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Sunderland must pull together to evoke the spirit of Big Sam’s survival push

Billy Jones. Picture by Frank Reid
Billy Jones. Picture by Frank Reid

Billy Jones is hoping that Sunderland can evoke the spirit of Big Sam’s survival charge, starting in the crucial Championship clash against Hull City this afternoon.

Full-back Jones was part of the squad that fought back from a wretched start to the season to secure Premier League safety under Sam Allardyce in 2016.

And he says that the Sunderland squad must pull together now, as they did then.

A win at the Stadium of Light against the Tigers could lift the club out of the relegation zone.

Jones said: “It takes results to kick-start that and get that momentum.

“That season, you would go out and you just knew you were going to get something – you were all in it and you were all pulling in the same direction.

“We have to create that again and it starts this weekend, and hopefully getting a big result and carrying on from there.”

Sunderland have continued to struggle on home turf, despite ending their year-long hoodoo against Fulham in mid-December.

Jones has told his team-mates that the support will be there from the crowd, providing they show they are committed to the cause.

The former West Brom defender said: “It is tough when you are not playing well.

“It’s tough when you are not making passes – even the best players in the Premier League make bad passes.

“It’s highlighted more at the moment in the stadium, but as long as the fans see the effort they appreciate that.

“There have been games where we have come off 0-0, it’s been even, but the fans have appreciated the effort and shown their support.

“If you show that hard work they will appreciate it, maybe even if you have an off-day technique wise they still appreciate your hard work.

“We have to show that again, get the fans behind us and get them excited.

“Hopefully we can do that this weekend.”

The 4-0 defeat to Cardiff City last weekend undid much of the momentum gained by a valuable win at Nottingham Forest just before the turn of the year.

But other results went Sunderland’s way and fifth-bottom Hull are one of a number of teams in the relegation picture.

Jones admits that Sunderland are lucky to still be in with such a strong chance of survival and said they simply have to capitalise.

“We’re fortunate to be in that position given the season we have had so far and the way we have performed,” he admitted.

“If we win this weekend, and results go our way, we could move out of the bottom three.

“Then you are looking at the teams you can catch and how many points you can get.

“It all has to start with a win this weekend, moving out of the bottom three and then taking confidence from that, and then following up against Birmingham City in the next game (on January 30).

“Back-to-back wins can be massive and put some daylight between you and the bottom three.

“The gap at the moment is still quite tight and we are lucky, from that point of view, because, if we get a couple of back-to-back wins, we can soon move away from it.”