Ghana skipper Mensah backs Sunderland schedule

John Mensah
John Mensah
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JOHN Mensah is glad Sunderland are being worked hard during their fortnight’s break after being left in “holiday mode” following their last lull in Premier League action.

Sunderland’s first-team squad have been in training every day this week and face a practice match tomorrow morning with the Black Cats not in action again until the visit of Liverpool on Sunday week.

It’s a far cry from the schedule during their last two-week break from the Premier League when boss Steve Bruce allowed the players to recharge their batteries abroad.

The result was a hapless 2-0 defeat at Everton, with Mensah today confessing the players had lost their focus in the run-up to the trip to Goodison Park.

Mensah told the Echo: “The manager has spoken a lot about the time off which he gave us which wasn’t too good.

“When we came back, everyone was still in holiday mode and relaxing.

“We have to have it in our mind that we still have nine matches to play and we have to keep concentrating.

“It’s for our benefit to keep working hard.”

Mensah has more reason than most to wish Sunderland faced a competitive game this weekend.

The Ghanaian skipper has started each of Sunderland’s last four outings after recovering from a twisted ankle and only needs one more game to register his longest run of the season in the side.

“I want to keep playing so I’m a bit disappointed that there’s two weeks without a game,” said the 28-year-old.

“The more you play, the better you get.

“If you don’t play a lot it’s difficult and hard when you’re coming back from injury.

“But I’ve had no complications with injury since coming back which has helped me.

“It’s good that I showed some form at Arsenal and I hope I can continue playing.”

Centre-half Mensah helped Sunderland notch their 12th clean sheet of the season at Arsenal last weekend, although it was their first shut-out since January.

The back four showed a marked improvement from the defeat at Everton seven days earlier and Mensah hopes the draw sparked Sunderland out of their worst slump of the campaign.

“It’s good that we restored some confidence by getting a point at Arsenal,” added the on-loan Lyon defender.

“It’s hard when you’re losing games but we all knew we could get back to how we were playing earlier in the season.

“We are determined to get our form back and get back to challenging for a European place, where we were before we started losing matches.

“We’ll get some confidence from pushing Arsenal hard.

“Arsenal had a lot of set pieces but our communication was good and we covered the ground well.

“We concentrated well and talked a lot to each other.

“It was important for us to come away with something and hopefully we can keep getting clean sheets.”