David Moyes is convinced Sunderland can fire themselves out of relegation trouble if his players give Jermain Defoe a helping hand.
Defoe’s eight goals to date this season have helped to get the Black Cats back in touch with the race for survival, but until Fabio Borini struck at Manchester United on Boxing Day, only the former England striker, sidekick Victor Anichebe and full-back Patrick van Aanholt, as well as Leicester defender Robert Huth, had found the back of the net in the Premier League this season.
Both manager Moyes and chief executive Martin Bain have signalled their intention to resist any attempt to lure Defoe away from the Stadium of Light next month with West Ham boss Slaven Bilic having made little secret of his admiration.
However, if he does remain on Wearside, the former Hammers frontman will need support if the club is to retain its top-flight status once again.
Asked about Borini’s superb strike at Old Trafford, Moyes said: “He scored a really good goal and I am pleased that he has added to our goalscoring tally, but in a way, I would rather when it was 3-0 that he had kept it until another day where it was one which might have really mattered.
“But I still think if you get him, you get Defoe, you get Victor, you get Adnan [Januzaj] — we have actually got people who are capable of scoring and making goals, and we are going to need them to produce between now and the end of the season.”
The challenge facing Sunderland is being exacerbated by an horrendous injury list – keeper Jordan Pickford this week became the latest man to join the ranks for an extended period – and the financial restrictions which will severely limit Moyes’ ability to reshape his squad during the January transfer window.
However, while that may be viewed as a green light for potential buyers to target the likes of Pickford, Defoe and Lamine Kone, the Scot, who has been encouraged by conversations with owner Ellis Short that the situation may not be as bleak as was first thought, insists he has heard nothing and issued a warning.
He said: “I’ve spoken with the owner and I think there’s a chance that maybe we could try to do things if the right things turn up, so we can only look and see.
“And the other thing is, I have always been an expensive seller.”
In the meantime, the Black Cats will attempt to ease themselves out of the drop zone on Saturday with a difficult trip to Turf Moor, where promoted Burnley have collected 19 of their 20 points to date this season.
Moyes said: “You might not necessarily pick out loads of individuals, but you’d pick out a good team and that’s what makes them dangerous. It’s probably the reason why they have picked up many good home results this season.”