KEVIN Kilbane says the heat is on Gus Poyet and his Sunderland side in this weekend’s crunch clash against revitalised West Brom.
Sunderland face a pivotal encounter in the relegation battle when West Brom visit the Stadium of Light on Saturday, with the manner of back-to-back defeats to QPR and Bradford leaving the Black Cats desperately needing to restore some confidence among both players and supporters.
BBC pundit Kilbane was in the commentary box at Valley Parade last weekend to see Poyet’s men humbled by League One Bradford in the FA Cup, while another of his former clubs, West Brom, cruised into the quarter finals with a thumping 4-0 win over in-form West Ham.
The Baggies are just two points and one place above Sunderland, yet new boss Tony Pulis has overseen four prescious Premier League points, plus FA Cup progression, from the last three games.
Kilbane told SportMail: “There’s going to be big pressure on Sunderland now, especially with the way things have been going lately – losing to QPR and losing to Bradford in the manner they did.
“It was a difficult game and you have to give credit to Bradford, but it just puts more pressure on the manager losing to a League One club.
“A lot of the players will have been expecting to win the QPR game with the form they had been showing.
“That was a massive blow and they didn’t play well.
“They’ve backed that up with another poor performance at Bradford. And it was a poor one, there was very little to take from the game from a Sunderland point of view.
“They were totally dominated by a side who looked really good at that ground.”
Kilbane was part of Peter Reid’s golden era at Sunderland after arriving in a £2.5million move from West Brom, but he also experienced the flip side of the coin as he was relegated in the infamous 2002-23 campaign.
In the subsequent decade, Sunderland have struggled to maintain any consistent progress, with the Black Cats now facing up to yet another relegation dogfight after last season’s Great Escape.
Kilbane said: “There’s never been any consistency and it’s been a bit of struggle over the last few years. I’m fully aware of that myself after being part of the side.
“With the way they escaped last season, I think there was a lot of optimism coming into this season. But again, it’s been pretty much the same.
“That’s the difficulty Gus Poyet has and what he has to get right on the pitch.
“They’ve made a good signing with Jermain Defoe. He looked to be making a difference because of the lack of goals.
“But it’s about results and when you lose games like QPR, like Bradford, it’s just going to heap more pressure on the manager.”
West Brom, meanwhile, have taken eight points from five league games under Pulis, with £10m summer signing Brown Ideye – who had been on the verge of moving to Qatar last month – netting four goals in his last three outings.
“I’ve seen West Brom’s last two games and it’s incredible that Brown Ideye hasn’t been playing sooner when you look at his performances,” added Kilbane.
“On Saturday he was outstanding, as good as any centre-forward you’re going to see playing at Premier League level.
“Maybe it’s taken him a bit of time to adjust, but now under Pulis we’re seeing why West Brom went out and paid the money they did for him.
“It’s not a good sign for Sunderland that they’re facing a team bang in form.”