Kenwyne Jones insists the fear of relegation does not stalk Sunderland despite the Black Cats’ precarious position.
A miserable run of 14 league games without a win has undone all the good work the Wearsiders put in at the start of the season.
It has seen them slide out of the top ten and down to 14th in the table, where they are hover just three points above the relegation zone.
That means the pressure is on as they prepare to face fellow strugglers Bolton, who are one place and one point below them, at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday night in the second of four consecutive home games which boss Steve Bruce has admitted will ‘define our season’.
Sunderland’s results have improved in recent weeks - their goalless stalemate at home to Fulham a fortnight ago was their fourth draw in five games – but Jones admits they need wins if they are to start climbing the table again.
He said: “There is a different feeling in the dressing room this season compared to last.
“We are not acting as though we are close to relegation - we are not really talking about relegation and it is not as though we are in the bottom three or anything like that.
“What we have is a situation where we have been unable to win a game, but we are not carrying the fear of being relegated.
“We are just trying to get back to winning again and find a good run of form.
“I know we have not won a game for a while but it is not like we’ve been losing every game - we have drawn a lot of those games.
“We need to start turning those draws into wins, but it is easier said than done. We have to go out there and do it.”
Sunderland survived scrapes with relegation over the past two seasons, but it was a close-run thing 12 months ago when they stayed up by a solitary point on the final day.
Jones is a veteran of both those escapes and will be seen as one of the men expected to come to the fore and lead Sunderland clear of danger again.
However, at least this time round the addition of experienced players such as England international striker Darren Bent, skipper Lorik Cana, ex-Middlesbrough midfielder Lee Cattermole and reliable centre-back Michael Turner, means the burden will be shared.
Jones added: “It is not going to take just one leader to lead us out of this situation.
“To get out of a relegation battle, as we have for the last two years, everyone has to stand up and be counted.
“Of course, it starts individually because you have to make sure you do your job and hopefully everyone else will follow suit, but it takes more than one leader to get us out of a situation like this.”
Six of Sunderland’s remaining 11 games are at home – after Bolton they entertain Manchester City a week tomorrow, then Birmingham City the following Saturday.
The Black Cats’ form at the Stadium of Light has generally been good, with just two defeats from their 13 games on Wearside so far.
However, Jones says they cannot afford to rely on home comforts and must improve a sorry away record that shows just a solitary victory this season – at Bolton way back in August.
Jones said: “I don’t think our home form on its own will dig us out of anything.
“From now until the end of the season we have to pick up a string of results and get the club safe from the drop.
“Whether those results come at home or away is not important.
“Our away form has not been the best, and we have to try and improve it.”