Jermain Defoe has warned Sunderland they cannot allow their barren run to continue for much longer if they are to avoid another survival scrap.
The Black Cats welcome West Ham to the Stadium of Light on Saturday having won none of their opening seven games of the Barclays Premier League campaign, leaving them rooted to the foot of the table with just two points to their name.
Head coach Dick Advocaat desperately needs a victory in the final fixture before the international break to steady a few nerves and repair tattered confidence, and that will be the aim against the side with which Defoe began his professional career.
“It is a long season and there are so many more games to play, but it is important that we start getting points now because you can’t wait and think we will do it next week, we will do it next week – we have to do it now,” the 32-year-old striker told his club’s official website.
“There is also nothing better than getting the points before the lads go away and focus on their countries, but it is also important for the manager and the coaching staff because then they can relax and when we come back we can regroup and kick on from there.
“West Ham are a good side and they have picked up a lot of points and beaten some of the big teams, so they will come here and be confident, but it is important for us to set our stall out from the first whistle and be positive.”
Defoe knows exactly what is at stake having played his part in yet another escape at the end of last season, and he is urging his team-mates to rediscover the fighting spirit which dug them out of a hole then to prevent them from slipping into another.
He said: “It is a big game, even more so because of how it has gone the last few games.
“We’ve not had that luck and not reached those levels we reached in the closing stages of last year, so it is a massive game and it is a game we need to win.
“We need points now and as players, we understand that. Everyone is trying and I think we just have to approach it like any other game, don’t get too tense and try to relax.”