GARY Bennett says Sunderland must hold their nerve this weekend as they set off in pursuit of a win at Swansea which would begin transforming their season.
The Black Cats have made a disappointing start to the campaign so far having lost a home derby to Newcastle and been dumped out of the cup by Brighton, in the wake of a good draw at Liverpool on the opening day of the season.
Those defeats have left the club feeling the heat barely a week into the 2011/12 season and ahead of tomorrow’s tricky match against Premier League newcomers Swansea.
But Sunderland legend Bennett says this is the most important time for everyone at the club to be pulling together.
“You get disappointments in football and we’ve had a couple of massive ones in the last few days,” he said. “But the key thing now is for the togetherness in the camp to take over.
“The players need to be united as a group and they need to rely on each other for support and draw strength from each other.
“Given the way the situation has started to develop, tomorrow looks like being a key game and that’s why it is important that the players all pull together and don’t let things affect them – it’s the only way to get through spells like this.”
Bennett admits that that is easier said than done in the glare of the Premier League, especially with Steve Bruce still trying to gel his summer signings in a remodelled squad.
“It’s tough on them but that’s the game these days.” he said.
“Suddenly the spotlight is on them now and they have to deal with it – it goes with the territory these days where you lose a couple of games and suddenly all sorts of questions are being asked.
“I would expect the club to understand that they’re going to come under that sort of pressure and hold their nerve.
“The players have to believe in themselves and each other.”
The former Sunderland skipper says the situation will be particularly testing for the new signings, especially the younger lads.
“They’re probably feeling like they don’t know what’s hit them,” he said. “All of a sudden things have become very difficult, just at the time when they’re trying to find their feet.
“The young lads like Connor Wickham and Ji Dong-won need time to settle but will suddenly find they’ve got no time at all – fans will want results and they will be under pressure.
“The good thing to remember is that a win, just the one win, and it might come at Swansea this weekend, can instantly start turning things around.”
SEE Friday’s Mail for interviews with Steve Bruce and Lee Cattermole