LEE CATTERMOLE insists Sunderland must use their Great Escape as a springboard for bigger and better things next season.
Sunderland last night confirmed their Premier League status after a comfortable 2-0 victory over West Brom saw them reach the finishing line to survival, while relegating Norwich City in the process.
The Black Cats become only the second side in Premier League history to be bottom at Christmas and still avoid the drop after registering four successive top-flight victories for the first time since 2000.
But following such a remarkable escape from the jaws of relegation, man of the match Cattermole hopes it proves to be a watershed moment for Sunderland after spending all bar five weeks of this season in the bottom three.
Cattermole told the Echo: “I think there’ll be a day in the summer when we wake up and think ‘that was some achievement’.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet, but, as lads, we’ve got to thank everyone who has had to deal with the whole season.
“But we’ve stuck together and come through it. We don’t know how, but the results have been absolutely incredible. There isn’t another word.
“We’ve pulled it off and we’ve got to be looking at pushing the other end of the table next year. That’s what we’ve got to aim to do.
“It was a bit too close for anyone’s liking. We’ve got to learn lessons from that and improve, because when you see nights like last night and the Cardiff game, with the place full, it means a lot.”
Sunderland were seven points adrift of safety with just six games to go, yet with no one giving the Black Cats a prayer of staying up, Gus Poyet’s side have proved their mettle.
“When everyone’s writing you off, it’s our job to go out and play,” said Cattermole.
“We’re all competitors and we don’t give in.
“That’s where we are as people and that’s probably why we’ve made it in the game.
“I think we’ve showed our characters.
“You can say all the cliches, but, ultimately, it came down to us playing some good football and sticking together.”
Sunderland needed just a point from their final two games to effectively relegate Norwich, due to their vastly superior goal difference.
But the Wearsiders, who moved up to 14th spot, secured all three to avoid the anxiety of anything riding on Sunday’s final game against Swansea.
They did it in style, too, after a dominant first-half display saw them get their rewards through goals from Jack Colback and Fabio Borini.
“Swansea are a good team and they will give us a good game on Sunday,” added Cattermole.
“It was important to get the job done with a game to spare.
“That’s exactly what we’ve wanted. No one would have liked to go down to the last day.
“I think the first half, we looked as if there was only one team who were desperate to win the game.
“We all did our jobs and I thought we were absolutely superb. It was as good a performance as you’ll see from a home side.
“Obviously, you go in at half-time and it was let’s shut-up shop now, but we got the job done.
“We knew if we kept a clean sheet, we’d stay in the Premier League.”