Jeff Stelling: Jury is out on Sunderland survival

Jeff Stelling is supporting finalist Dan Pickering.

Jeff Stelling is supporting finalist Dan Pickering.

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JEFF Stelling believes the “jury is still out” as to whether Sunderland will survive relegation this season despite their fifth straight derby win over Newcastle United.

The Soccer Saturday frontman praised the passion and drive shown by Dick Advocaat’s Sunderland side in the 1-0 win at the Stadium of Light – courtesy of a stunning Jermain Defoe strike just before half-time.

I don’t know if the derby win will give Sunderland the momentum to stay up

Jeff Stelling

But Hartlepool-born Stelling says questions still remain over whether they will be able to build on the victory and secure their Premier League status.

Stelling, who fronts the popular Sky Sports programme, says the Black Cats need to produce the same level of performance against teams other than their North East rivals.

Advocaat’s side are 15th after the Derby Day win – the Dutchman’s first home game since taking over from axed Uruguayan Gus Poyet – and now three points above the relegation trap door, with just seven games left to play.

“I don’t know whether the Derby Day win will give Sunderland the momentum they need to stay up this season,” Stelling told the Echo.

“It remains to be seen whether they can still play with that sort of passion, fervour and drive against somebody other than Newcastle United.

“So, in that sense, the jury is still out.

“They won’t score a goal like that every week, either!

“I still think there is a long way to go but it was certainly a good start for Dick Advocaat in his first home game,” added Stelling ahead of Sunderland’s home match with Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Advocaat will be looking to make it consecutive home wins when Alan Pardew’s side make the trip to the North East and extend the gap between Sunderland and the bottom three.

Away from Soccer Saturday, Stelling is also fronting Carlsberg Fan Squad’s hunt for ‘The People’s Pundit’.

And he is supporting North East finalist Dan Pickering, 41, in The People’s Pundit competition and came to visit him in his local pub to give him some top tips on punditry.

Dan is originally from Durham but now lives in Leeds and he is vying to win the chance to work as a co-commentator for talkSPORT, helping cover a Premier League game on the last day of the season.

The Newcastle fan told the Echo: “It was fantastic to spend some time with Jeff and to pick his brains, he gave me some great tips.”

Stelling added: “This is a fantastic opportunity for the winner, who knows what doors it could open for them.”

l Jeff Stelling visited finalist Dan Pickering, at The Tetley, in Leeds, to help him prepare for Boot Camp in the People’s Pundit, championed by Carlsberg, the official beer of the Premier League.

To find out how Dan gets on in the race to secure their big break on talkSPORT Click here

To support Dan, follow him @PickeringDan #PeoplesPundi