SOUTHAMPTON come to the Stadium of Light this Sunday and Sunderland could do themselves an enormous favour just by finishing the game with 11 men for a change!
The last two matches they’ve failed to do that – Stephane Sessegnon and Craig Gardner going the journey as the red mist descended – and depriving their team-mates of their services for the rest of the season.
It underlines the importance of the personal responsibility and discipline which will be needed from all the players involved this weekend, to get the win which would surely see us safe.
Even though Wigan’s defeat at Swansea was a huge lift for everyone at the bottom, there’s still work to be done.
Given Wigan’s Houdini-like qualities over the last few seasons, I still wouldn’t bet against them, even if they needed seven points from the last two games!
But Sunderland need to be focused now and get the job done themselves – not rely on others.
I see the Saints game being different from the one against Stoke – less of a physical battle and probably more tactical – which will make organisation important and keeping 11 men on the pitch crucial.
Wigan’s defeat makes beating Southampton even more vital, as it will all effectively make us safe. I don’t want to go to White Hart Lane needing to get anything there.
Southampton will be up for the fight, as they are only one point above us and also know if they get a win they can relax on the last day of the season.
Both teams will have a massive incentive to win on Sunday, and having played in relegation battles like these myself, I know how nerve-wracking they can be. Southampton have had back-to-back promotions in the last couple of seasons – a great achievement which deserves huge respect – but let’s not big them up to be better than they are. This game is winnable.
And after two red cards in the last two games, keeping our discipline under pressure is the key.
The players now know exactly what’s required and that will concentrate the mind greatly – just get the job done on Sunday and the scenes in the stadium at the end will be absolutely fantastic.
To read the rest of the Rowell Report, please see tonight’s Sunderland Echo.