Sunderland legend worries over Burnley clash

Official launch of the "Sunderland : The Complete Record" book at the Stadium of Light, former players, left to right; Dick Malone, Nicky Sharkey, Bobby Kerr, Gary Bennett, Colin Suggett and Gordon Armstrong,
Official launch of the "Sunderland : The Complete Record" book at the Stadium of Light, former players, left to right; Dick Malone, Nicky Sharkey, Bobby Kerr, Gary Bennett, Colin Suggett and Gordon Armstrong,

SUNDERLAND legend Gordon Armstrong admits he “worries” for the Black Cats in tomorrow’s crunch showdown against Burnley.

A make-or-break period in Sunderland’s season begins at the Stadium of Light this weekend, when two sides teetering just a point above the drop zone attempt to ease their relegation worries.

Sunderland will have to overcome the jitters if they are to record only a second Premier League win of the campaign at the Stadium of Light, with Gus Poyet’s side boasting the worst home record in the top flight.

By contrast, Burnley have drawn at Manchester City and Newcastle in their last two league games on the road, with the Clarets enjoying a renaissance after registering 16 points from 12 encounters.

And despite the arrival of new signing Jermain Defoe boosting Sunderland’s attacking ranks, ex-Black Cats and Burnley midfielder Armstrong is concerned at the hosts’ prospects this weekend.

Boyhood Sunderland fan Armstrong said: “It’s a game I worry about for Sunderland and I wish I wasn’t saying that.

“Like lots of people, I think Gus Poyet has done a good job, but the last couple of weeks have gone flat for them.

“The biggest problem has been scoring goals, they don’t seem to be able to put the ball in the back of the net.

“They’ve brought in Defoe, but I don’t think you can lay too much blame on the strikers anyway.

“It’s not as if they’ve been missing four or five chances every game.

“I just hope that Defoe can give us that bit of spark and score a few.

“For both sides this is big – a massive game for two teams at the wrong end of the table.

“But looking at it, the pressure is on Sunderland. You have to be able to win your home fixtures and they haven’t done that this season.”

Prior to a run of just one point from the last five games, Sunderland looked to be heading for a solid, if unspectacular, campaign at the top end of the bottom half of the table.

But a lean run has thrust Sunderland back into yet another relegation battle, although home games against Burnley, QPR and West Brom over the next month could ease their position.

“I just don’t think the squad is good enough to be honest,” said Armstrong, seventh on the list of Sunderland’s all-time record appearance makers.

“They brought a few players in during the summer and spent a bit of money, but it perhaps wasn’t enough for what was needed.

“Maybe it had to be that way though, and that was the only money available.”

However, Burnley didn’t spend beyond their means either after promotion from the Championship.

But after a lean start to life back in the Premier League with just four points from the opening 10 games, Dyche’s side have emerged from the basement, in part thanks to the seven goals of fit-again striker Danny Ings.

“Burnley are the complete opposite (to Sunderland) and spent no money, but everyone seems to buy into the manager’s ideas,” added Armstrong, who won promotion from League One during five years at Burnley.

“They have got a goalscorer too. Since Ings has come back in, it has gone very well for them.

“Owen Coyle (ex-manager) did great to get Burnley promoted, but Sean Dyche has taken them to a different level.

“They have a great chance now of staying up.”