ANTON Ferdinand today urged Sunderland to put themselves back in the race for the top six by notching only their second home win of 2011.
Sunderland find themselves four points adrift of sixth-placed Liverpool ahead of Sunday’s sold-out visit from Kenny Dalglish’s men.
The Black Cats spent the first six weeks of 2011 in the top six, but a five-game winless run has seen Steve Bruce’s side slump down to eighth.
Sunderland still find themselves at the right end of the table though and Ferdinand knows that a first Stadium of Light success since New Year’s Day would provide a major boost in a cluttered top half.
Ferdinand told the Echo: “It’s another big game against Liverpool but not just because they’re a big team. It’s a big game because of the way the table is at the moment.
“We’ve got to keep in there fighting.
“It is tight but it’s tight in the right area for us – the top half of the table and not the bottom.
“At home, we fancy ourselves against anyone. It’s up to us to show up on the day.”
Sunderland should head into the game with renewed vigour after ending their four-game losing streak with a draw at second-top Arsenal.
Ferdinand admits the players needed to show a reaction after the meek surrender at Everton seven days earlier and they at least ensured the run of defeats didn’t stand at five heading into a fortnight’s break.
The former West Ham defender himself was much improved at the Emirates after being caught out for both Everton goals at Goodison Park.
Ferdinand had been thrust into the right-back slot on Merseyside after Nedum Onuoha was ruled out with a calf strain and he looked ill at ease.
But the 26-year-old was one of Sunderland’s best performers against Arsenal and insists he is happy to play wherever he is needed.
“You have a hard game no matter where you play against Arsenal and I was just happy to be out there playing,” he said. “As long as I’m on the pitch playing, I’ll enjoy it and it’s showing in my football at the moment.
“Everyone was disappointed at Everton, but you put things right on the pitch and we did that at Arsenal. We knew in ourselves that we couldn’t play the way we did. If we didn’t care, we wouldn’t have played the way we did at Arsenal.
“We needed to stop the rot and we showed when the going gets tough, we can deal with it. We’re not heading into game on the back of a five-game losing run which is a blessing.”