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Secret To Sunderland Survival - All In The Mind?

With the relegation battle hotting up, Sunderland need to show a strength not seen since Dick Advocaat's first nine games in charge...

Stu Forster/Getty Images

Arguably, Sunderland have at their disposal a far better squad than any we've seen in recent years and in Sam Allardyce, the most ideally suited manager.

In fact, I can't recall a better unit, on paper, since the one Steve Bruce dissembled and replaced with the likes of David Vaughan.

So why is it struggling? Why are we crawling towards the finish line by our fingernails yet again?

Well, for many reasons and most of them we've discussed extensively at Roker Report over the season - the continuous manager merry-go-round, the poor player recruitment, the disastrous Director of Football model, the lack of clear planning - I won't go on, you get the idea.

However, the one strength that we seem to be lacking at present, which the other squads managed to muster up around about now, was a siege like mentality.

Those nine games that Big Dick oversaw was underpinned by a battle cry and a never say die attitude that thus far has failed to spark into life.

The goal we conceded at Southampton concerns me not just because we lost the opportunity to pull away from the relegation places but also because it exposes this apparent mental weakness so vividly.

We just can't keep a clean sheet. That my friends, is a simple fact but it is now a growing mental obstacle. This metaphorical wall is gaining in size and getting more difficult to overcome with each passing match.

We're making fewer mistakes under the stewardship of Allardyce sure, but the ones that we are making seem to be costing us important points. A single mistake and in a split second, as inevitable as corruption within FIFA - it's in the back of the net.

Once we do concede, there's usually a twenty-minute window when the dam opens up and with flood-gates breached a wave of goals usually follows. I genuinely believe that this has become such a sustained pattern for us that it's less an issue of physical ability and more a mental weakness inherent in the side.

However, I firmly believe that the team can survive for another year. It's still in our hands. We've proven it's possible from an even bleaker position in the past too.

What's the answer? In order for performances to turn into points I think Big Sam needs to attempt to flick a switch in his players. Now is the time for those in red and white to mentally toughen up.

It's no coincidence that some of the players who fail to shine at Sunderland leave Wearside and excel. It's a passionate support that gathers at the Stadium of Light and it isn't a place for the faint hearted at times.

However, the players we watch every week are capable of far more than they've shown us. If they can light a fire under the remaining games and recapture the robust mentality shown during those nine games under Advocaat then we should be fine.

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