JAMES McClean has gone “back to basics” in a bid to rediscover his golden form of last season.
The Sunderland winger revealed he has simplified his game in recent weeks and put in extra hours on the training ground.
It is a formula which has worked because the Irishman’s performances have improved greatly, with his best display of the campaign coming in the Boxing Day defeat of Manchester City.
McClean (pictured left), 23, has looked much more confident and happier over the festive period, which so far has resulted in nine points from a possible 12 for his team.
And he has put this change down to going back to doing what he does best. Asked why his form has improved, McClean said: “I’ve just gone back to basics really and I’m working hard.
“I had a little break in the summer and that was the first break I’ve had in two years. I came back and it took a bit of getting used to.
“I kept working hard and I had confidence in my ability, so I always knew I would get back to my best because I knew what I could do. Hopefully now I can push on as well.
“It has been up and down in 2012, but we have finished quite strongly. Hopefully we can take the form we have shown in December into 2013 and that will
make it a nice New Year for the fans and for us.”
McClean believes that fortune, as well as improved performances, have been responsible for Sunderland’s season turning around.
He said: “I genuinely think we have started to get a bit more luck. We were not playing too badly, but everything seemed to be going against us during games. That luck has changed a bit in recent weeks. The important thing is that we all stayed together as a team and now we are getting our rewards. Confidence is high and the luck seems to have changed for us.
“I would have to say that we are looking more like the team everyone expected us to look like after the couple of signings in the summer.
“It’s been plain to see in the last few weeks just how much quality we have and it’s more like the real Sunderland, the one we had been expecting.
“We will take a lot more confidence from that and we just need to keep getting points on the board.”
Sunderland’s 1-0 win over the current Premier League champions could well be seen as a watershed moment if, as everyone connected with the club hopes, the team begin to drag themselves up the Premier League.
This was the best performance by Sunderland this season, played out in the best atmosphere at the Stadium of Light.
McClean said: “It was an incredible feeling last season when we beat Manchester City at home, so to beat the league champions again is fantastic.
“The atmosphere was amazing inside the Stadium of Light, so for the rest of the lads and me to be involved in that is something special.
“It was all about getting in the faces of the City players. We learned that from last season.
“They don’t like that and it was just about getting on top of them to try to stop them from playing football.
“We were confident, so there was a genuine belief among us that we could beat the champions again because we have now won three of our last four.
“The only defeat of that run was at Old Trafford, where we also gave a good account of ourselves, so we do feel good about ourselves at the minute and rightly so.”