Georginio Wijnaldum is aware Newcastle United “have to stop” Sunderland’s astonishing derby record as they look to pull themselves out of the relegation zone.
Sunderland travel to St James’ Park on Sunday for one of the most important Tyne-Wear derbies in recent years having won the last six meetings against their bitter rivals.
Sam Allardyce’s men are 18th in the Premier League, one point ahead of Newcastle and three behind Norwich City after Alex Neil’s men recorded a priceless win over West Brom.
It means there is far more than just local pride at stake for the two teams and the importance of the occasion is not lost on Wijnaldum.
“Everywhere I go, fans talk to me about Sunderland,” he told Sky Sports. “They have won the last six. For the fans and for us, we have to stop it.
“You can see that this game means a lot for the supporters and they want to win it because the last few times they haven’t won and they want to win again.
“So every time I see a Newcastle supporter, especially now, they say that we have to win this game.”
The Netherlands international accepted that the players need to take greater responsibility for their troubles this season, which culminated in Steve McClaren being replaced by Rafael Benitez in the Newcastle dugout last week.
“I feel bad and I feel responsible,” added Wijnaldum. “In football, it’s not always fair. They fire the trainer because they can’t fire us players.
“Maybe it’s focus, maybe it’s mental, maybe it’s confidence – it’s difficult to explain. Sometimes we need to be harder on each other, when times are hard you have to speak more – especially the senior players.
“You work out who you can yell at and who you have to be easy with. We can do it more.”
Despite Newcastle facing a second relegation in seven years, Wijanldum insisted the team are paying little attention to the table, instead focusing on the task in hand.
“We don’t really look at the league table right now,” he said. “We just look at it game by game because we can only control the game and if we look at the league table you are also going to look at other teams and what they are going to do.
“We are only looking at the games that will come and the next game is Sunderland.”
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