SUNDERLAND stars need to take a leaf out of “unbelievable” Connor Wickham’s book if they are to beat the drop, says Dick Advocaat.
The Black Cats’ new head coach was hugely impressed with Wickham’s performance in the 1-0 defeat against West Ham United last weekend.
The way Wickham played was excellent, unbelievable – his power and his skillsDick Advocaat
Advocaat selected the 21-year-old in a new role, playing behind a front two of Steven Fletcher and Jermain Defoe.
Wickham – whose stunning form around this time last year almost single-handedly saved Sunderland from relegation – responded with a man of the match performance.
And Advocaat says that the rest of the Sunderland squad must also raise their game now.
“The way Wickham played was excellent, unbelievable – his power and his skills,” said the Dutchman, who must wait until next Sunday to return to action with a Wear-Tyne derby against Newcastle.
“But some players have to improve their game.
“But, as a start, it’s working hard as a team and playing as a team and then your individual skills will come as well, in my opinion.
“That will help us for Newcastle. The most important thing is that everyone worked hard.
“One player played a little bit better than the others, but we can improve that side as well.”
The work-rate of the team at Upton Park on Saturday was the most pleasing aspect of the game for Advocaat, who was taking charge of the side for the first time since replacing Gus Poyet as head coach.
He now wants that effort replicated in next week’s derby, with Sunderland desperate to capitalise on their home games at the Stadium of Light if they are to avoid relegation after eight seasons in the top flight.
“It’s a home game. We have to do it in home games and that will be difficult against Newcastle,” added Advocaat.
“But with the fans behind us, with the work-rate we showed, with the power we have to give, we could get a situation like West Ham had in the last minute.”
After the Wear-Tyne derby, Sunderland also have another home fixture when former Newcastle manager Alan Pardew brings his Crystal Palace side to the Stadium of Light.
H Cattermole, Johnson in closed-doors victory – p55