David Moyes concedes he is close to “desperation” but continues to cling to the hope that, against all odds, Sunderland can avoid relegation.
Whichever division they are in next season Moyes, whose side are at home to his former club Manchester United, on Sunday, is determined to rebuild the squad with mainly British signings, ideally sourced from north-east England.
Currently bottom and 10 points adrift of 17th-placed Hull City, albeit with a game in hand, Sunderland have gone six matches without a goal since returning from a bonding break in New York yet their manager detects reasons for mild optimism.
“We’ve been playing quite well, there have been bits that are OK,” said the Scot, who refused to discuss the furore involving the loose remarks he directed towards the BBC reporter Vicki Sparks last month other than to comment “the situation is gone and in the past and I have moved on”.
With the Football Association not quite ready to forget – or, quite possibly, forgive – Moyes has until Monday to present his “observations” to the disciplinary body on an incident which occurred when he, mistakenly, believed he was no longer being recorded. By then Sunderland could be even further detached at the foot of the table.
“We’re close to desperation,” he said. “We have to start winning but I have to believe. We’re certainly not giving up. Win our remaining games and we stay up. We need the Manchester United match to go for us then I think we might have a bit of exuberance, confidence and freedom.
“There are winnable games coming up – we’re home to West Ham and Swansea and away at Middlesbrough and Hull. We have to beat those teams. If we win those games it would give us a real chance. This club has done this sort of thing in the past – and we’ve got real chances.”
Once Sunderland’s final eight games are over, a major reconstruction job will begin. “Hopefully we’ll still be in the Premier League but even if we’re not we have to rebuild, there will be a big turnover of players,” said Moyes, who has several senior professionals coming to the end of their contracts.
“My aim would be to sign players who understand this part of the world. I think this region is more suited to British-type players. That’s my picture for the club, the starting point should be to get back to those basic roots. I can’t promise to be able to do it but I would love to fulfil that aim.
“To people who have been brought up in the area and are used to it, it’s not so big a shock to come to the north-east. It’s a really good place but I think there have been a lot of players who have come in from overseas and it’s not been quite as easy to settle as it might be for those who know this part of the world.”
It is almost four years since Moyes swapped Everton for Manchester United and a turbulent 11-month tenure, followed by a similarly tricky interlude at Real Sociedad. With Louis van Gaal and now José Mourinho struggling to restore United to the top four, let alone former glories, the 53-year-old believes he was treated harshly. “I think Manchester United would be a tough job for whoever is in charge,” Moyes said. “But in time – and time’s the key word – they will turn it around and get it back to where it was.”