Daily Express

No ill will, Terry

Neil’s job is safe even if Canaries crash

- Tony Paskin Peter Layton IAN WINROW

SAM ALLARDYCE is praying his Sunderland players do not wilt under “big pressure” tonight when they bid to secure their Premier League survival.

Victory over Everton in front of another sell-out crowd will banish relegation fears in their penultimat­e game for the third season in a row – and relegate Newcastle and Norwich.

For Allardyce, it will rank among his finest achievemen­ts as a manager, having inherited a squad previous boss Dick Advocaat had claimed were ill-equipped to stay up.

While Sunderland are overwhelmi­ng favourites to avoid the drop, Allardyce is aware a draw or defeat tonight would offer their relegation rivals renewed hope, with their fate then resting on the result of Sunday’s final game at Watford.

“I feel it’s pressure and still we big, big have to ALEX NEIL has been told his job is safe even if Norwich are relegated tonight – while Watford boss Quique Flores has dropped a big hint that his days in charge are numbered.

A Sunderland win against Everton would relegate the Canaries whatever their result against Watford.

But Neil does not fear the axe. “I don’t think many managers worry about that,” he said.

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handle that,” he said. “We have two games left to secure our Premier League status and knowing we can do it in one game and kill everyone else off is pressure in itself.

“Can we produce another big performanc­e to do that because we’ll need one? I can’t see anything but a reaction from Roberto Martinez’s players after the criticism they received after losing at Leicester.”

But Allardyce could not resist a dig at Everton’s ballplayin­g defender John Stones, whose errors this season have proved costly. “I’d like to sign Stones,” said Allardyce, a former centre-back himself.

“I’d teach him how to defend. It would be a simple job for me. That’s my area of expertise in many ways.”

Jermain Defoe, who scored the late winner in Saturday’s 3-2 triumph over Chelsea, “You simply can’t afford to. If you are scared, you can’t focus on the job properly. People will always be looking at you and you can’t afford to show any weakness.”

Norwich chairman Ed Balls confirmed yesterday the board had met with Neil and said last week he will throw a party to rival Jamie Vardy’s title-winning bash should Sunderland stay up and, while survival would pale into insignific­ance compared to Leicester’s success, Allardyce has no problem with his squad letting their hair down.

“Why not?” he said. “I’ll join them. There should be a big celebratio­n for the players. But for me, it will be a huge relief at the end of a very difficult season.”

Allardyce described the noise inside the Stadium of Light during Saturday’s match as the loudest he had heard outside of Wembley and believes the 47,000-plus gate will be a huge factor.

He wants such a frenzied atmosphere to become the norm on Wearside.

“Being at home is an advantage with the way the crowd has been behind us and the way the players have responded,” he said. “Being part of the Premier League is important for this city – it’s massive. The support is growing even though they assured him his position was safe. Neil, 34, is the Premier League’s youngest boss and Balls described him as “one of the best young managers in English football”.

Norwich have to win their final two fixtures to have any hope of staying up, and Neil believes his side would not be in this situation if they had even one striker as prolific as Watford’s Troy Deeney JLE;<IC8E; E<N:8JKC< EFIN@:? 8 M@CC8 I know the team have struggled over the last few years.

“If we’re getting sell-outs when we’re at the bottom of the league, and if we can bring in better and more exciting players, it might be a case of us filling the stadium on a regular basis.”

Their average this season is set to be more than 43,000 – the sixth best in the league.

Should his side secure safety tonight it would spare him the ignominy of having to add a first top-flight relegation to his CV – a secondary concern for Allardyce.

“It’s more important for the club than it is for me,” he said. “You don’t want relegation on your CV, but it’s about keeping the club safe – and if that’s the case, then we’re both OK.

“I’ve only suffered relegation at Notts County, where I didn’t take over until late January or early February so, in terms of my management career, it has been pretty good at avoiding relegation.

“Hopefully, there will be no blemish on it by the end of the season.” and Odion Ighalo. He said: “We have created chances but just haven’t taken them, while Watford have two strikers who have scored about 70 per cent of their goals.”

Despite keeping the Hornets up in his first season, Flores said: “The club told me they have been planning something. But I’m planning slowly. I will work in the future. I’m not worried about that.” G N ; C = 8 GKJ *- / (( (. +* -' *, *. / (' (0 *0 -+ *+ *- / . )( *, -) *( *. * / )- ). .) (. GUUS HIDDINK does not believe John Terry has been mistreated even though the Chelsea captain still does not know if his 18-year Stamford Bridge career is over.

Terry’s red card at Sunderland means he could have played his last game for the club.

The final decision over Terry’s future will be made by incoming manager Antonio Conte and the club’s hierarchy but the Italian has not given any assurances to the ex-England star, 35.

Hiddink, when asked if he believed Terry had been treated badly, said: “No, people who are making the decisions want to take their time.

“That doesn’t mean there’s dramatic, bad treatment so far, but everyone has his own approach.”

Diego Costa is out of tonight’s match at Liverpool with a hamstring injury.

 ??  ?? STAR IN STRIPES: Hero Defoe sinks Chelsea to earn three valuable points NEIL: Not fazed
STAR IN STRIPES: Hero Defoe sinks Chelsea to earn three valuable points NEIL: Not fazed

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