JOHN O’Shea says the passion of Sunderland fans is something the club’s players have to respond to – even himself.
The former Manchester United ace loves the enthusiasm for the game in the region and the fact that there is no hiding place from supporters who demand the highest standards of their players.
But he also insists that it is vital he and his team-mates keep cool heads in the weeks ahead and points out they cannot afford to get carried away by the hunger for success which pours down from the terraces.
“There is real intensity to the North East, different to Manchester,” he said. “You can just feel people are desperate for success and for the team to do well. The fans are looking for us to bomb on.
“We want to do that of course, but you have to be clever.
“You have to keep the shape, keep disciplined, because the league is tough.
“If you go a bit silly trying to get the win, you will get caught out. The team shape and discipline is going to be crucial.
“They were 10-15 minutes against Fulham when we were ragged and that is when we have to stay concentrated. People will be looking at Saturday’s game and saying we should be winning it and rightly so. But we need patience.”
While the players need to be professional, O’Shea says he would not want to do anything to restrain the passions of a home crowd whose influence could be a real force for good this weekend if they get fully behind the team.
“Having 40,000 fans here is fantastic and exactly what I want,” he said. “You do not want to go out and have a quiet crowd sitting on their hands waiting for something to happen. You want that passion.
“The people here want their team to succeed and they want it sooner rather than later. That is a great pressure to have as a footballer. Who wants to be going out thinking this is going to be a nice comfy day? “Here, if you are not pulling your weight the fans are going to tell you about it and that is the way it should be.
“If that does not get you going, I don’t know what will. You feel it every day.
“The fans know the team should be doing better than what we and we aim to improve on it. With Newcastle having the start they have had, it has emphasised things to the fans.
“They say ‘come on, we have to get up there, chasing them’.
“Losing the game to Newcastle the way we did, when we felt we could have won, it means the fans want to be ahead of Newcastle.
“It is frustrating but it shows the passion and intensity there is around the area when you are playing football.
“And we do feel we are getting there as a team now. If it has not clicked in every game, we feel we are not too far away.”