Simon Grayson admits this is the toughest spell of his managerial career as he faces up to a must-win clash with Bolton Wanderers tomorrow night.
Grayson’s position is under severe scrutiny after another poor home performance on Saturday, leaving Sunderland second bottom of the table and just two points clear of Phil Parkinson’s Bolton side.
Asked if it was his toughest time as a manager, Grayson said: “Of course it is. I’ve been through stages where I’ve lost games, but I think the magnitude of this football club makes it even more dififcult and (considering) what’s gone off previously, whereas at other clubs you lose matches but you haven’t got other factors that contribute to the criticism you’re getting.
“But I’m too long in the tooth to worry about criticism. I accept it, of course I do, but I’m a fighter and I keep fighting.
“I’ll go home, reflect, probably not sleep too much because if I’m not thinking about Saturday I’ll be thinking about Tuesday night.
“But come Sunday morning I’ll be as bright as I can be and get prepared because this has happened now, it’s part of history.
“All I can do now is try to affect Tuesday night and that’s all we have to do.
“I’m always a positive person and hopefully that will reflect on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday night with the players.”
Grayson was again critical of his players’ decision-making and could not hide his frustration with a dire second-half display.
He said: “We got a lift at half-time and said ‘let’s have a spring in our step and play with a bit of arrogance. Get on the ball and make things happen’. But attacks fizzled out without real quality.
“It is a major obstacle to get over, winning at home, and the confidence in doing certain jobs.
“We have players who have been at a good level who are surprising me with some of the decisions they make, and the urgency we need to go and win games.
“Players cross the line and have to go out and win the game.
“I am not shirking responsibility. I will set the team up.
“When they cross that line, as I did as a player, they have to do what they are required to do by the manager. They are a decent bunch. I am not having a go at them, but I have stuck by them for a long time now.
“We have to make sure they do what is required to get a result for everyone.
“Supporters get very frustrated with the situation and we have to get a result on Tuesday, and Sunday at Middlesbrough.
“I have to galvanise the group, have a go at one or two if I need to, and hopefully we’re talking about a positive result on Tuesday.
“They are not putting performances that some players are capable of. We have players to turn it round and we are striving to do that.
“Ultimately [I’m looking for] a reaction and a desire to have a go again and not feel sorry for themselves.
“Go out there and be pro-active, don’t wait for something negative to happen.
“Let’s be on the front foot and have a go.
“That’s all the supporters want us to do. They want to see players running around, putting balls in the box and having a right go. That’s not been there for the supporters (on Saturday).”