Simon Grayson admits that his Sunderland players can be affected by the difficult atmosphere at the Stadium of Light.
The Black Cats’ lethargic start to the second half, in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with QPR, received a hostile response from the crowd, officially registered as just over 26,000.
Successful passses in the run-up to Aiden McGeady’s superb equaliser were greeted with ironic cheers, having being preceded by a number of basic errors on and off the ball.
Grayson defended Adam Matthews, one player to face fan ire, and insisted that the team will continue to improve.
He said: “It’s tough. I’ve played in games and teams where I’ve had criticism myself, and it does affect players.
“All I can say is, ‘Please stay with the team’, because we’re all in this together.
“To be fair, Adam Matthews was unfortunate. One took a bobble that he played out of play, and then John played one behind him when he wasn’t even looking.
“Full credit to him, he stuck in there and contributed, and started us off for the goal.
“He was hobbling around for 20 minutes, but there are some good kids in that dressing room, good lads who want to do well for the club.
“Stay with us because we’re going to take this team forward.
“The players are here for footballing reasons, and not for other reasons that might have been the case in the past.
“They’re here because they want to give everything for this football club.
“I don’t think there’s been a spell in any game where the players have not tried to get something out of the game.
“Obviously, a little bit of quality has been lacking at times because of the confidence levels not being where we would want them to be.
“When this team gets results, you’ll see a different group because of what confidence levels can do to people.
“You’ll see different characters then, but they’re showing good characteristics now and that’s pleasing.”
Grayson also admitted Jonny Williams was close to starting the game after his impressive cameo from the bench, and had praise for captain John O’Shea.
Grayson said: ”He [Williams] was very close to playing. He played on Monday night (for Wales), but one of the reasons why he didn’t start is because I wanted to play with two up front.
“I wanted to take the game to them, and I wanted to play Vaughan up there because we wanted to get more crosses into the box, and he could get on the end of things.
“I wanted Duncan up there to run in behind them as well. Did it pan out how we wanted it to?
“Probably not. But Jonny was always going to be an option in the second half because he’s brave and he wants to get on the ball and make things happen.
“You could see what he can bring to the team, and with the players alongside him, we will be a threat.
“John has acquitted himself really well with his experience, his knowhow and his knowledge.
“He talks to the lads alongside him.
“We’d all love to have a 26-year-old John O’Shea, but there’s not too many of those around, and they certainly wouldn’t be at this club because they’d be too expensive to bring here.”