Fight, pride and 100 per cent effort the least fans deserve as Sunderland boss demands mental toughness from squad
Chris Coleman has demanded his Sunderland players prove they have the mental toughness required to stay in the Championship.
Sunderland are five points from safety heading in to the final eight games of the season.
The run-in begins on Good Friday against play-off hopefuls Derby County, fifth and in the promotion mix, a world away from Sunderland's struggles at the foot of the table.
Sunderland haven't won in 10 league games and are heading for successive relegations and League One unless there is a dramatic upturn in fortunes between now and May.
When it was put to Coleman that - at the very least - the players must show fight, pride and 100 per cent effort between now and the end of the season, the Black Cats boss said: "That should be the bare minimum from the start of the season.
"The fact we are where we are pains me a little. I couldn't disagree with that. There’s no excuse for not giving whatever you have got - there’s no excuse for that.
"It should be there from the start.
"It’s a game of football, nobody is dangling by the edge of a cliff, hanging by their finger nails, it is a game of football.
"If you are not putting your heart and soul in to it, especially where we are, then anger from the fans, I totally understand that.
"It is where we are. I do know if they do see that from us then they will be with us.
"I have seen glimpses of it but we have to earn that."
Sunderland, who will be without Joel Asoro though a head injury picked up on international duty with Sweden Under-21s, are the evening kick-off in the Sky Bet Championship Good Friday fixtures.
Survival odds are currently stacked against Sunderland but Coleman has told his squad they have to prove they have the mental toughness to stay in the Championship.
"You can have all the talent but psychologically if you haven’t got it, then forget it. If we are not strong enough in our mentality, then talent can go out the window," said Coleman.
"It’s a challenge and we have to be mentally tough to make a fist of it, make people think they are making a go of it.
"Or with three or four games to go it could be finished, all over, and that’s not where we need to be. We have to fight and make it go to the wire.
"In our position, every team we play is better than us because we are rock bottom.
"Derby have had a blip, tough run, so the pressure is they are playing bottom of the league, so three points for them can give their season a kick again.
"If they don’t then that could have an adverse effect. There’s pressure on both teams, both managers.
"At this stage you see strange results and strange performances.
"An Easter miracle could be nice if you believe in miracles. I am actually not that way inclined but we will be okay if we helped ourselves."