19 Feb 2007
- Written by Paul Gilder (Sunderland Journal)
- Hits: 1000
And as a player who scored twice to help lift the Black Cats into a play-off position at the weekend prepares to face his former club, Edwards has warned Birmingham to beware opponents closing in on automatic promotion.
The Wearsiders will head to St Andrew's tomorrow buoyed by Saturday's 4-0 win over Southend - the club's fifth victory in six fixtures sufficient to secure fifth place, the club's highest position this season in the Championship standings.
John scored twice in two minutes to complete the rout at the Stadium of Light. And having seen his compatriot open his account in Sunderland colours, Edwards believes he will complete the campaign in style.
"It had been bothering him a bit and he was desperate to get off the mark," explained the Trinidad and Tobago international, who produced an excellent performance as the home side overwhelmed Southend to record their biggest win in almost two years.
"I wouldn't go as far as to say he has been moaning about it. But he has been urging me to get the ball into the box for him.
"It's always good when strikers score. It had been playing on Stern's mind and he knew his first goal for the club would relieve some of the pressure on his shoulders.
"He took his goals really well and I'm sure there's much more to come from him. He got two in two minutes against Southend and I hope it will be the start of a run."
John was a surprising acquisition last month. But a player who signed a two-and-a-half year contract, having arrived for an undisclosed fee from Coventry, produced a performance against Southend that suggested he will be a valuable addition to a squad seeking automatic promotion.
Sunderland's prospects improved with a third successive league win at the weekend. The Black Cats are just four points behind second-placed Birmingham, John's former club, and with Steve Bruce's men to face in the West Midlands tomorrow evening, the Wearsiders are in a strong position to achieve their ambitions.
John spent three seasons at St Andrew's but, having fallen out of favour with Bruce, was sold in 2004. And with a striker determined to prove a point in their ranks, Edwards is confident the visitors can prevail.
"I hope we can keep the goals coming," said the winger. "When we meet Birmingham this week, they won't have an easy night. Going to St Andrew's will be interesting. Birmingham will not be counting their chickens, we will be going there to get three points and it will be all about who wants it the most.
"The pressure is not on us - it is on the teams above us. We're on a good run and I think that result (against Southend) will make people sit up and take notice."
There are just four clubs above Sunderland and the Black Cats will face three of them in the next 12 days. With Birmingham, Derby and West Bromwich Albion all to play before March 3, this is a critical period that could determine whether or not Keane's men can win promotion at the first time of asking.
"The manager is not looking at next season - he wants to go up this year," added Edwards. "We don't accept that we're playing for sixth place, we won't settle for the play-offs.
"We're looking for automatic promotion, we know what we're capable of and I hope we can achieve it. We're in the play-offs now and it's long overdue but we're looking at the top two."
Sunderland's bid to beat top-of-the-table Derby this weekend will not be helped by the loss of Dean Whitehead. The club's in-form captain collected his fifth booking of the season against Southend and will serve a one-match ban against Billy Davies' side.