David Jones: Biggest week of Sam Allardyce's Sunderland career

This is the biggest week of Sam Allardyce's career as Sunderland manager: a reign that might be over almost before it's begun.

Tuesday, 12th April 2016, 8:25 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th April 2016, 8:27 pm

I say that because so far Sam has not offered any guarantees he will be still be at the club if we are relegated, he could yet walk away in May if we drop into the Championship.

None of us want to see that happen which is another reason why Saturday’s game against Norwich has become so colossal in deciding our future.

Jeremain Lens in action for Sunderland against Norwich back in August, a game that Sunderland lost 3-1.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

It’s big enough as it is.

Lose and the game might well be up, Norwich would be seven points clear, a gap which would probably prove insurmountable with so few games left to play.

Draw and it will still be all to play for, especially given the extra game Sunderland still have up their sleeves against Everton in the final week of the season.

A draw would be the perfect result for Newcastle too, who have two very winnable looking home games to come against Swansea and Crystal Palace and a trip to Aston Villa, who would clearly rather the season end now.

Jeremain Lens in action for Sunderland against Norwich back in August, a game that Sunderland lost 3-1.

Win though and Sunderland will be favourites to stay up and that’s the scenario I’d prefer to concentrate on.

Let’s face it, we’re going to have to start winning soon.

But we’ve been here before and we know from experience that one win can become two very quickly.

After our visit to Carrow Road, the only game I’d expect Norwich to win is their final home match against Watford.

We have to hope Arsenal and Manchester United have too much for them, and that Everton can raise themselves at Goodison Park on the final day of the season.

I’m sure Sam will have identified our final two games – bizarrely also against Everton and Watford – as a chance to pick up six points, but he won’t want to leave it until then.

Can we take something from Arsenal or Chelsea at the Stadium of Light?

Or can we upset Stoke, who’ve suddenly become the most inconsistent team in the division?

We’re going to have to surprise someone because winning at Norwich will not be enough, it’s going to take at least three wins to see us to safety.

But first we have to get through another torturously nervy game this coming weekend.

Despite coming off second best against Leicester, I’d expect Sam to take a similar approach.

For the first 15 minutes on Sunday we barely escaped our own half, which was a testament to the aggression of the league leaders, but it also felt like a deliberate ploy to deny them any space in behind.

Norwich too will come at us hard, their crowd will be at fever pitch and they will try to hit their powerful front man Dieumerci Mbokani, who’s looked a handful in recent matches.

We will have to soak up some early pressure, but when we do get the ball on Saturday, we have to be smarter in possession.

I can understand why Jermain Defoe plays as a lone central striker given there are so few goals elsewhere in the squad, but that tactic feels odd when we start launching it in his general direction as we were guilty of against Leicester.

It was percentage football, the type of which our manager has been criticised for elsewhere, but frustratingly, when we did try and play we kept giving the ball away attempting the simple stuff.

Ultimately, we are where we are because we lack quality, but there is no reason why we can’t match the league leaders for energy and intensity in these final do or die fixtures.

That has to be our starting point for our survival: concentration and focus for 90 minutes not just 60, ferocity in the tackle, positive intent in our passing and a ruthless killer instinct in front of goal.

Carrow Road might not prove to be the last chance saloon, but it’s starting to feel like it.