Five reasons why Sunderland AFC fans should stay positive ahead of the Premier League relegation run-in #HawayTheLads

Jermain Defoe celebrates his goal against Burnley.
Jermain Defoe celebrates his goal against Burnley.
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THE Sunderland Echo is backing Dick Advocaat’s Black Cats to survive relegation from the Premier League this season.

And we’ve come up with five key reasons why SAFC fans should stay positive ahead of the relegation run-in.

Sunderland fans at the Stadium of Light

Sunderland fans at the Stadium of Light

Following the weekend’s draw at Stoke City, Sunderland have now fallen into the Premier League drop zone with just five games of the season left.

But don’t panic and here are some reasons why.

1) Sunderland’s fan base is strong, passionate and loyal to the end.

First and foremost, Sunderland have an incredible fan base with an average of 43,000 fans flocking to the Stadium of Light for every home game.

Sunderland manager Dick Advocaat

Sunderland manager Dick Advocaat

That puts them 6th in the Premier League for average attendances for the 2014-15 campaign.

Only Manchester United, Arsenal, Newcastle United, Manchester City and Liverpool can boast a bigger weekly fan base.

Incredible support and a key reason why survival can be achieved.

2) Deadly Jermain Defoe.

Sunderland players celebrate their 1-0 victory against Newcastle.

Sunderland players celebrate their 1-0 victory against Newcastle.

He may not have hit the goalscoring heights Sunderland fans were hoping for since arriving in January, having scored three goals in 12 games.

But one thing is for sure, his wealth of experience will be crucial for the relegation run-in.

Who could forget THAT goal against Newcastle United in the last Derby match at the Stadium of Light when the pressure was really on.

A touch of real quality and one Sunderland fans will be hoping for a repeat of in the coming weeks.

The Pope pictured with a Sunderland shirt.

The Pope pictured with a Sunderland shirt.

3) Dick Advocaat’s experience:

If it is experience you want, then look no further than the Dutchman in the dugout.

The 67-year-old Black Cats head coach has been there and done it and got several T-shirts.

To name just a few of the clubs he has been involved at; PSV, Rangers, Holland, Borussia Monchengladbach, Belgium, Russia, Serbia etc etc.

Advocaat will need to draw on that vast back catalogue of experience in the coming weeks.

Oh, and he has also been involved in successful relegation battles before.

When manager of SVV, the club remained in the Eredivisie after winning their relegation play-off.

4) Sunderland should take confidence and inspiration from the Derby Day wins.

The Black Cats have beaten Newcastle five times in a row now - including twice this season.

And while some fans and pundits are critical that the Sunderland players can only seem to gear themselves up for the Derby Day matches, the SAFC squad should, at least, take some inspiration from those performances.

Besides, Newcastle are on a downward spiral themselves having lost SEVEN matches on the spin and they could soon replace the Black Cats in the bottom three...

5) The Black Cats have done it before.

Who could forget last season’s dramatic Great Escape? The situation is nowhere near as bleak as it was then.

Sunderland supporters will, of course, keep the faith.

Now it is time for the players to do the business on the pitch and ensure another season of Premier League football at the Stadium of Light.

Oh, and if you want anymore divine inspiration - don’t forget The Pope is a Sunderland supporter too after he was famously pictured with a SAFC strip!

The Echo is today encouraging supporters to pack out the Stadium of Light for this Saturday’s crunch clash with Southampton, kick-off 3pm.

And we’ve got five pairs of tickets for Saturday’s match up for grabs, as SAFC look to avenge a humiliating 8-0 defeat by the Saints from earlier this campaign.

To be in with a chance of scooping a pair of tickets, simply tweet your name to @SunderlandEcho and include the hashtag #hawaythelads.

Entries will close at 1pm on Thursday and the winners will be notified before the weekend. Winners will have to direct message @SunderlandEcho with their full names, address and a contact telephone number. They will be able to pick up their prize from the ticket collection office in the west stand of the Stadium of Light in the hours leading up to Saturday’s game.

Over 18s only.