GUS Poyet wants his big-name, big-game players to stand up and be counted this weekend.
The Black Cats’ boss is determined that Sunderland will finally end their dismal record of failing to beat a bottom half of the table side when they take on fellow strugglers Fulham at Craven Cottage tomorrow.
The Wearsiders have not mustered a win against teams in the bottom half in 10 attempts so far this season and Poyet wants that sequence to end now.
But he believes the key to that goal is for his star players to shine in the capital after a run of just one defeat in their last eight games for Sunderland.
Poyet told the Echo: “I know what we need to get out of the trouble we are in and obviously the key is to win game regularly.
“To do that in this league, you need a number of things.
“The key to games nowadays, especially at the bottom, is that you need to be organised, you need to difficult to beat, you need to be strong, mentally and physically and finally you need the players, the best players, who can produce a bit of magic, to do that for you.
“You need players who can stand out and make the difference after the rest have done their share of the hard work.
“They are normally the best attackers at the club and players who can do something a bit special.
“And I do feel as though it is coming, there are players who are getting better and better, who are making good decisions, who are taking greater responsibility.
“That’s so important, because we have our share of match-winners.”
Among the players who are capable of that star quality are £12million striker Steven Fletcher, who is overdue a purple patch of goals, £10m former Manchester City winger Adam Johnson, Italian internationals Emanuele Giaccherini and Fabio Borini, as well as South Korean star Ki Sung-Yueng.
Poyet said: “It has been a lot of hard work by everybody, but I see good things coming.
“I mean I don’t know if you knew that Fabio Borini was going to take a penalty against Manchester United, but I didn’t!
“I suspected Ki Sung-Yueng would take it, but Fabio grabbed the ball and said he wanted to take it.
“I was delighted with that and not just because he scored but because the desire was there.
“And it wouldn’t be a case of, if he scored, good decision; if he didn’t, bad decision.
“It was good that he wanted to accept the responsibility and that he wanted to take the penalty, that’s exactly the sort of attitude we need.
“In the same game, you can look at Adam Johnson, who came on and changed the game for us, in my opinion.
“I know that Marcos Alonso got man-of-the-match against Manchester United, but, having won the penalty, maybe if Adam had got up and scored it, he would have got man-of-the-match.
“I know he was a substitute, but I’ve had experience of coming on as a substitute and being awarded man-of-the-match.
“For me, Adam was key to our victory because he came on – he was up for it, he was running at United, he was always looking to shoot or make a key pass and he was always positive.
“He has that ability to win you a game with a bit of skill or vision and we need those sort of players to show for us in tomorrow’s game and the games ahead.”