On Current Injuries...
The one disappointment would probably be Joel Asoro, who had a collision in his game for Sweden. Obviously, it’s a head injury, it’s his jaw, so he’ll be a no for tomorrow. If we get the clearance from the doctor then he’s got a possibility for Monday, but he’s definitely out for tomorrow.
He had a bang on his jaw really, but because it’s a head injury you to be a 100%. The rules, obviously there’s a timeline if a head injury or a concussion is suspected, there’s a timeline. So, the first game he’s an absolute no-no. but Monday he’s got a chance.
No Billy Jones, he’s having injections in his knee so he won’t be available. After that, Marc Wilson has trained very well this week and he’s back in the squad. The boys that are coming back from international duty, as I sit here, they’re fine, they’re all OK.
Is It Now or Never?
I think we’ve felt a little bit like that for a while.
This game is a must win game, that game is a must win game.
But, this weekend could tell a big story I think, good or bad depending on how we want it to go. Two games in a short space of time, if you look at the other teams around us and who they’re playing, then 5 o’clock Monday could tell us a great deal, in a good way or a bad way.
Have the Players Reacted Well From the Break?
The lads know where they are, our job is football. I think for us to go where we went, it was a nice change and it was a break from the norm. It was nice as well to be around a group of people who do something different to us but take enormous pride in what they do and they’re very proud of what they’re a part of.
It’s nice for us to see that and I think for how tough our situation is and we’re in a tough situation. A, it’s not irretrievable, B, it’s a challenge and you meet it or you don’t because there are a lot of people far worse off than us. But, because this is our industry, this is our job, we’re in the middle of it and failure is not a nice feeling and that’s what we’re doing at the moment.
But, again, as I said at the start, this weekend could change everything. It will either get worse or it could be a lot better for us. So, the idea to take the guys there was just a break from the norm. It’s been a long and hard season, they have worked hard on the training ground. So, to do something different was just really, psychologically to get them away from what they would normally be doing and thinking.
Do the Players Understand the Current Situation?
Ask me Monday night. The scale of the situation, every game that has gone past where we haven’t got a win and we’re stuck in the bottom three, we’ve been there for so long. You get written off and if you were outside of our group looking at us then you’d make the same assumption I would imagine, as everybody else.
Because they’re not showing any signs of pulling away from the danger area. So, yeah, I understand why people have written us off but you see it so many times, not just in football but in sport, where an underdog or someone or some team, a group of people that were nowhere at some point and end up somewhere.
It’s doable, it is doable, but it’s not doable from where I’m sat, were not going to get it done no matter what I say now. It’s all about walking onto the pitch and getting it sorted out, doing it, achieving it. There hasn’t been any hiding place for any of, there’s not. With these games coming up, nothing will be different, it’s a challenge.
Are we up for it? Can we do it? Do we believe we can do it? Talk is cheap, it’s about going and doing it, putting it into practice and achieving it. I believe we can achieve it, I believe we can get away from where we are. I believe we’ve got a squad of players that if we hit the right notes, we can most certainly, at least, make other people around us very nervous. With a bit of momentum, we can get away from where we are, I believe that, I do believe that.
On Still Smiling Despite the Situation We’re In...
I’ve still got a smile, yeah. I’m still the manager of Sunderland Football Club, as hard as it’s been, I came here because I wanted to manage Sunderland. Whatever division it was in, to me it’s Sunderland Football Club.
Tough, hard, really difficult the last three or four months. I spoke to a few of you guys two or three days ago and we were talking about my reaction sometimes after games where we’ve lost. I can’t help that, I can’t help it, I find it tough to hide my disappointment. I try not to talk like a politician, I try to say exactly what I see or how I feel, but that lasts 24 hours and I can get over that and start looking forward to the next one.
So, I’m still looking forward to what’s in front of us. A little bit nervous, of course, a bit of anxiety, yeah, stressful, absolutely. But, that’s all in my job really and I’ve seen things happen in football where we’re all scratching our heads thinking: “We never saw that coming.” We’ve just got to make sure we’re one of them where people say that they never saw that coming from them, we’ve got to make sure we do that.
Did the Break Come At a Good Time?
I think, yeah. Obviously, we wanted to go into the break on the back of a good, strong performance and a result. We never got that, we got half a performance and a bad result and we’re used to that. In saying that, it was still a nice little break from having to prepare for a game and just come away form it for one weekend, take a break, take a breather, recharge.
Now everything is geared up for tomorrow, for tomorrow night. I think it was a good time for us really, at the time when we’d just lost to Preston, you always want another game to put it right. But, I think in hindsight, it was a good thing that we had a little break.
On How Draining Losing Is...
Yeah, of course. It’s the psychological side of it more than the physical.
You just get beat down and you’re kept down, but nobody is going to give you a lift up, you’ve got to do that yourself.
It’s tough, but I hang onto, I pray and hang onto a moment if we can win a game and close a gap.
I just want to see what would happen, if we can do that and we’ve not done it for some time. I just want to see what the difference would be if we can manage that.
Is Your Job Now Just Psychological Preparation?
In anything, in any walk of life, in any sport, most of it is psychological anyway. The physical side is there, tactical, technical, blah blah blah. You can have all the talent you like, you can have this, that and the other. Psychologically, if you don’t have it, if you’re not strong enough, you haven’t got the mentality then forget it.
That’s where we find ourselves, in a position where if we’re not strong enough in our mentality then talent is out the window, out the window every time, talent. That’s why I keep saying it’s a challenge, are we mentally tough for it? Mentally tough to make a fist of it, you’re not guaranteed anything, of course. But, mentally tough to make a fist of it and make people look at us and go: “Hold on a minute, they’re making a go of this.”
Or, with three or four games to go, it’s done, it’s finished, it’s all over. There’s 8 games left and I hope there’s 8 games left of the season for us. What I mean by that is it goes down to the wire and that means we’ve had a fight. When were sitting there with 3 or 4 games left, where it’s done. That means we haven’t had what it takes, I’ve not had what it takes to get us out of trouble, the team, the players haven’t been good enough to get out of trouble. So, I don’t want to be sat there with that feeling.
How Tough are You on Yourself?
You have to look at yourself, if you don’t look at yourself first and you’re of the mentality where you want to point the finger somewhere else, then that’s not the way to be.
I think you have to look at yourself first, I’ve always looked at myself, I’ve always judged myself first. Even when we win, I think maybe I could have done that better, maybe I got away with that decision and I was a bit lucky there.
You have to look at yourself first, absolutely. I always look at myself first.
On Derby County...
I think in our position, everyone that we play are better than us because we’re bottom of the league, rock bottom. Whether we’re playing teams in and around us or whether we’re playing Derby, who’ve had a tough run of it themselves as of late, they’ve had a blip.
The pressure on them tomorrow is that they’re playing the bottom of the league team. Three points for them and they can re-kick their season because they’re going for the playoffs. If they don’t get that then it can obviously have an adverse effect on them, in the run in. There’s a lot of pressure on Derby as well, but on both teams, there is pressure, for different reasons there’s pressure. On me, there’s pressure on Gary, both teams need to win the game.
At this stage of the season, strange things happen, we see strange results and strange performances. So, let’s see tomorrow.
On an Easter Miracle...
An Easter miracle, it would be nice if you believe in miracles and if you’re that way inclined.
I’m actually not that way in inclined, but we need some help, but we’ll help ourselves and we’ll be OK if we help ourselves.
On the Fans Deserving Fight and Pride...
Yeah, to be honest with you, that should have been the bare minimum from the start of the season. The fact that we are where we are and we’re talking about that, it pains me a little bit. But, I couldn’t disagree with that, there’s no excuse for not giving whatever you’ve got, there’s no excuse for that.
We’re sat here and we say that, but that should be there from the start. It’s a game of football at the end of the day, nobody is dangling off the edge of a cliff hanging on by their fingernails. It’s a game of football, walk onto the pitch, put your heart and soul into it and if it’s not enough, then that’s it because you win or you lose.
Not putting your heart and soul into it, especially where we are, then of course anger from the fans, you have to understand that, I totally understand it. It is where we are and I do know as well that if they do see that from us then they’ll be with us, for sure. I’ve seen it already since I’ve been here for four months, I’ve seen glimpses of it. But, we have to earn that, we have to earn that.