Sam Allardyce has challenged his players to produce a moment of magic which will turn the relegation fight on its head in the final week of the season.
Sunderland might be marginal favourites with the bookmakers to secure Premier League survival, but manager Allardyce is struggling to predict the outcome of the drop fight, with such narrow margins separating the Black Cats, Newcastle and Norwich City.
We could do with somebody to do something a little bit special that brings everyone togetherSam Allardyce
Allardyce still believes that 38 points will be sufficient to remain in the top flight, despite fears among supporters that in-form Newcastle can reach 39 by securing back-to-back wins from their last two games.
But with so little to separate the three sides involved in the drop fight and no margin for error for any of them, Allardyce is looking for one piece of brilliance which can secure a decisive victory – starting with today’s visit of Chelsea.
Allardyce said: “Somebody’s going to have to do something special in one of the games that results in an outstanding goal or outstanding piece of ability.
“You need something a bit special to make the game yours at this stage.
“Unless there’s a really big mistake from the opposition and you can’t really see Chelsea making too many of those. There’s no pressure on them, and they’ve got the capabilities to keep the ball.
“You need something special like Andros Townsend’s free-kick or Jermain Defoe’s volley against Newcastle last season.
“We could do with somebody to do something a little bit special that brings everyone together and puts the crowd on the edge of their seat.
“That will bring the belief to both the team and the fans that we’re going to come through this game and win it.”
Allardyce admits there’s little job satisfaction to be taken from Sunderland’s current situation, with the club faced with the possibility of financial devastation in the Championship.
But he hopes his players can take responsibility, stick to their game-plan and extend Sunderland’s Premier League tenure into a 10th year.
“No, there’s not a lot of enjoyment at this stage,” he added.
“But there is responsibility and there is the fact that you enjoy the job you do no matter what comes across your path.
“It’s the challenge of your capabilities to deal with it and still be satisfied with what you’re trying to do.
“Mine is always to get the players to take more responsibility and deliver their best performance, which is plain and simple, to hold your nerve, stick to the basics and make fewer mistakes than the opposition.
“You don’t have to go any further than that and you will play better than the opposition.”