Premier League

JB: Suarez can stay with Reds

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Mon, 22 Apr 2013 10:41:00

Sunderland striker Stephane Sessegnon insists team unity has been key to their recent turnaround in form.

The Black Cats followed up their 3-0 derby win at Newcastle with a 1-0 victory at home to Everton on Saturday that helped ease relegation fears.

Benin international Sessegnon scored the opening goal at St James' Park and the winner against Everton to earn praise from new manager Paolo Di Canio.

But Sessegnon is stressing the importance of a unified approach in their improvement ahead of the performance of individuals.

"He hasn't said anything particularly special to me. Above all, his message has been about working as a team," Sessegnon said of Di Canio.

"That's what we have done in training and tried to do in the games, and you can see the results.

"The defence was very solid against Everton and that has been the main thing the new manager has done differently. It's all about working together and functioning together."

Sunderland are now 14th in the Premier League table following their back-to-back victories, six points above the relegation zone, to leave Sessegnon confident they will remain in the top-flight.

"We have managed to get three points for two weeks in a row, so we are all very satisfied," he added.

"It was important to keep it going because our place in the table was still not the healthiest. We are in a position where every point we can take is good.

"The win at Newcastle was important both for the three points and the confidence it gave us.

"If we keep playing this way in the final matches, then we will finish the season well."

Sunderland's next game is a trip to Aston Villa on Monday 29 April.

The Frenchman scored Newcastle's only goal in Saturday's 1-1 draw against West Bromwich Albion but afterwards his thoughts were still very much on the defeat to Sunderland at St James' Park the week before.

Gouffran said: "Even though I am, obviously, not from Newcastle, I still understood the importance of the derby. It's an historic fixture.

"The fact Sunderland have started picking up points doesn't really affect us.

"It would be great to finish above them. We don't really pay much attention to them but it would be sweet for the fans."

Newcastle's next game is on Saturday against Liverpool where they will be looking to build on the point they earned at The Hawthorns at the weekend.

Suarez apologised first via his Twitter account and then through a statement issued on the club's website for the incident, which happened before he scored a dramatic equaliser seven minutes into stoppage time to make the final score 2-2 at Anfield.

The club also issued an "unreserved apology", saying the 26-year-old's behaviour was "not befitting of any player wearing a Liverpool shirt".

There have since been calls from some quarters for the Anfield club to sack the star striker, who was last week shortlisted for the Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year award, but Barnes believes that would be a step too far.

The former England international told BBC Radio Five: "He has to suffer the consequences of his actions - that's all he has to do.

"I've heard talk about him not playing for Liverpool again, which I think is ridiculous. I've heard talk about him bringing the good name of Liverpool down, which is also ridiculous - he's brought his own good name down.

"If you're saying because of what he's done he should never play for Liverpool again, who should he play for?

"Whoever signs him, it's going to reflect badly that they sign a player who Liverpool deem from a moral perspective not good enough.

"So Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona... they can sign him? But we can't have him? If you're questioning his moral character, what you're actually saying is that if he can't play for Liverpool he can't play for anyone, which is ridiculous.

"The reflection on Liverpool is their response to the actions and their response is right. The response from (managing director) Ian Ayre and the club is 'it's completely unacceptable and we will not accept it'."

The player looks set to face a lengthy ban for the incident, with Barnes saying Liverpool should wait until the Football Association has dealt with the matter before possibly dishing out their own sanctions.

"The FA should act first and Liverpool will then see what punishment is meted out and then come up with their own conclusions, because they could ban him for five or seven games and then he gets another 10-game ban for the FA rather than the FA banning him or doing whatever they have to do first," he said.

"They should see what the FA do and then respond after."

Former Liverpool player David Fairclough believes it would be "extreme" for the Reds to decide to sell Suarez in the wake of Sunday's incident.

He told Sky Sports News: "I don't think you can take an extreme view like that.

"He's the best player in the team at the moment, he's one of the best players in the world, his ability is unquestioned and his performances this season have generally been top class, so to just wipe their hands of him and send him packing I think would be a little bit extreme."

The 56-year-old, who netted 55 goals in 175 appearances for the Reds during the 1970s and 80s, added: "It's obviously not good for Liverpool, it has besmirched Liverpool's name. Certainly Liverpool don't want to be in the news this morning for this type of thing.

"Clearly Luis needs a little bit of help, he has an anger issue I suspect, that's his drive to win and compete.

"I think Liverpool have to try and work with Luis Suarez, he's shown improvement in other ways over the last 18 months to two years and hopefully they can find a suitable solution, but it would be dramatic just to let him go just on this incident.

"I don't want to make a sweeping statement and say he should be transferred straight away or protected either way, I think there has to be discussion."

Suarez was banned for seven matches in Holland in 2010 after another biting incident when he was an Ajax player, and Liverpool stalwart Alan Hansen strongly criticised the striker.

Speaking on Match of the Day 2, Hansen said: "You're not expecting anything like this. This is absolutely appalling. Why he did it, we will never know. He's got previous, there's obviously a massive flaw in the character.

"To watch these pictures that will be going right round the world is horrific for Liverpool Football Club, their history, their tradition, and for the player himself. When he sees these images, he'll be apoplectic. It's just appallingly bad."

Hansen also cast doubt on speculation Liverpool could sell the controversial striker.

The former defender said: "He's a brilliant player that's had a brilliant season and if Liverpool get rid of him the losers will be Liverpool, there's no doubt about that. There'll be lots of clubs wanting to take him."

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