WES BROWN admits Sunderland will struggle to save their skins a second time, if they begin this campaign in the same fashion as they did the last.
The Black Cats broke the record for the worst start in Premier League history last year after taking just a solitary point from the opening eight games.
It took a miraculous run of results over the run-in to avoid the drop and extend Sunderland’s stint in the top flight to eight years.
But veteran centre-half Brown doesn’t expect Sunderland to be so fortunate again and knows Gus Poyet’s side need to be on the front foot in the opening exchanges of this season - starting with Saturday’s trip to West Brom.
The ex-England international told the Echo: “We ended the season well with the points situation, but we don’t want to get ourselves in that situation again.
“It didn’t feel good for most of the season. There was always that pressure.
“We were always having to get ourselves out of that situation.
“We want to start this season well, focus on it and get some points early.
“We can’t afford to start that slowly again at all.
“You can probably get away with it once in a blue moon.
“But it’s not something we want to do again.”
The escape from relegation - which saw Sunderland take 13 points from their final six games - took its toll on the Black Cats squad both physically and mentally.
Brown admits the summer offered a much-needed break, but now the 34-year-old is eager to begin his fourth season as a Sunderland player.
“I loved it (the summer),” he added.
“It was nearly eight weeks and it was just good to rest and settle everything down.
“I watched the World Cup, but as soon as the family were going somewhere, I had to go.
“But you do get a bit bored with a couple of weeks to go, so it’s been good to be back.”