Chris Coleman has told his players to embrace the pressure of playing for Sunderland as they seek to end their long winless run at the Stadium of Light.
Slavisa Jokanovic’s Fulham and Steve Cotterill’s Birmingham visit Wearside before Christmas and Coleman remains confident that he can bring something ‘special’ back to the ground.
Coleman was speaking after he and his squad visited children’s wards at three North East hospitals to hand out presents yesterday.
The Sunderland boss said the welcome, from staff and families was ‘amazing’.
“It is hard for us now, difficult. There’s big pressure, especially when you haven’t won at home for so, so long,” he said.
“But I’ve said to the players, I promise you, in 20 years time when you’ve stopped playing you’ll look back and think, ‘wow, I played for that football club, what an absolutely huge club. Why didn’t I enjoy it more?’ There is pressure yes but you’ve got to embrace it.
“That’s the challenge for us and we’ve got a lot of hard work to do. It is a huge fanbase, a one-club city and there is something special waiting to come back.”
Centre-back Marc Wilson said his team will look to build on the resilience they showed at Wolves last weekend.
He said: “We have been working on being defensively more solid and I thought we did that very well – we contained a good Wolves side for the majority of the game.
“The resilience of the boys, and the willingness to run around the field, was excellent.”
“We can’t take anything for granted because we have got to match the enthusiasm we showed against Wolves.
“We have got to try and play our kind of stuff, score some goals and another clean sheet would be a bonus.”