Sam Allardyce eyes happy ending for Sunderland

Sam Allardyce has admitted his overwhelming emotion will be relief rather than celebration if Sunderland secure their Premier League status tonight.

Sam Allardyce eyes happy ending for Sunderland

Victory over faltering Everton at the Stadium of Light would ensure the Black Cats’ continued presence in the top flight after a fourth successive late escape, something which was far from certain before Saturday’s fine 3-2 win over Chelsea.

However, while manager Allardyce insists his players would deserve to celebrate, his response would be more low key. The 61-year-old said: “I think it will be a big celebration for the players — and I think they should go out and celebrate as well if they can do it.

“But for me, it would be a huge relief to have achieved it in what’s been a very, very difficult season for us all. We have managed to put the club in a position to try to build from where we are.”

Allardyce answered owner Ellis Short’s call to arms in October following Dick Advocaat’s departure and while there has been significant improvement, his mission has gone down to the final week of the campaign, much as he expected it to.

However, should his side ease itself over the finishing line, that would spare him the ignominy of having to add a first top-flight relegation to his curriculum vitae, a secondary concern for the former West Ham and Bolton boss, but a concern nonetheless.

Allardyce said: “My CV still says there’s no relegation from the Premier League on there — in fact, I’ve only ever suffered one relegation, with Notts County where I didn’t take over until late January or early February, so in terms of my management career, it’s been pretty good at avoiding relegation all the way through. Hopefully there’ll be no blemish on it.”

Everton will arrive on Wearside with manager Roberto Martinez’s future a topic of intense debate amid a run which has seen them win just once in nine games, culminating in Saturday’s 3-1 defeat by champions Leicester.

Martinez is expecting a positive reaction from his Everton players. He said: “The reaction has been clear since the final whistle and we all have a strong desire to get back to our best level and tomorrow is the opportunity we have to show that.

“It’s a huge, huge game — not just because of what Sunderland are playing for. I think the integrity of the Premier League has always been the strongest of any league that you’re going to see in Europe, and from our point of view it’s about reacting from our performance against Leicester. Nothing else.”

Everton’s cause has not been helped by the goals drying up for leading scorer Romelu Lukaku. Speculation persists about a big move for the 22-year-old this summer, but Martinez insisted Lukaku has not had his head turned.

“He loves the game so much that I don’t think he’s a player that’s going to get affected by speculation,” said Martinez.

Martinez at least has a couple more defensive options, with Ramiro Funes Mori back from suspension and Gareth Barry likely to be available after recovering from a groin injury.

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