IT is rare for a Newcastle United player to urge his team-mates to learn a lesson from Sunderland, but DeAndre Yedlin has done exactly that ahead of this afternoon’s Championship game with Bristol City.
Last season, Yedlin was on loan at Sunderland from Tottenham, and played in the final 14 games of the season as Sam Allardyce’s side achieved what had looked an impossible feat as they scrambled to safety with one game to spare.
Yedlin helped Sunderland beat Manchester United, Chelsea and Everton as they hauled themselves out of the bottom three, with the Black Cats defying their lowly league position to spring a succession of surprises.
Bristol City have mounting relegation fears of their own ahead of this afternoon’s trip to St James’, having slipped to 21st position after winning just one of their last 13 games, but Yedlin is only too aware that the form book can often count for little in the final two months of the season.
“That run (with Sunderland) showed what momentum can do in the last couple of months,” said the Newcastle full-back, who left Tottenham on a permanent basis last summer. “It was one of those moments where you basically feel that you’re at your last breath and you have to fight for your life, and when you’re in that mind set, strange things can happen.
“We have to be aware of that. It shows why this game against Bristol is so important. They’re not exactly in the same position that we were last season with Sunderland, but there are similarities. They’re down near the bottom of the table, and they’ll know they’re running out of time.
“They’ll be fighting for their lives, and in some ways, those are the toughest games to play. You get different results at the end of the season. The teams up at the top of the table can sometimes relax a bit, and that can be fatal. We have to make sure we’re not doing that. We want to stay focused, and continue the good results we’ve been having.”
Those good results have seen Newcastle string together a seven-game unbeaten run in the league, and while the likes of Brighton and Huddersfield have been keeping up the pressure at the top of the table, the Magpies have successfully held on to top spot.
Yedlin is part of a core of players with extensive Premier League experience, and that know-how could ultimately prove crucial as the pressure becomes even more intense.
“The mental side of things becomes huge now,” he said. “It’s a time where we really need to focus on ourselves and what we need to do.
“Things will be thrown at us from the outside, and if there’s a setback people will get frustrated on the outside, but as a group, we’ve had setbacks this year and we know we’ve come back from them. We know we can do it, but hopefully we can keep a good run of results going like we’ve had.”
Rafael Benitez will also be crucial when it comes to keeping his players on an even keel, and having experienced life at the top of the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A, not to mention the latter stages of the Champions League, the Magpies manager will not be fazed by the tensions of a Championship promotion battle.
“He’s (Benitez) a great guy to go into battle with,” said Yedlin. “He has a wealth of experience from years of years of managing in high-pressure situations. He preaches the right things to us, and we try to follow them and execute our game plan.”