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Sunderland v Accrington Stanley - Sky Bet League One

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Sunderland are spiralling out of control: their mindset must change fast - or it’s curtains

Having a strong mentality going into the final stretch of the season is pivotal - Ian Bendelow says that means less David Brent, and more Sun Tzu.

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Sadly, the type of ocular toxicity which seems to have infected this current squad has had a similar effect on Sunderland sides of the past. One thing is for sure - it’s no coincidence.

The last six games have been unacceptable; it’s felt like a once promising accumulator which has gone up in smoke after a mad couple of minutes. The end result means we’re all wearing the sort of expression Steve Bruce does when he turns up at a Pizza Hut buffet with his extra large trousers on, only to discover the only thing left is salad.

The reason? Well perhaps it’s because this is a side which has been fighting for 14 years now to - forgive me - not be sh*te. In terms of actually winning anything, well that’s not really been on the agenda. Therefore we have a group of players and fans who don’t really know how to win in the long term across a 46-game season.

Sunderland v Burton Albion - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light Photo by Dave Howarth/PA Images via Getty Images

There are 18 year old Sunderland supporters, coming of age teens currently enjoying the beer gardens of Sunderland that do not really know what it’s like to see a successful side. That probably means we have legions of fans for whom it’s all about the match day experience rather than the game itself. Mind you that’s probably all of us really isn’t it.

It also means that without major psychological surgery inside the heads of many of this crop, the playoffs will be very much like the final 10 games of this season have been: approached with hope and expectation, yet doomed to failure.

We need the sort of intervention that hasn’t been seen since Gazza turned up with a fishing rod and some chicken. We need a powerful mindset. We need a winning mentality.

Who better to achieve this than the man who sounds like he’s swallowed a “Management 101” textbook along with a DVD of The Office?

My advice? Get them all to read Sun Tzu’s Art of War.

Appear strong when you are weak, and weak when you are strong.

Heaven knows, we look weak right now. Streaky Lee has sadly struck and we can only hope there will be another flip flop to a winning run once again. Having teams underestimate us in the playoffs would be just lovely.

Wigan Athletic v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images

When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard.

Was it the case we pressed Accrington too hard and left the back door open? The first goal was an incredibly sloppy goal to concede; Johnson admits as much that he wants his side to attack - however once you get found out, you really do get found out.

There has, I’m afraid been tactical naivety of late and that must change. Johnson must be more cute about his approach. Respect the fact that the opposition is a puzzle rather than something to be attacked constantly - because you might just run out of steam.

Conform to the enemy’s tactics until a favourable opportunity offers; then come forth and engage in a battle that shall prove decisive.

Arguably we have looked strongest in League One when our class shines through as the game goes on. Going toe to toe with an opposition who cannot maintain a pace or tempo for 90 minutes means that more often than not we will be victorious.

On Saturday it was arguably the polar opposite. Too often these last half a dozen games this has been completely forgotten. Remember it - and implement it.

So Sun Tzu may just hold the key to glory. Then again - perhaps not going up is okay. It would have been achieved with no one to witness it, and when fans do return it’s for a possible relegation fight. Absent for the good times, but there for the bad. What a prospect.

Really though we don’t want to be in this - and look, I’m going to say it, I’m not even sorry - poxy league. We’ve seen things at this level we’ve seen at no other in terms of quality, or lack thereof.

We need to get our heads straight because as Sun Tzu says, in the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity. However the more pertinent thing he says is perhaps the simplest:

Private collection
Sun Tzu
Photo by Art Images via Getty Images

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