Gary Rowell: How Jimmy Adamson used reverse psychology to inspire a famous Sunderland comeback

Sunderland manager Chris Coleman.
Sunderland manager Chris Coleman.
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In a season when Sunderland have lurched from one crisis to another, I doubt there has been a lower moment than half time at Ashton Gate on Saturday - and there hasn’t been a shortage of low moments.

Yet, out of the wreckage of a shambolic first half performance came a comeback that probably surprised even the players and from what must have seemed like almost inevitable relegation there is now genuine hope.

SAFC coverage in association with John G Hogg Funeral Directors.

SAFC coverage in association with John G Hogg Funeral Directors.

It is not the point gained that was so encouraging and I am well aware that in our position every point is vital.

It was the fight back that thrilled everybody from a team that usually folds when going a goal down, never mind three.

So, what did happen in the dressing room at half-time to turn the game on its head?

Chris Coleman said he didn’t give the players the hairdryer treatment – that only ever works if it is brought out occasionally, but he did say a few home truths were shared.

The manager basically threw the ball in the players’ court and challenged them to do something about it ‘let’s see what you have got’ and give us something, anything, to cling onto for the remaining games.

The fact that it worked so spectacularly probably surprised Coleman himself, but I am convinced if he put his arm around the players we would have lost as feeling sorry for yourself when three goals down just isn’t an option.

I had a similar experience when playing for Sunderland against Burnley away many years ago when we had two men sent off in the first half.

At half time I expected the boss Jimmy Adamson to say a few words to console the players, but instead he called us unprofessional and that we’d let the travelling fans down and now had our excuse to lose.

Nobody thought we’d win with nine men, not even ourselves and certainly not the Burnley players or fans – except we did.

Adamson had used what probably would now be called reverse psychology to get a positive response from his players.

What happened at Ashton Gate on Saturday can be a catalyst for Sunderland’s season, but if we don’t capitalise on a rare feelgood factor then the fight back at Bristol City will be totally wasted.