The Northern Ireland international was a key part of the team that had three straight top division wins and another safe performance in their last three games during their midweek triumph over Fleetwood.

It was a win that rounded off a promising seven day period for the Black Cats, who scored some important wins in their pursuit of promotion while ensuring a return to Wembley.

And off the field, the approval of Kyril Louis-Dreyfus’ takeover bid on Wearside has sparked a new sense of optimism, and fans are optimistic about their club’s future.

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“/>Conor McLaughlin lifts the lid on how optimism after taking over the dressing room in Sunderland before the main games take place

So does the feel-good factor also have an effect in the changing room?

“Absolutely,” said McLaughlin.

“That goes hand in hand with victories and we know how quickly it can go down again.

“We can’t outdo ourselves because there is still a long way to go and there are a lot of games to be played. We just have to concentrate.

“I think it’s really just more positivity,” he added of the change of ownership.

“We don’t take too much notice of that ourselves, but you can see how things are developing at the club now and everything is focused on the future and in the long term. In the short term we want to have some success – and at the moment everything looks fine out. “

The midweek win marked the first time this season that Sunderland had scored maximum points in three consecutive league games. There is an understanding, however, that runs of this type don’t just have to become the norm when the Wearsiders make a late push towards the top two – they need to be built up.

And McLaughlin believes that the key to a successful run of form is a change in mindset so that the Black Cats are now focused solely on the task at hand, rather than the bigger, long-term picture.

“The more games you win, the more confidence you gain in each game,” added the defender.

“When I was at Fleetwood, we had an unbeaten run of 19 games and we got promoted almost automatically. That only builds confidence and you walk into every game with confidence.

“We just have to keep going, taking every game as it comes and not looking too far ahead as every team is losing points. There will be cancellations until the end of the season so we have to keep going.”

“We just have to focus on each game now,” he continued.

“Maybe the club has thought about how big the club should be in the past and we should beat most teams in this league, but now we have to take every game as it comes.”

“There are a lot of difficult games in this league for a variety of reasons. We have found that out in the past. Crewe on Saturday will be difficult and we just have to really focus on ourselves.”

“You saw the togetherness of the Lincoln celebrations, and I think that gave us a big boost too.

“In the past we have beaten the bigger teams in the league and competed against the smaller ones. It’s a mentality, but now we know we have a chance to move up if we run.”

McLaughlin was one of the beneficiaries of a series of injuries on the Sunderland backline that resulted in the squad being outnumbered and players no longer needing to be moved into position.

The 29-year-old has played as a right-side center-back for the past few weeks and has been arguably one of Sunderland’s stars since returning to the team after a brief hiatus after hernia surgery.

And although the serious injury has not yet completely disappeared, McLaughlin would like to continue his run with the team in the coming weeks.

“I missed a lot of games and even though I was out with a hernia for just three weeks, I felt like I missed ten games,” he said.

“Watching the games is hard to see because you support the guys but you want to be out there. I just enjoy being back on the team now.

“I started walking a week and a half, two weeks after surgery and it speeds up quickly from there and you can come back quickly.

“I still feel a bit at the beginning of the game when I warm up, but it fades and I’m happy to play again. We just have to keep this run going now.”

And although he’s been a regular lately, McLaughlin knows his spot on the squad is nowhere near guaranteed with a number of players knocking on the door.

It is this strength in depth, coupled with a strong belief among the players, that the defender believes can be key in the final weeks of the campaign.

“We all know the quality of the squad,” he added.

“Even the players who come off the bench have a really good squad and we all trust each other now.

“With the results that comes with the performances – Doncaster was a big deal for us, the first half and the confidence we got from it. You take that mentality and go into every game and think you are going to win and that is a big deal. “

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