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Sunderland man fed up of hearing 'rallying calls'
A PASSIONATE Craig Gardner last night insisted that now is not the time for rallying calls by claiming the players will do everything they can to lead Sunderland out of relegation trouble.
Gardner is fully aware of the worrying situation the Black Cats find themselves in, with just four points separating them from the bottom three ahead of a horrible run of Premier League fixtures.
But the 26-year-old does not think it is time for members of the squad to be asking supporters to back them, suggesting it is up to the men wearing the first team shirts to deliver results for manager Martin O'Neill.
"My frustration is that I have done interviews before and everything comes out as a rallying call, that 'Craig Gardner is doing a rallying call', so and so is doing a rallying call, so the fans think we are," said Gardner.
"Then the fans turn on us saying 'we pay this money, we are cheering you on week in, week out'. We are giving everything, we are working really hard to turn it around. The results just aren't going for us. That's the biggest frustration.
"We have got to take the responsibility on ourselves, the fans aren't going to. We have got the club in to this position, so we need to win and get the club out of it.
"I am one of the most honest people you will meet. There's no point me sitting here saying 'let's get behind us' because the fans will get behind us regardless. What I am saying is that we have to get out of this regardless. The players will do it for the fans and for the manager. We will do it."
For the first time in his 14-month reign as Sunderland boss questions are being asked by sections of the Wearside support about decisions made by O'Neill.
It is an indication of just how disappointing Sunderland have been this season. After spending more than £30m during his time in charge, O'Neill is desperate to add greater quality this summer.
What he needs to do first is ensure Sunderland are still playing in the Premier League next season, knowing Manchester United, Chelsea, Newcastle and Everton are the next four matches on the horizon.
Gardner, who also worked under the Northern Irishman at Aston Villa, said: "It's reality and we have to dig deep for ourselves and for the manager, first and foremost. He has been there for us from day one and we need to dig deep for him.
"I have worked with the manager for seven or eight years. He is one of the best. He is unbelievable. He turns things around at times like this. He is one of the best and we will be fine. We just need to dig deep and we will.
"Martin O'Neill is Martin O'Neill. He knows what to do. He has been in the game longer than I have been alive. He has been through every single situation possible. He knows what to do. We have the best possible person in charge of this squad at this time. He will get us out of it."
Having launched such a staunch defence of the manager and expressed a confidence that Sunderland can turn things around before the end of the season, Gardner had an explanation why the team failed to overcome a Norwich City team reduced to ten men for an hour of Sunday's 1-1 draw at the Stadium of Light.
"Sometimes it's harder against ten men, they just sit there and it is like playing against 11," said Gardner. "They are sitting there and you can't break them down, you have to be patient. The fans can get a bit apprehensive.
"When you are playing against teams in and around you, you are under so much pressure to get results. Now we have four games against Man U, Chelsea, Newcastle and Everton ... the pressure will be off us a bit to win. That's what we need.
"We need to go in to a game as underdogs. We need to come together, we are coming together, and we will get results to get out of this."
If Sunderland are to climb out of trouble then it looks certain that they will have to do it without skipper Lee Cattermole.
Midfield has become a problem for Sunderland this season and Cattermole's knee problem is still being assessed, although he has had an injection.
O'Neill said: "We may have to cope without him. Even if he does successfully come back from the injury, he will still be nowhere near match fit, as things stand."
Another of Sunderland's midfielders, David Vaughan, had to pull out of the Wales squad yesterday for Friday's World Cup qualifiers with Scotland. He is expected to return to the fold for Tuesday's match with Croatia at Swansea's Liberty Stadium.
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