Wickham issues home warning
Striker Connor Wickham has warned Sunderland they have to start to make home advantage count if they are to haul themselves out of the relegation mire.
The Black Cats turned in a spirited display as they lost 2-1 at high-flying Liverpool on Wednesday evening to suggest once again that they do have it within their powers to escape the drop.
However, they have won just one of their last eight Barclays Premier League fixtures at the Stadium of Light and with their remaining four away games taking them to Tottenham, Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United, that is a situation which is going to have to change, and fast.
Gus Poyet's men host West Ham on Monday looking for a first win in seven attempts in all competitions, and Wickham admits they have to turn around their home form.
He said: "We are going to have to, we haven't got a choice. We need to start picking up points.
"We need to start looking at the reality now that we need to start picking up points. Scrappy points or good points, we just need to get the points on the board.
"It's up to us to start performing against not just the big teams, but the teams in and around us and start picking up points."
Goals, or more accurately, the lack of them, have been Sunderland's most pressing concern for much of the campaign to date.
Substitute Ki Sung-yueng's header at Anfield was their first in four games and just their fourth in the eight outings they have had since the 3-0 derby victory at Newcastle on February 1.
That return, coupled with Steven Fletcher's ankle injury, prompted Poyet to recall 20-year-old Wickham from his loan spell at Leeds, and he was thrown straight into the starting line-up at Liverpool alongside the misfiring Jozy Altidore.
Loan signing Fabio Borini, who celebrated his 23rd birthday on Saturday, was ineligible to play against his parent club in midweek, but will return to the fold on Monday to leave the manager facing a big decision.
But England Under-21 international Wickham is ready to play his part if called upon.
The B#8.1million signing said: "That's why I came back, that's why I wanted to come back. That's what I have said all along: I want to play football and that's what the aim is to do."
Poyet needs his frontmen to belatedly find their touch in front of goal with midfielder Adam Johnson's seven league goals to date matching the total contribution of Fletcher, Altidore, Borini and Ignacio Scocco with Wickham having spent much of the season out on loan.
Altidore in particular has found the going tough since his B#6.5million summer switch from AZ Alkmaar, but Poyet insists the failings are collective.
He said: "Apart from Jonno, who has scored seven, the rest, nobody has scored, so it's a team problem and he is part of it because he is a striker and he is a striker we got in the summer.
"Sometimes we look for excuses for a few players, but we are not looking for any for Jozy.
"For me, it's one of the most difficult parts. There are different ways to be at the bottom.
"It's either because you cannot defend and you concede too many goals, or because you don't score enough, sometimes both.
"When you have both, you are down, you go down for sure. If you can cope with one of them, sometimes you have got a chance.
"We had that balance in January in a few games, now it looks like we have lost it a little bit. We are conceding a few and we are not scoring enough, so we need to make sure that the balance comes the other way around and we score more and we don't concede many."
A bullish Sam Allardyce has no regrets at cupping his ear in response to jeers from the West Ham support after Wednesday night's win over Hull.
Home fans stunned Allardyce by booing at the end of a 2-1 victory which could go a long way to securing the Hammers' Barclays Premier League status, with Monday's match at Sunderland another crucial fixture.
Asked if he regretted making the gesture, Allardyce said: "Not really, no. Why should I?
"I couldn't believe what I was hearing. In my younger days I might have done a lot worse and got myself into more trouble."
Allardyce, who accepts he will struggle to have the unanimous backing of the Hammers fans, on Saturday received the support of vice-chairman Karren Brady.
"In many people's eyes no matter what I do I'll never be the flavour of the month, but that doesn't matter," Allardyce added.
"(And) you always appreciate any backing you get. Working together is critical to the success for you as a manager and the club.
"We've all had a difficult season, but we all know we want to get better and do better next season once we've secured our place in the Premier League.
"They've always backed me since I've been here. I do appreciate that, because you can focus on the next game and on the future."
Victory at the Stadium of Light should all-but secure the Hammers' top-flight status and would allow Allardyce to plan for the future.
He added: "Let's go and try to win the game. The desperate need for Sunderland to win three points now means it's going to be hugely difficult.
"They will take some comfort out of their performance against Liverpool and will think this is a great chance to try to get to safety by getting three points against us."
Allardyce hopes the atmosphere at the Hull match will be forgotten, admitting the supporters' barracking impacted on the players.
"I'm protecting my players, not me," he added.
"You keep your thick skin on and you move on. My job is all about doing the best I possibly can for West Ham.
"The atmosphere is critical to the players' performance and the players lost a lot of their composure the other night, hearing the criticism that was coming their way and that made life difficult for them.
"It's a small minority always, but small minorities are good at voicing their opinion.
"It's all borne out of frustration because they expected us to win more comfortably than we did.
"Everybody in the cold light of day when they calmed down realised how important the win was and everybody has got to realise what we've done in the last eight games.
"We have 15 points in the last eight games. The most important thing was to win the game, acquire the three points and push on from here."
West Ham are without James Collins at Sunderland after he pulled a calf muscle against Hull.
His fellow defenders James Tomkins (knock) and Roger Johnson (bruised eye) should be fit to feature, while Winston Reid has recovered from illness.
Winger Matt Jarvis (thigh) is also available again, but Joey O'Brien (shoulder) and Marco Borriello (calf) are out.