MARTIN O’NEILL will call on his players to put everything on the line against Norwich City tomorrow in an almighty effort to put Sunderland’s season back on track.
The Black Cats’ boss is well aware that a run of four defeats in their last five games has drained momentum out of Sunderland’s campaign just at the point when the fans had been starting to look up the table rather than down.
And he believes that the only way to reverse that decline is simply to get a win by any fair means they can.
“We’ll go into the game against Norwich on Sunday with as much determination as we have ever had,” he said.
“And the only thing we can do is play right to the end, play to the death and maybe get that little bit of luck that seems to have deserted us as the moment.”
It has been a tough few weeks for Sunderland in a sequence of near misses, a run of defeats for the Black Cats which could easily have been draws; draws for O’Neill’s men which could easily have been wins.
But the manager clearly feels that it is time for the players to put those disappointments behind them and ensure actions speak louder than words in the game tomorrow.
“If you start losing a few matches that you think you can get something from, then eventually it will start taking its toll,” he said.
“So you have to go back to the basic principle of winning a match.
“Whichever way you do it, you have to find yourself in front at the final whistle.
“What it does do – winning a game in this league – is give you a great deal of confidence.
“You feel, if you’ve won a couple of games back-to-back, that you can take on anybody, and I mean anybody in the league.”
But the manager is also keen to point out that this weekend’s game is one of nine remaining games in which Sunderland have opportunities to advance their points total.
“I have seen these things before and the experience has taught me that they it is wrong to build games up this far out from the end of the season as ‘must win’ games.
“If you went into the final game of the season needing to win to stay in the division – then that’s a must-win game.
“The Norwich game is not quite like that.
“It’s an important game, it’s a vital game – but that is because people are looking at your next set of fixtures and wondering where the next point is coming from.
“It never works out that way in the Premier League where teams win and lose games people don’t expect them to.
“What we have to do is ignore the speculative side of things and just go out there tomorrow solely looking at winning a game.”