Djibril Cissé admits he and Kenwyne Jones need to kickstart their partnership to steer Sunderland clear of relegation. The 27-year-old Frenchman has scored 10 goals this season while 24-year-old team-mate Jones has nine after a late start following his recovery from a serious knee injury. However, they have only three between them in the last eight league games, a run which has seen Sunderland collect just nine points and slide backwards in the fight for Premier League survival.
Cissé's last goal came in the 1-1 derby draw at Newcastle on 1 February, while Trinidad & Tobago international Jones has not found the back of the net since the win over Stoke the following weekend.
But it has been their struggle to form a genuine partnership which has been brought into sharper focus in recent weeks as winnable home games against Tottenham and Wigan have yielded just a single point. While Cissé admits there is a problem, he knows there is only one solution. He said: "It hasn't been really effective but there are two solutions; we give up or we continue and start trying to play together and scoring goals and try to win points. But we are going to have to do something, and quick."
Manager Ricky Sbragia, like Roy Keane before him, has worked hard to mould the pair into a partnership and revealed at the weekend that the signs have been good on the training pitch. But Cissé, currently on a season-long loan from Marseilles, knows that is not where it matters most. He said: "It's not in training where you win points."
There is little doubt that Jones is still working his way back to full fitness after damaging knee ligaments on international duty last summer.
He has shown enough of the form which prompted Keane to value him at £40m last season for Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp to offer the best part of £15m for him in January. However, it is the on-field relationship between him and Cissé which Sbragia is desperate to resolve for the nine-game run-in.
Both have proved themselves capable of scoring – Jones is two ahead of his total for last season despite his late start – but they have never managed to strike up the kind of understanding enjoyed by the likes of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips at Sunderland. Cissé insists they are not too similar in style: "No, we are not the same kind of player at all. Kenwyne is more physical than me, he is more a target man. Everything is there, he is a quality player, I am a quality player, but on a Saturday there is nothing. We are going to have to start showing it now because we don't really have much time."
Meanwhile, Cissé, who last week revealed his frustration that Sunderland are yet to make a decision on a permanent move for him, responded diplomatically to Sbragia's assertion that he should stop talking about his situation and concentrate on the quest for safety.
He said: "It's all right, if he wants me to stop, we will stop. We are not going to talk about it. It's no problem. It's better to know what you are doing, but the boss is the boss and we are not going to talk about it."
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