WITH a first major cup final appearance in more than two decades booked and a stunning derby win over Newcastle United fresh in the mind, Sunderland are a club who have plenty to smile about at the moment.
Not only are the Black Cats out of the relegation zone – no mean feat considering they took one point from their first eight games – but, in Gus Poyet, they have a manager who is recognised as one of the brightest talents around.
For Hull, therefore, this may not be the ideal time to make the trip to the Stadium of Light. Not, however, that this is a view shared by Tigers’ manager Steve Bruce.
“Gus has done a fantastic job, in the short term,” said Bruce when asked about the third manager to follow him in the Black Cats’ role. “It can be a difficult job.
“So, to get to a cup final and get them where they are when, at one stage, they looked down and out, that is fair play to him and his staff.
“Sunderland are on the crest of a wave. Everything is going hunky dory for them.
“We know it is going to be a difficult game, but we are confident we can go there and, if we play like we did against Spurs, we know we are capable of getting a result.”
Poyet, meanwhile, has set Adam Johnson, arguably the Premier League’s outstanding performer over the past month or so, the dual target of firing Sunderland to safety and himself to the World Cup finals.
England manager Roy Hodgson will be at the Stadium of Light today and his visit could hardly have been better timed.
The 26-year-old winger, who won his last senior international cap against Italy in August 2012, yesterday picked up the Premier League’s Player of the Month award for January after a blistering run of form which saw him score his seventh goal in as many games for his club in last weekend’s 3-0 derby victory at Newcastle.
That represents a major turn around for a man who had previously struggled to justify the £10m the Black Cats invested when bringing him to Wearside from Manchester City.
With injuries threatening to limit Hodgson’s midfield options, Johnson could yet have a role to play in Brazil this summer.
Sunderland chief Poyet said: “I am pleased for him. The good thing with Adam is that we knew each other from a short spell when Adam was a player (on loan) at Leeds and I was a coach with Dennis Wise.
“That means it is not like you are dealing with someone you have never met before.
“He knew my character, even if I was not in charge there and I was not making decisions. It is easy to get on with him.
“Let’s see if he can win another one (award). I promise you, if he wins another Player of the Month, we are safe, that’s for sure.
“I always say there is a group of players from the number that you can take to the World Cup who pick themselves. It could be 16, 17, 18, 19.
“But there are always going to be places for a few players if someone gets injured, or someone reaches an incredible level and you can’t leave him behind.
“I am sure if the World Cup was next week, Adam would be there, I have got no doubt about that.
“Now, the idea is can we make him maintain that level and have a chance at the end of campaign?”