COSTEL PANTILIMON says the Stadium of Light needs to present a united front for three crunch home games in the relegation battle.
Sunderland boss Gus Poyet’s plea for “patience and understanding” has sparked a backlash from supporters this week, who felt that the Uruguayan’s comments were derogatory on the back of the Black Cats’ dire home record this season.
No Premier League team can boast an inferior tally of home points than Sunderland, who have mustered a paltry one league victory all season.
But while Sunderland fans are understandably frustrated at the home return, attendances are still up this year at the Stadium of Light, with more than 44,000 tickets already sold for Saturday’s crucial clash against fourth-bottom Burnley.
With fellow bottom-seven outfits QPR and West Brom visiting over the next month too, goalkeeper Pantilimon says the players need the support of the fans more than ever to increase the precarious one-point buffer with the relegation zone.
“It is an important game, not just this one against Burnley but also the other games,” said the Romanian.
“But it is true that we need to win.
“We hope to give the fans a good day with the victory and also to play well to give us confidence going forward.
“I understand how the fans feel, because I know they support us all the time.
“They are with us home and away, and sometimes we have not given them what they expect.
“But I am sure they will keep supporting us because we need them, because only with them on our side can we get good results.”
Only goal difference separates Burnley from Sunderland, with the Clarets potentially dropping into the relegation zone before kick-off, with third-bottom Hull hosting Newcastle United in the lunch-time game.
But while the burden of expectation rests on Sunderland, Pantilimon is eager for the Black Cats to end their home sickness and arrest a slump in form since last month’s Tyne-Wear derby win.
“Everyone expects us to win these kind of games at home,” added the ex-Manchester City man.
“We know everything about our opponents and we respect them, but we need to play our game and make sure that we win.
“But it’s football, it’s not like you can make plans and it always follows!
“We don’t know what will happen, but of course we want to start well.
“But Burnley are a good team and we expect to have a strong opponent in front of us.
“For us, it is important to play our game, to have patience and to do everything to try to win this game.”