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THE ROKER RAMBLE: Trying To Stay Positive

Rory Fallow looks ahead to February, and why such a daunting set of fixtures might not be so scary after all.

Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Trying to remain positive, a constant state of mind required if you're a Sunderland fan. What can we cling onto at the minute though? Our relegation rivals seem to signing the kind of players required to stay up and they've been able to build more points than us.

A quick look at the form table though shows you that all hope is not lost. Over the last six games we've accumulated more points than Bournemouth, Newcastle, Norwich and Aston Villa. Our dreadful run in December may have given us a rather large cross to bear but we've at least shown that we're not stuck in a rut of losing games.

I'm sure Sam Allardyce will be telling the players not worry about the other teams, to just concentrate on winning games and everything will fall into place. Sounds reasonable doesn't it? But we're supporters, we're not reasonable.

During our pre match pints on Saturday, we watched Norwich go 3-1 up against Liverpool and almost had to swap the beer for something stronger until Norwich imploded. After the final whistle against Bournemouth, we waited with bated breath to hear that Newcastle and Villa had also dropped points that afternoon. Then on Sunday we probably cursed the Everton defence more than Roberto Martinez as Swansea came away from Goodison Park with three points.

So even after such a mixed bag of results last weekend, we still find ourselves four points adrift of safety. During a press conference towards the end of last year, I saw Jurgen Klopp cursing about how Liverpool's loss to Crystal Palace had been their one snag in a recent run of good form; "That f*cking defeat to Crystal Palace" the former BVB boss so eloquently put it. I find myself saying the same thing about our whole December run. Even if we'd just turned one defeat into a draw, it would be feasible for us to climb out of the drop zone with just one win. OK, so it'd only be on goal difference but it would give us fans and the players a huge lift.

The reason I keep mentioning last month so much is because we, on paper, face a similar run of games in February.

At home we'll welcome both the Manchester clubs and we'll also travel to Liverpool and West Ham. Are they that daunting though? The Premier League is ridiculous this season, anyone can see that. It's so ridiculous that i wouldn't even be surprised to see us win a couple of these games. Now this might just be me falling way too far into that positive state of mind required to support Sunderland, but stay with me.

After a ridiculous fixture congestion, Allardyce and the players will be delighted to see the back of January. Next month brings four games in four weeks, a much more relaxing sounding prospect. The same can't be said for Manchester City though who this week face a League Cup semi final clash with Everton before travelling to Aston Villa in the FA Cup on Saturday. After travelling to the Stadium of Light they face two top of the league clashes in consecutive weeks with Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur, before rounding the month off by returning to Champions League action. Manuel Pelliegrini will be coming to Sunderland with all this in mind so there's potential for some tinkering within his starting XI. It wouldn't be unlike City to lose focus against a side like Sunderland either, which such huge games on the horizon.

My main worry about facing City's neighbours, Manchester United, is that they'll do what Chelsea did to us: Sack their manager right before playing us. Louis van Gaal's United aren't striking fear into the hearts of the opposition that Manchester United should be doing. Why? They don't score goals. They've scored the same amount of goals as we have this season, that's how bad they've been in front of goal. If van Gaal is still at the helm come the middle of next month, a result is there for the taking.

Then there's the away games. Liverpool have been hugely inconsistent this season and have bounced around mid-table since Jurgen Klopp's arrival, struggling for goals and struggling to keep them out. Despite being in the top half their goal difference is a worrying -2 and with a player like Jermain Defoe, we can exploit their defensive frailties. It was pointed out that when Klopp took the Anfield hot-seat that he wasn't the striker, central midfielder, centre half or goalkeeper that Liverpool needed to get back into the top four. Without those, they're an upper mid-table side at best and we've beaten a couple of those already this season.

Sam Allardyce will be relishing his return to Upton Park, hoping he can show off his trademark smug grin come the final whistle. West Ham have been impressively steady this season though, they're good going forward and with players like Dimitri Payet, coming away from this game with anything to show for it isn't going to be easy. Let's not forget though that we've already taken points from the Hammers this season, in a game that we only had ourselves to blame for, for not winning. Like ourselves, West Ham have fullbacks that like to push forward so we could see some space for Patrick van Aanholt open up and The Dutchman could end up with a hattrick if his recent attacking form is anything to go by.

So there it is, reasons to stay positive. Anything can happen in the whirlwind that is the Premier League this season and Sunderland can go from down and out to being by far the greatest team the world has ever seen quicker than Younes Kaboul can get himself injured. We might have even signed a couple of new players by the time these games come around! I think I need to lie down.

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