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Tactics From Tensions

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Our own frustrations are now being used to the advantage of the opposition it would seem. Should we change our ways then? No says Roker Report's Graeme Atkinson.

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As supporters we've become accustomed to watching the perennial struggles of the Black Cats.  We've seen it unfold in front of our eyes for longer than any loyal, passionate set of fans should endure. However the predictability of Sunderland's dour campaign and our cynicism of it are now having a negative impact. We've unwittingly become part of the problem. That's a bitter pill to swallow isn't it? And it isn't a criticism, merely a fact of the matter it would seem.

We know teams travel to grounds with a game plan to frustrate the home crowd at times. It isn't a new tactic by any stretch.  However rarely is it such an easy job to accomplish and seldom do opposition players declare that point so fervently.  Jose Fonte, the Southampton defender was quoted in the press after the game on Saturday saying:

"We came with a philosophy, playing on the emotions of the situation Sunderland are in. We knew the fans could turn on them, and the longer it went on the worst it could get for them if we kept the ball. That is what we did. Our game plan was to capitalise on the tensions here."

‘We knew the fans could turn on them' and ‘our game plan was to capitalise on the tensions here'. Those statements have become a mantra coached into the away teams ready for their visit to Wearside it would seem. We've become part of the predictability. The opposition are now making a concerted effort to play on the souring relationship that's developing very publically between the team we support and ourselves. The sad thing is, if the shoe were on the other foot we'd want our team to do the same.

Let's be clear you can't blame the fans for losing patience. In fact it feels at times like it's gone beyond that.  Sunderland rarely offer anything of substance and for far too long, forty plus thousand have fed off scraps - morsels in the form of an odd win here or a draw there and of course a Wembley Final. That sense of inevitability referred to above has left some feeling numb to the whole debacle. It's not so much that anxiety transmits from a small number of supporters now as quiet distain.

However on the whole there is still passion. It's still present and it's that zeal emanating from the stands within the Stadium of Light that is frightening too many players in red and white all to quickly at the moment. Understandably given the position we're in, the crowd's tensions are there before kick-off. The first misjudged pass means it's nigh on impossible to turn the tide. Some players' confidence appears to be so brittle that it's all it takes. It's borne from the predictability of the situation.  We know what to expect and unfortunately so do the players; we've all seen it before.  The whole situation is on a depressing loop.

What's the answer? Well, in order to starting putting matters straight Big Sam needs to choose a team that has the biggest characters within it for a start. It may not be the side with most quality but then there hasn't been too much of that lately in any event.  Sunderland need to be strong enough mentally to perform in front of a crowd that simply craves the same desire it displays in return. A side that can stand up to the glare of the spotlight and not wilt under it.  Sports Science is a key part of Allardyce's CV and he now needs to address the fragile mentality of certain squad members otherwise we'll never break the cycle.  We'll be cut a drift before January's transfer window and the required level of investment to get us up the league will likely increase tenfold.

There are a few that need to take a long look at themselves in the mirror at the moment but it isn't us. It isn't the best thing about the club. It isn't the fans, not fundamentally. Yes, we've become part of the problem it would seem, but although we're all in this together it's certainly not for us to find the solution. That isn't our job. If it can be found though, no matter what the question, we're the best answer this club has got.