Sunderland seem to have a disproportionately high number of ‘must-win games’ every season.
With each passing campaign they seem to get earlier and more frequent as well. As early as the second game of the season against Middlesbrough, people were placing such levels of significance on the Wear-Tees clash. Naturally, we lost.
This is not uncommon, over the past few seasons we seem to have failed to win a number of ‘must-win’ fixtures and still survived. But this time it feels real.
Our situation seems to be getting worse week on week, even when we don’t play.
Bournemouth and Hull picking up victories left Sunderland six points from safety ahead of tomorrow’s visit of Burnley.
Defeat is simply unthinkable.
In previous seasons a managerial change or the significantly improved form of key players has led to the lads pulling off a number of escape acts.
This year, with Moyes set to remain in charge regardless of short term results and returning players needing time to regain match fitness, we need to find a different way of breathing life into our survival campaign.
Tomorrow provides an ideal opportunity to do this and give the fanbase something to get behind and believe in.
I don’t just mean by winning the game, we need to make a statement that we are up for the fight, which has not necessarily been evident in recent weeks.
We cannot afford to make a slow start, how many high pressure matches have we seen Sunderland make a cagey start, spread anxiety throughout the stands then inevitably concede and go on to lose or scrape a draw?
Earlier on in the season in a 2-1 win over Leicester, we took the game to the visitors from kick off and played with a great intensity and purpose.
This has an invigorating effect both on the pitch and amongst the fans.
The atmosphere significantly improved which in turn gave the players increased self-belief and despite not scoring early on it set the tone for the game and we went on to win in our most confident home display of the season.
A similar performance and result is essential against Burnley, despite beating Sunderland twice already this season, they have not won on the road all season and are there for the taking.
Since the emphatic victory at Selhurst Park, the mood on Wearside has been at an all-time low and for the sake of everyone involved with the club, we must restore some self-belief and momentum into our survival bid.
A win tomorrow could see us go level on points with Middlesbrough and suddenly away games at Watford and Leicester look winnable.
A defeat or a stuttering draw and we may as well start looking for cheap hotels in Burton.