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THE ROKER RAMBLE - Huge Six Weeks For The Lads

With a horrid December well behind us James Holmes looks ahead to the next six weeks, what Sunderland need on and off the pitch and the big question - can we survive?

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The next six weeks could very well be the most important in the clubs recent history.

The squad looks unbalanced and short on quality - Sam Allardyce will certainly have to bring in a few faces as well as wield the axe. On the pitch we have a run of fixtures that would make even the better sides in the league quiver, with five of our next six games against top ten opposition.

Saturday's game at home to Bournemouth is a huge fixture, with the earlier meeting between the two sides finishing in a 2-0 win to The Cherries. Should we lose on Saturday Bournemouth will go eight points clear of us, making the task of facing the likes of Manchester City and Manchester United in the coming weeks much more difficult.

That said, I'm relatively positive about Saturday - Sam has shown in his time here that he more often than not gets it right when it comes to playing our relegation rivals.

In recent years Sunderland have gone up against the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United and have won, seemingly upsetting the odds and giving ourselves a fighting chance by beating teams at the top end of the table unexpectedly.

This season has been quite the opposite - when playing the bigger sides we’ve conceded far too many goals. We have to be more competitive in these games, and have to be more ruthless and difficult to beat.

Jan Kirchhoff has been brought in to strengthen an inconsistent back line and he had a debut to forget against Tottenham. I’m not writing Jan off - he comes with fantastic pedigree and Sam must have seen enough in training to put him ahead of Coates, who has far more experience in the Premier League.

Costel Pantillimon has now signed for Watford and Danny Graham looks likely to join Blackburn on loan for the rest of the season. The ex-Brighton duo of Will Buckley and Liam Bridcutt have left on loan, so hopefully this infers that there are wages available to bring in better players to replace them. One can only hope the likes of Jack Rodwell and Steven Fletcher will follow them out of the door, but I doubt we’ll be so lucky.

We’ve been crying out for a creative midfielder for what seems like a decade and I hope we do something to rectify this in the January window. Clubs around us in the league are spending money to strengthen their squads, and we have to ensure we do the same.

I think we can all agree that Sam is the man for the job, and I’m infinitely more comfortable having him in charge than an unproven younger manager. If we can get nine points from the next six games we would need a further thirteen points from our last ten games to reach the magic forty point mark- not an impossible feat, by any stretch.

I believe we have what it takes to survive. We have the experience of being in this situation in the past and finding our way out of it. Constantly flirting with relegation leaves me feeling a tad more nervous than in previous years, but I'm hopeful.