JOHN O’SHEA says Sunderland’s players need to get their suffering supporters onside by giving them something to shout about this weekend.
Sunderland followers have understandably grown agitated over recent weeks, with a return of just two points in six games increasing the Black Cats’ lingering relegation fears.
Although Martin O’Neill’s side can still boast a six point margin with the drop zone, third bottom Wigan have a game in hand while fellow strugglers Aston Villa now lie just three points behind Sunderland.
But Sunderland can take a major step towards survival on Sunday, where victory would propel the Black Cats above opponents Norwich City on goal difference.
Stand-in skipper O’Shea knows Sunderland must make home advantage count against a Canaries side with just one away win all season and says the onus is on the players to provide the Stadium of Light crowd with a spark.
“It’s up to us to get the crowd going on Sunday – we can’t be depending on the crowd to get us going all the time,” said the Republic of Ireland centre-half.
“We have to give them something to get them behind us.
“Whether that be shots, headers, winning tackles – whatever, we have to give the fans something to get them on the edge of their seats.
“There’s always a worry when you are not in a comfortable position and I don’t think we’ve ever tried to hide that.
“Our season won’t be over if we don’t win on Sunday, but it’s a big game.
“Norwich have been playing quite well recently. I know Chrissy Hughton (Norwich manager) quite well, having worked with him with Ireland for a while, and he has his teams well organised.
“It’s going to be a very tough game, but it’s one we have to go into with a very positive attitude and just focus on ourselves and what we have worked on during the week to make sure we put in a proper performance, score some goals again and keep a clean sheet.
“If we play to or strengths, we know we can win the game.”
O’Shea insists Sunderland cannot afford to panic if they fail to land an early blow against the Canaries, despite the anxiety which will inevitably grow.
But the 31-year-old admits O’Neill’s side need to mount far more of a goal threat than they managed in last weekend’s defeat at basement boys QPR, where they managed just three shots on target, one of which was Steven Fletcher’s goal.
“A game lasts for 90 minutes, so if it is 0-0 in the 75th minute there is no problem,” said O’Shea.
“We are just as capable of scoring a goal in the last 10 minutes as we are in the first 10 minutes.
“It’s important that the players stand up on Sunday and show bravery and composure, and a willingness to come and take the ball and play football, not hide and shy away from the challenges that we face.”
He added: “Unfortunately we are not putting teams under enough pressure – we didn’t put their (QPR) goalkeeper Rob Green under any pressure at all really.
“That’s something we have to put right on Sunday against Norwich, because the only way you’re going to put teams under pressure is by scoring goals and we have to get back to doing that.
“I’m sure Rob Green came off the pitch thinking he had had quite an easy afternoon. I can promise you that the Norwich keeper will be quite a bit busier on Sunday.”