Chris Coleman has warned his Sunderland squad that life will only get tougher under him on the training ground as he looks to improve the players.
The new management team has had a positive impact, with seven points from Coleman’s first five games to lift Sunderland out of the Championship drop-zone.
The upturn in form has coincided with a new-found defensive resilience, with three clean sheets.
Last weekend’s victory over Fulham raised spirits and ended a 12-month wait for a home win.
But Coleman isn’t getting carried away with his positive start to life on Wearside and has told his players – who have taken well to the new manager’s methods at the Academy of Light – that there is no substitute for hard work.
“It won’t get any easier for the players,” said Coleman.
“We won’t tone it down. We will probably up the ante, if anything, because we have to try and make them better – that is why we are here.
“We have to make them better as individuals and make them better collectively, that is my job. You don’t do that by being their best friend all of the time.
“Just because it is a big friendly atmosphere, there is no substitute for hard work.
“It is a true saying, the harder you work, the more you put into something, you would be amazed at how much luck you get back.
“It really is true. There is no short cut for us – we have a lot of hard work to do. We have some huge games to come, it is down to hard work on the training ground.
“That is how we have to work.”
The former Wales boss brought Kit Symons with him to Wearside and the pair are getting their clear messages across to the players – especially in defence.
Sunderland had failed to keep a single clean sheet in the league before Coleman replaced Simon Grayson.
Coleman, preparing for Saturday’s visit of bottom-of-the-table Birmingham City, said: “Session-wise in training, we work very hard.
“There was a lot of talk about the lack of clean sheets and that defensively we hadn’t been good enough.
“It is really hard when you are playing game after game to do the sessions and cover everything you want to.
“But we have been trying to put the little blocks in place since we arrived and the players have been pretty good at taking the information on board.
“You just build on that and you are consistent in your messages to the players. There is a certain tempo in training, there has to be.
“The tactical side of things, they have to take that information on board and they have been trying to do that. Again, that is not just because we have been in here the last few weeks, that is how we work.”
Saturday’s game starts a busy festive period, with a Boxing Day trip to Sheffield United followed by another away day at Nottingham Forest on December 30 and a home New Year’s Day clash against Barnsley.