Jack Rodwell insists Sunderland have what it takes to get out of trouble despite making the worst start to a Premier League season by any club this century.
Winston Reid’s controversial goal deep into injury time secured victory for West Ham United on Saturday, with Sunderland beaten for the seventh time in nine games.
The cruel 1-0 defeat leaves them bottom and five points adrift of safety.
Rodwell admits the team has gone backwards since the end of last season, but he insists the players and staff are up for the fight of extending their stay in the top flight under “great” manager David Moyes.
“It’s hard to say that,” said Rodwell, when asked if the club was staring relegation in the face.
“I would like to say it is still early in the season. We are getting on to the point now where we need to start really getting back-to-back wins.
“It will be a fight, to the wire.
“We have done it in the last few seasons and ideally we didn’t want to do it this season, but looks like it could be another fight for the rest of the season.
“We will be prepared to do that, but I don’t want to talk about relegation just yet. It is about time we started winning.
“It’s must-win games already. I would have settled for a point in the closing stages here (at West Ham) and I thought we had it.
“Lapse in concentration and it has cost us. If we had got a point here then it wouldn’t be doom and gloom.
“I do believe there is enough in this dressing room, throughout the team and the staff.
“It is going to be a fight and we all have to be prepared to do it.”
Sunderland looked to have done enough to secure a point and their first clean sheet of the season.
But a lack of concentration allowed unmarked Reid to take full advantage after the ball broke to him from a Dimitri Payet short corner.
Defeat was harsh on Sunderland, who had strong spells in the second half after weathering the early storm.
Not since Sheffield Wednesday in 1999 have a club recorded two points or fewer in their opening nine games of a top-flight campaign.
The Premier League table makes for grim reading, but Rodwell remains confident the players can turn the situation around under Moyes.
Rodwell added: “We probably have gone a bit backwards (since the end of last season).
“It’s not easy when you are chopping and changing all of the time, as players as managers, but that’s no excuse.
“We have a great manager here and we need to do it on the pitch.
“It’s the 11 players on the pitch who have to do it – we have gone a bit backwards, but we are the ones who can put it right.
“The manager will be bitterly disappointed and so are the players.
“Anyone can beat anyone this season if you put the hard work in – sometimes we need a bit of luck on our side as well.
“If we can get a good win against Arsenal then that will lift us massively,” added the 25-year-old ahead of this Saturday’s home clash with title-chasing Arsenal.