Sunderland Interim Boss Sets Season Target

Sunderland interim manager Mike Dodds still harbours play-off ambitions despite seeing his side fall to another defeat against Norwich City yesterday.

A late strike from Josh Sargent was enough to see the Canaries emerge from Carrow Road with the victory, a result which put David Wagner’s side within a point of Hull City in the final play-off position. However, this latest setback means the Black Cats remain in 10th but more importantly, nine points off the top six.

Dodds was handed the reins on an interim basis for the third time last month following the sacking of Michael Beale after just 12 games in charge. Sunderland stated soon afterwards that they have no intention of naming a permanent successor until the summer, leaving the 37-year-old the unenviable task of making up the ground on the teams above them.

Four successive defeats look to have ended their hopes of earning a shot at the Premier League though, after losing in the play-off semi final against Luton Town last season. However, the temporary boss was quick to point out that his team were underdogs heading into the final stages of the campaign last year and still believes the Wearsiders have a shot of matching that success:

“I don’t know where we were this time last year but I wouldn’t think it will be a million miles apart (from where they are now) and what we did last year was we went on an unbelievable run which took it to the last game of the season,” Dodds told The Northern Echo.

“The magnitude of this football club doesn’t allow you not to want to win every single game. The play-offs are still very much in my mind.

“I know we’re in a spot, I appreciate that. But I watch the group work every single day and if I felt there was a level of complacency, or people not being solely focused on the task at hand which is to try and achieve the top six, then I wouldn’t select them. It would be that simple for me.

“Last year we went on an amazing run and I feel we’re really close to doing really well and at the moment there are some fine margins that just aren’t going our way.”

Sunderland have now lost four games on the bounce and know that they can’t afford any more slip ups. However, Dodds remains confident that a change in fortunes is on the cards:

“I see a group who is striving to improve and is striving to get better, I don’t see a group that has given up on that.

“What we have to do is keep doing what we’re doing on the training pitch, which is a really positive thing, and sooner rather than later the tide will turn if we just stay focused and concentrate on what we’re doing.”

The Black Cats have a tough week coming up as they host Leicester City on Tuesday before travelling to Southampton to next weekend.

Writer’s View

The Championship is a funny league and Dodds is right to not throw the towel in just yet. We’ve seen with Leicester just how quickly things can turn, with the Foxes steamrolling to the title just a few weeks ago. However, a poor run of form now means that their lead at the top is down to a slender three points.

Sunderland must take inspiration from that and there is no reason why they cannot achieve a top six finish. They need to turn things around quickly though, and it is imperative that they return to winning ways this week.

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