Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce has warned his struggling Black Cats side not to go “gung-ho” in their quest to claw themselves out of the Barclays Premier League relegation zone.
Allardyce has set his players a distinctly modest target of four points from their next five games as the first part of his long-term masterplan to leave them clear of the bottom three by May.
He insists the understandable desire to chase three points came back to bite them in last week’s second-half collapse at Everton – and believes caution is very much key to their survival prospects.
Ahead of Saturday’s Stadium of Light clash with Southampton, Allardyce branded last week’s 6-2 loss at Goodison Park “irresponsible” and insisted: “We have got to learn the lessons of going gung-ho.
“That’s what we did – we said, we’ll go and win it, and we’ve got to be more responsible. We’re not in a position where we have to win our next game – we are more in a position where we must not lose it.
“If we get a point then we should respect it, because another point after that will eventually lead to a win and that breeds confidence. If you continue to go for a win and end up losing, then you’re in a pickle.”
Allardyce’s adherence to the mathematics of survival has served him well during a managerial career in which he has never been relegated from the top flight, and he believes there is no need to deviate from such an established structure.
The Black Cats’ plight looks increasingly perilous with last week’s thumping erasing any confidence from the previous derby win over Newcastle and leaving them second-bottom of the table with just six points from 11 games.
But Allardyce insisted: “It started when I went into the Premier League with Bolton and it hasn’t really changed – if you achieve this many points then you will still finish around this position in the league.
“It’s not an exact science of course, but it is a great indicator for the players to know what they have to achieve in order to achieve a certain level in the table.”
Allardyce’s plans for the weekend have been hit by the absence of Lee Cattermole who limped off with a groin injury last weekend and will not be fit to face the Saints.
But there is better news with four players – Ola Toivonen, John O’Shea, Fabio Borini and Younes Kaboul – all available having recovered the minor injuries that kept them sidelined last week.