Sam Allardyce: How Sunderland can improve their dire home record

Sam Allardyce
Sam Allardyce
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Sunderland have been scaredy Cats at the Stadium of Light ever since their annual near-scrapes with relegation began in 2012-13.

In the last three-and-a-bit seasons, Sunderland have triumphed just 15 times on home soil in the Premier League. That’s a paltry win rate of just 24 per cent.

If you’re playing at home, look forward to it.

Sam Allardyce

With such sorry statistics, it’s no wonder supporters have become disillusioned, despite crowds staggeringly remaining above the 40,000 mark.

Admittedly, Sunderland’s performance levels at the Stadium of Light this season have generally been much better, despite that solitary win in the Wear-Tyne derby.

Sunderland should have triumphed against West Ham in Dick Advocaat’s final game in charge, while they could feasibly have taken at least a point from a Spurs side currently nestled in the top five.

But the Black Cats are part of a trend; an increasing pattern of struggle for top-flight sides to come away with three points on their own patch.

Monday’s vanquished opponents Crystal Palace have won four times on the road, compared to just twice at Selhurst Park, while tomorrow’s visitors, Stoke City, have similarly registered 12 away points compared to seven at the Britannia.

Partly that is attributable to the likes of Palace and Stoke setting up to make the most of their assets on the counter-attack.

Yet there can also be a psychological fragility which stems from playing in front of supporters well aware of the magnitude of home fixtures to top-flight survival.

Sunderland have tended to fold under that weight of expectation in recent seasons and Sam Allardyce knows it’s a problem he must conquer.

“There’s a huge amount of pressure today to win your home games and entertain your fans,” said Allardyce.

“The Premier League builds up the games to be so big, because it’s a big world-wide brand now.

“People pay good money to come to watch, want to be entertained and see you score more goals than the opposition.

“That pressure on players at home is getting ever-greater.

“Dealing with that pressure is the most important thing for me to try to manage.

“If you’re playing at home, look forward to it. If you come with any fear or trepidation, then it makes life very difficult to perform to your best.

“My job is to make sure that they’re mentally in the right frame of mind and looking forward to playing at the Stadium of Light.

“The only way of doing that is to do what we did against Newcastle and keep winning.

“When you’ve won your first away from home, you really want to follow that up with a win at home.

“Let’s not spoil it. Let’s win at home now.”

Allardyce accepts Sunderland will need to be more attack-minded than they were at Palace earlier this week, albeit the Black Cats had the more clear-cut chances at Selhurst Park.

But he is wary of the threat on the counter-attack of a Stoke side, who have not conceded on the road since September.

Allardyce added: “In Stoke’s last two away games, they’ve won 1-0 at Swansea and 1-0 at Southampton.

“They’re two hugely difficult places to go and win.

“We want to attack Stoke, but attack with caution because they’ve got the type of players that can hurt you an awful lot if you leave too many spaces.

“We’ve got to get that balance right.

“We’ve got to be careful on Saturday that we don’t end up with a sucker-punch against us.”