudged closer to the trapdoor thanks to goals from Danny Collins, Michael Chopra and Kenwyne Jones, with David Healy’s 74th-minute goal providing little more than meagre consolation.

“I’m fairly low at this moment,” Hodgson said. “I didn’t come into this game thinking we were going to lose it.

“Nothing certainly in the first 30 or 40 minutes of the game really gave me the impression that I was going to be standing here at the end of the game with tears in my eyes.

“We are still six points adrift, if we’d had the scenario I was dreaming of, we’d only be three points adrift — but we’re six points behind.

“There’s five games left to go, three of those are away from home, one of the home games is Liverpool, so if people are writing us off, I can quite understand it.”

Sunderland led from the moment Collins headed in after nipping between Aaron Hughes and Brede Hangeland.

Fulham started the second-half with renewed optimism, yet any hopes of earning a point were dashed when substitute Chopra added a second.

A long goal-kick up field was headed on by Jones and Chopra beat Hughes again to chip over the on-rushing Kasey Keller.

Healy briefly enflamed Fulham’s hopes by curling in expertly from the edge of the box but Sunderland restored their advantage two minutes later when Jones held off Hangeland to slot home from Dean Whitehead’s pass.

The goal ensured a comfortable win for Roy Keane’s side, who recorded their first victory in London in 23 attempts.

FULHAM (4-4-2): Keller 6, Stalteri 5 (Dempsey 62, 6), Hughes 3, Hangeland 4, Konchesky 6, Davies 6, Andreasen 5, (Healy 57, 7), Murphy 5, Bullard 7, McBride 6, Kamara 6 (Bouazza 72, 6).,

Subs Not Used: Warner, Bocanegra.

SUNDERLAND (4-4-2): Gordon 6, Bardsley 6, Nosworthy 6, Evans 6, Collins 7, Edwards 5, (Chopra 46, 6), Whitehead 6, Reid 7, Richardson 5, (Leadbitter 57, 5), Murphy 7, (O’Donovan 87, 5), Jones 8.

Subs Not Used: Fulop, Higginbotham.

REFEREE: Mark Halsey (Lancashire) 7: Kept the game flowing and steered clear of any controversy. Neither manager had any complaints.

MATCH RATING: *** This match was thrilling in parts — yet dire in others. The only difference between the two sides was Sunderland’s ability to finish off their chances.

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