SUNDERLAND assistant manager Eric Black took a break from football to watch city heavyweight boxer Danny “Boy” Hughes in action last night.
But Steve Bruce’s number two says that it wasn’t a lack of fight which cost Sunderland against Norwich on Monday night, so much as a lack of focus.
Both Black, and Sunderland midfielder and boxing fanatic Craig Gardner, watched Hughes jab his way to victory and this weekend Sunderland’s players will be told to go on the front foot as they look to erase memories of a callow performance at Carrow Road – the 2-1 reverse representing the club’s first Premier League defeat of the season on the road.
Black said: “I’ve watched the Norwich game three times and there were reasons why the game was like that.
“I certainly wouldn’t question the players’ endeavour having looked at the stats – the players probably covered more distance than they have in any Barclays Premier League game.
“The only problem, which was a big one, was that we weren’t effective with the possession we had.
“It was nothing to do with attitude.
“However, we need to be more ruthless in terms of creating chances, how we play our football and how quickly we get the ball up the pitch.
“We’ve done some work on the pitch and I think we’re ready to go again.
“The transformation from the Stoke game to that was enormous.”
Black says it is up to the coaching staff to help the players put things right by showing them exactly where they went wrong in the first place.
“We can’t just say ‘that wasn’t good enough’,” he said. “We have to find reasons and explain those to the players in order to prepare them again for Saturday.
“If you do nothing, then nothing changes.”
He added: “Let me assure you no one was more disappointed than the players.
“It was a big opportunity to kick on from Stoke and we’re all disappointed.
“Now it’s how we respond and what we put in place to make sure that response is positive.”
Although Albion head to the Stadium of Light – like Sunderland – having won only once this season, Black says they will be a real threat.
“They are a very good team with good individuals, no more so than Peter Odemwingie and Shane Long up front,” said the Scot, who was handed the job of previewing the game with Bruce busy with other matters this week.
“Roy Hodgson is a very experienced manager who plays and structures his team in a certain way and they’ll be extremely well-organised and looking to capitalise.
“Our players are still very positive, they’re a great bunch of lads and we have to keep on doing the things we feel are right.”