A cursory glance at the foot of the Premier League table tells you everything you need to know about the importance of this weekend’s home fixture against Hull. They sit in 18th place with 10 points, we sit bottom with a meager total of 5 points - urgh.
Saturday’s game is quite simply a must win. Fail to defeat our opponents and we are adrift - bag another victory, and we are within striking distance of escape from the Championship waiting room.
Hull, like many pundits predicted at the start of the campaign, have struggled this season. A home win against the reigning champions, Leicester, on the opening day of the season, followed by an away victory against Swansea gave the fans a dream start to life back in the big leagues. Yet, eight games followed without a win before victory at home to Southampton put some much needed points on the board.
Much like ourselves, Hull have been ravaged by an unrelenting injury crisis; something neither team have really been able to overcome thus far. Hull are still without six key players for this weekend’s game at the Stadium of Light, with Will Keane the latest casualty added to the list after being ruled out for a year with a knee injury.
Yet, there’s better news for Sunderland.
Sebastian Larsson is back in contention following a knee injury whilst Lee Cattermole and Jan Kirchhoff could make a return to the match day squad. Victor Anichebe also appears fit and raring to go after his interview with the club’s website this week - encouraging news.
Both clubs come into the game on the back of vital victories, and this weekend looks set to be a ferocious encounter. Sunderland will need to be wary of Robert Snodgrass on Saturday as the Scotsman was at the heart of everything good about Hull’s fortuitous victory against Southampton in their last league game. Sunderland, on the other hand, need to channel the passion, enthusiasm and belief that Victor Anichebe’s battling performance on the South Coast brought to the rest of the squad.
If Sunderland can keep Anichebe fit, and continue to use his presence as an attacking outlet, then clubs throughout the league will be looking at a game against Sunderland with a raised eyebrow, or two. Failure to emulate the heroics witnessed at Dean Court raises another host of issues, something we’re all keen to avoid confronting.
This weekend’s game has been labelled as that old footballing cliché - a six-pointer. Yet this game is so much more than that. Should Hull win, Sunderland could find themselves with a lot of catching up to do; the task wouldn’t be insurmountable, but it would certainly be worrying. A win, however, allows this newfound sense of optimism to continue to flourish; it narrows the gap between ourselves and those just above us, but more importantly it shows the players that they can trust in one another to get the job done. A win against Hull proves to anyone and everyone that Sunderland are not going to meekly embrace that encroaching dread of oblivion, that Sunderland will make a fight of the rest of the season, refusing to accept relegation as a foregone conclusion before Christmas.
A point would be concerning. And a loss would be catastrophic. Yet a win could prove to be cathartic. We may yet look back at this game come the season’s end and note that this was the moment that solidified our ability to fight through to safety.
We say it season after season, Ladies and Gents, but once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more! Cry ‘Anichebe for Moyesy, Sunderland and our club!
Keep the faith, for we need it now more than ever.