Roy Keane insists that Sunderland haven’t yet secured their Premier League future.
A fourth consecutive win for the Black Cats at home to Manchester City on Saturday will all but see the north-east club safe.
Despite the recent upturn in fortunes which leaves them 10 points clear of Bolton Wanderers, who occupy the final relegation place, Keane wants one more push to avoid any late drama, and the manager said: “We’re not safe yet, we need to get over the finishing line.
“We’ve been making progress and our results are now backing that up. We’ve looked pretty solid and have carried a goal threat.
“The players have learned from their bad experiences this season and we’re looking a lot better for it,” the former Manchester United and Republic of Ireland midfielder added.
“We need to finish the season strongly, look at the teams ahead of us and try to catch them.”
Keane has called on his squad to rise to the challenge as he plans to oversee a major influx of players after the end of the season.
The Irishman is confident his request for 50 million pounds (100 million dollars) in transfer funds to finance his bid to push the Black Cats onto the next level will be met by the club’s owners.
Keane has drawn up a wish-list including Atletico Madrid’s Diego Forlan, Mancheser United defender Jonny Evans, Fulham’s Jimmy Bullard and unsettled Middlesbrough midfielder George Boateng.
That means there will have to be plenty of out-goings to keep squad numbers at a manageable level, and Keane said: “We’ll be investing in players in the summer and I hope all my players respond to the challenge. It’s up to the players who are here to prove they should still be in the team.”
Sunderland expect another crowd in excess of 45,000 for the visit of Sven-Goran Eriksson’s side, who have confirmed they will play an exhibition match against a South China XI in Hong Kong on May 22 as part of their end of season tour to Asia.
City are anxious to snap out of a slump which has seen them win just once and score only three goals in their last seven games since beating local rivals Manchester United in February.
Eriksson is expected to hand a rare chance to Nery Castillo, the injury-plagued Mexican midfielder who has started only two league games since his arrival on a 12-month loan from Shakhtar Donetsk in January.
Eriksson said: “He has a lot to do but I believe in him for the future and you’ll see him more times in the league this season.”
City’s Swedish former England manager is also confident Micah Richards will be available before the end of the season.
The England defender has been out since undergoing a knee operation at the end of February, and Eriksson added: “Hopefully Micah will be back in training on Monday. I don’t want to be too optimistic but we’re hoping he should be able to join in then.”