Sunderland survival key to Ipswich

IPSWICH Town fans should adopt Sunderland as their second favourite team, if they haven't already.

Carl Marston

IPSWICH Town fans should adopt Sunderland as their second favourite team, if they haven't already.

And that's not simply because Roy Keane's squad is packed with Sunderland old boys and loanees.

More importantly, the chances of Town signing any of the Black Cats trio of loan players - Daryl Murphy, David Healy and Jack Colback - on permanent deals this summer, will surely hinge on what division Steve Bruce's men find themselves in for next season.

Murphy and Healy are likely to be surplus to requirements at the Stadium of Light, if Sunderland retain their Premier League status, while the up-and-coming Colback might also find it difficult to establish himself in the top flight.

However, if the North-East club were to continue their slide down the table, and end up falling through the relegation trap door, then the likes of Murphy, Healy and Colback could all be seen as a force in the Championship for Bruce's boys.

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That's why Town fans should be supporting Sunderland for the rest of the season.

Sunderland are currently 14th in the Premier League, following their goalless home draw with Fulham over the weekend, but that only tells half the story.

There are genuine concerns for the club's Premier League survival, following a dismal run of no wins in 14 games. Their last league win was way back in October, over Arsenal (1-0), a terrible spell that has left them just three points clear of the relegation zone.

Bruce admitted: “It's a bigger rebuilding job than I thought, and it can't just happen overnight.

“I'm the manager and the buck stops with me.

“I'm not going to shy away from the responsibility.

“The great start that we got off to maybe led us down a path that we weren't ready for. But you have to stick together at difficult times and I still think we will be OK,” added Bruce.

Both Healy and Murphy were struggling to break into the Sunderland side this season, with their careers at a standstill, but both have since made an impact at Portman Road following their arrivals on loan on transfer deadline day at the end of last month.

Murphy netted three goals in his first three appearances, and has looked dangerous in each of his six starts, while fellow front-man Healy bagged the equaliser at Scunthorpe and is looking sharper with every match.

Colback has been a revelation in recent weeks, both on the left flank and at left-back, so Town fans would no doubt like to see more of him at Portman Road next season.

Of course all three remain Sunderland players, in terms of their contracts, but for Town to have a chance of signing one or more of them this summer, they must surely hope that Bruce manages to keep the Black Cats up.

And Bruce has confirmed that if, and when, his side secure their Premier Leagus status for another season, then he will be looking to spend big, rather than rely on past players like Murphy and Healy.

He revealed: “If I get X amount of money to spend in the summer, I will probably spend it on buying in one or two quality signings.”