John O’Shea believes Sunderland’s poor start to the Premier League season means the result of Sunday’s Wear-Tyne derby is even more significant.
Sunderland, winless after nine games and sitting at the foot of the table, take on Newcastle – also in the relegation zone – at the Stadium of Light.
Sam Allardyce’s men have dominated recent meetings between the fierce rivals, having won each of their past five games and remaining unbeaten since 2011.
O’Shea, who joined the north-east club from Manchester United, says the whole team are relishing the upcoming test.
“It is a massive game and as players we always look forward to playing our local rivals,” said the Republic of Ireland international.
“We’ve had some positives results against them in recent times and of course we’re looking for that to continue, but more importantly we have to register that first league win of the season and start climbing the table as quickly as possible.
“We would be looking to do that whoever we were facing this weekend, but when you’ve had the start to the season we have it’s important to start picking up points.”
Dick Advocaat, Sunderland’s hero last season, has been replaced by Allardyce but O’Shea says it is up to the players to handle the pressure the derby brings.
“No matter who we face we’re confident especially at home and because it is against Newcastle on the TV there is obviously a bigger build-up, but as I said we’re looking forward to the game and hopefully we can respond to the test,” he said.
“The atmosphere and the intensity of the derby is huge but on the day you have to rise to it and perform, whilst also making sure everyone has cool heads and takes advantage of that intensity to win the game.”