Sunderland might be in a precarious position now with morale and belief of both players and fans plummeting by the day but if they don’t beat Bolton tonight things will get far, far worse.
When the only team in the division below you comes to your turf it is simply must win, even a draw will be viewed negatively so that is the pressure the team will be under tonight although I don’t think the players will need me to tell them that.
A few weeks ago I would have been a lot more confident about this game but Bolton have rallied recently with five points from their last nine and in their last game away at Fulham only an injury-time equaliser denied them all three points.
So the Bolton players won’t fear coming to the Stadium of Light – unfortunately nobody does these days – and they will see this game as a chance to leapfrog Sunderland and get themselves off the foot of the table.
Because the pressure on the players is going to be intense tonight I will be watching closely to see those players that want the ball and those who don’t and if we have too many of the latter we will be in big trouble.
After the Bolton game, it is the shortest away trip of the season when Sunderland make the journey to local rivals Middlesbrough on Sunday.
Sunderland’s frame of mind for the Boro clash all depends on the Bolton result: a win could see them go to the Riverside up for the challenge with the fans back on side but a draw or defeat would see even Sunderland’s loyal, hardcore away fans disillusioned and bitter.
This time last year both clubs were in the Premier League but after hugely disappointing seasons for both they meet again but this time in the Championship.
The Teessiders did the double over us last season, their first win being in Sunderland’s first home game of the campaign and it was a shambolic performance, an early indicator of what was to come while their second win came towards the end of the season, yet another shocker from Sunderland that signalled we were all but doomed, even then.
Neither club can claim to have made a good start this season after their relegations, when the fans of both clubs were expecting more, but I would much rather be in Boro’s position than ours as I still think Garry Monk’s men will be in a play-off place come May, whereas we need a minor miracle just to get into mid-table.