By James Agberebi:
Nigerian striker Victor Anichebe has attributed Sunderland's struggles in the Premier League to injuries to key players.
Anichebe, who was absent for three months, made his first start of 2017 in the Black Cats’ 3-0 home defeat against Manchester United on Sunday.
Anichebe picked up a hamstring problem at Burnley on New Year’s Eve, and then suffered a medial ligament injury just minutes into his comeback as a substitute against his old club West Brom at the end of January.
Aside from Anichebe, other players who have missed games for Sunderland at various times this season include Lee Cattermole, Jan Kirchhoff, Duncan Watmore, Paddy McNair, Fabio Borini, Seb Larsson, Vito Mannone, Jordan Pickford, Jack Rodwell, and Steven Pienaar.
“I swear it’s not a bad group of guys, the quality is there there’s just no confidence,” Anichebe told the Chronicle.
“The thing is that around November and December, we were doing well, but injuries came in, I got injured, players that we thought were coming back didn’t do so.
“I think we’ve had the most injuries in the league. It’s just been stop-start, stop-start.
“These aren’t excuses, even if I’m out someone should come in and fill in, but it’s been difficult."
The former Everton star admitted that he is not yet match fit but stated that Sunderland must continue to fight for every point now.
He said: “It’s going to take me a couple of games, I wish I had time, or we had time, but we don’t.
“I haven’t trained much but I wanted to come in and help against Manchester United.
“I feel OK, you could see I wasn’t where I was at when I got injured, where I would like to be.
“When you’re out you think you can just come back and pick up where you left off but you can’t, there was times when I found it really difficult, just getting your bearings, getting your touch, the fitness without the game.
“Like I say, I wish we had time, but we don’t, we just have to go out every game and try and perform.
“I need to just keep going and so do the team, just grind out results any way we can.
“It’s not good enough, let’s be honest, we need to improve as a team.”
Sunderland remain bottom of the table, 10 points from safety, and with only seven games to go.