Past and present Sunderland managers Sam Allardyce and David Moyes have plenty in common.
And one thing that unites them is their admiration for Sunderland’s “electric” 12-goal top scorer, with both in agreement Jermain Defoe could hold the key to survival.
Defoe, 34, has been in scintillating form despite Sunderland’s dire campaign.
The Black Cats are five points adrift of safety with just 15 games remaining ahead of the game against Allardyce’s third-bottom Crystal Palace.
Allardyce knows one mistake is all it could take for Defoe to prove the difference, with Moyes focused on getting his players to create more chances for the striker, who West Ham bid £6million for in January.
Moyes said: “There was a bit of noise at the start of the window, but everybody knew that he [Defoe] was vital to us.
“But we have got to get him opportunities to score, and that’s probably been something in recent weeks we have not done.
“We miss Victor Anichebe for that as well because Victor brings other parts to the game and gets us a bit higher up the pitch at different times.
“But we have to keep getting Jermain those opportunities to score.”
Ahead of the clash at Selhurst Park, Allardyce didn’t need reminding about the threat posed by Defoe - who scored 18 goals last season.
“We have got to mark Defoe, that’s my main concern. The wee man is electric,” said Allardyce.
“We can’t afford to make one slip with that man, he’s so good.
“One or two chances with Jermain results in a goal normally, so we need to be alert and very sharp in around our own box defensively to try and nullify him.
“Having worked with him last season, I have got great admiration for him not only as striker but also a person and how dedicated he is. That’s why he’s at the top level still scoring goals.”
Meanwhile, Allardyce is unsure what reception he will receive as he comes up against his former side for the first time. Patrick van Aanholt will also make his home Palace debut after leaving Wearside in a £14million deal.
“I don’t know if some of them are still disappointed I left,” said Allardyce. “Some are still really appreciative of what happened in my short period there. In the end they all knew that there was no way on earth that I could turn the England coach’s position down. I’m sure they’ll be reasonably okay.”