SIMON Mignolet insists Sunderland must focus on the threat of their own strikers – rather than becoming wrapped up in the frenzy surrounding fallen hero Darren Bent.
Aston Villa hitman Bent returns to the Stadium of Light on Saturday for the first time since leaving Wearside in an £18million switch last January.
Attention will inevitably centre on the England international in the build-up to the game, with the 27-year-old set to receive a hostile reception after the manner of his departure from Sunderland.
But Black Cats keeper Mignolet believes Bent is an unnecessary distraction, preferring instead to concentrate on the prowess of Sunderland’s current frontmen.
Summer signing Connor Wickham impressed on his first Premier League start in last weekend’s win at Bolton, while strike partner Nicklas Bendtner grabbed his second in as many games for Steve Bruce’s side.
Mignolet told the Echo: “Supporters will be talking about Benty this week, but I don’t think we can be focused on that.We have to focus on what we can do.
“Connor is a very strong lad, who works hard in training. He’s always in the gym.
“It’s been a tough start to the season for him, but he showed at Bolton that he’s got a lot of potential. You get confidence when you start games and you help teams to win.
“Bendtner is a huge help for us, both with winning the high balls and scoring a few goals for us. Hopefully that will continue.”
Mignolet believes the 2-0 victory at Bolton will boost Sunderland’s self-belief after admitting confidence had been hit during a poor start to the campaign.
But the Belgian stopper, who made a crucial late save at the Reebok to deny Trotters midfielder Darren Pratley, is under no illusions that all Sunderland’s woes have been solved by one win.
“We needed a victory where we had to fight hard as a team together and then come away with three points by the end of the game,” said the 23-year-old.
“It’s good for the team spirit and morale because after the Arsenal game everyone was a bit down. The whole season hasn’t been easy actually and if you can win away from home, then you’re happy as a team.
“We played together as a team against Bolton and we need to do that for the next couple of games.
“If we lose against Aston Villa, we’re back to square one.
“We have to move on and hopefully there’s some confidence in the team now and we can win against Villa. We have to get a run together. If you can win two or three games in a row, then you’re in a much better position in the table and the confidence goes back into the side.
“You could see after we scored the first against Bolton, everyone immediately came back to defend our goal rather than going for a second and that’s all to do with confidence and the games we’ve had in the last few weeks.”