If Sunderland are to make anything of this season then they must turn around their astonishingly bad home form, starting against QPR on Saturday.
Everybody seems to agree that the last game at Preston saw a big improvement, so the Sunderland players must take the exact same attitude and fighting spirit they showed at Deepdale into the Rangers game and from the very first minute.
Saying that, the biggest problem the players might have could be in their own heads as they long winless run on Wearside is undoubtedly having a negative impact. The points return of one out of a possible 15 proves that, and is totally unacceptable.
The away results aren’t great but they’re better than at home, and I can only put that down to the players freezing and being unable to play to their full potential because of the pressure and expectations at home, which are not as great when they play away.
However, it could all be different, if Sunderland could just get their noses in front and actually take the lead against QPR, something that hasn’t happened in the Stadium of Light for so long.
It’s almost as if we’re all, players and fans, just waiting and expecting to go behind.
If Sunderland can get that all important first goal, the noise and support will be huge, as the fans are just desperate to cheer on a winning team. All the nerves and tension could disappear, and the players won’t be playing catch up at home as usual.
So Simon Grayson must see this game as the perfect opportunity to get his first home win against a team also in the bottom half of the table, and to build on the promising performance they produced at Preston.
That improvement has to become the norm now, as if they can do it in a tough away fixture, then they can surely do it at home to QPR. At Deepdale two players particularly impressed me in Lee Cattermole and Didier Ndong. With their ability and experience, they should be top players in this division.
If those two are playing well in tandem, then I’m convinced the team plays well, so I’m just hoping Ndong comes back injury free from his international exertions.
Sunderland’s disastrous home record has to end sometime, and they have a big chance to do it on Saturday, but to do so they must overcome the fear factor that has led to a lack of belief at home for too long.