DAN Neil has called on the Sunderland squad to take responsibility for this season's "implosion" and stressed the importance of the weeks ahead, despite the fact the Black Cats have very little to play for.

Having been on the brink of the play-offs, Sunderland have plummeted down the Championship table after a seven-game winless run.

Neil has been an ever present this campaign and is viewed as a senior head in the Wearsiders' midfield despite his young age. The 22-year-old admits there's nothing worse than heading into the business part of the season with nothing to play for and has called on his team-mates to come out firing when the Championship campaign resumes at Cardiff City on Good Friday.

“It’s frustrating," Neil said when reflecting on the current poor run of form. 

"I think I’ve been in the stands when there have been implosions in the past. I think everything has kind of been fine and dandy the last few years and everything has kind of been smooth sailing. I think this year was going to be a tough year regardless. 

“I think last year everyone was just kind of happy, we’re tenth, we’re ninth and then all of a sudden we’re in the play-offs. I think that has kind of sparked a massive ambition from, especially the fans and I can understand why. I think when you finish sixth one year, even us as players, you want to go and finish fifth, or finish fourth, or you want to be competing for the top two. 

“It just hasn’t gone our way this year and we need to look at ourselves for that. We need to take some accountability. The mentality is still there within the group and we are going to keep fighting. The last eight games are massive and we will be trying to win them all.

“I was saying it the other day, you don’t want to be going into the last few games of the season playing for nothing, because it just breeds a bit of, probably a bit of laziness because we can’t go up and we can’t go down. That’s why after this international break we have to hit the ground running and we have to put a run together so at least we have got a glimpse of it going into each game. 

“I think there’s no worse feeling than having nothing to play for. I think we need to use this international break as a reset and come out all guns blazing to finish the season.”


As a boyhood Sunderland fan, Neil understands the pressure and what it means to pull on the red and white shirt, week in, week out, but admits some of the overseas signings are still adjusting to life at the Stadium of Light.

When questioned if the likes of Luis Hemir Semedo and Nazariy Rusyn understand the enormity of what it means to play for Sunderland, Neil said: “I think you can try and teach them it all you want, but at the end of the day they haven’t even been here a year yet so it’s not going to sink in with them just yet. 

“I’m sure it has a lot, especially with the recent run of form. Our fans can be vocal when we’re winning and when we’re losing and that’s why they are some of the best fans in the country, if not the world. It’s going to take time for them to understand it, a lot of these boys are very young lads and have taken a massive step in terms of leaving a country at such a young age to try and make their name in football. 

“Coming to a club of this size with this much pressure, it is going to be tough for them. We have to as players, staff and fans, we need to stick by these young lads who have come over because it’s not through a lack of trying, everyone is trying to win games and do really well for this football club so I think we have to give them time.”