Sunderland new boy Joleon Lescott believes experience will be key
Joleon Lescott thinks that the plethora of Premier League experience in the Sunderland squad can help them avoid the same fate as the Aston Villa side he played in last season.
Lescott made 32 Premier League appearances for the Midlands side, who suffered a traumatic season and finished rock bottom of the league.
They mustered just 17 points, 22 behind the Black Cats in 17th.
Aside from Lescott it was not a side rich with Premier League experience, the club having brought in a number of players from the continent and beyond at the start of the summer.
Their choice to replace Tim Sherwood as manager early In the season, Remi Garde, had no experience of the top tier and struggled to revive their ailing performances.
That is a far cry from the current Black Cats side, with a core group of players who have been involved in a number if last-ditch escapes.
Lescott said: “It’s not just relegation battle experience, it is Premier League experience.
“I’m yet to meet a foreign player who doesn’t say that this is the most physically demanding league they have played in, so the more experience of that you have, the better.”
Lescott made his Sunderland debut unexpectedly early at the weekend, a second-half substitute after John O’Shea picked up a hamstring injury.
The Black Cats are still waiting to hear the extent of the injury to the Irishman, as well as Jack Rodwell and Adnan Januzaj.
Should O’Shea not recover in time for pivotal home clash with Southampton on Saturday, it may well pave the way for the 34-year-old to make his full debut for the Black Cats. David Moyes is likely to want to persist with the five man defence that has secured consecutive clean sheets against Spurs and Crystal Palace.
Papy Djilobodji still has two games of his violent conduct ban to serve, and Lescott’s experience and aerial abilities make him an obvious candidate to replace the club captain.
While the scale of the challenge is nowhere near what Lescott faced at Villa Park last season, Hull and Swansea City’s resurgence in recent weeks mean the picture remains perilous for the Black Cats.
Lescott says his experiences in the last campaign will be useful but pointed out that the experience of his team-mates means he is unlikely to draw on it too much.
He said: “It is a big challenge and the stakes are the same, but the lads have been in this situation before so hopefully I won’t need to draw on my experiences last season – but if need be, I will do so.
“The lads know what needs to happen, they know we have to fight to the end.
“We’ve been here before, but it is not going to be easy.
“It’s not a given [that Sunderland will stay up], but we are fully confident that we can achieve it.”