Allardyce wants to cut out mistakes as drop looms
In every corner of the North East they talk of relegation. They talk of its impact and whether there is enough fight to avoid it for either Sunderland or Newcastle and whether there is the capacity to bounce back.
Yesterday, a headline in a local newspaper read: 'Why Sunderland won't face wage-bill Armageddon of Newcastle if relegated.'
Sunderland have, as a legacy of their former chairman Niall Quinn and the 70 job cuts that came with their last fall from the Premier League, a 40pc reduction in player salary should they be relegated.
It is a celebrated fact because Newcastle, certainly in the case of Jonjo Shelvey and Andros Townsend, who were signed in January, do not.
Newcastle's wage to turnover ratio was shown to be at an impressive 50pc in their most recently published accounts. Sunderland's was much higher, above 70pc. You do not, however, need to look too far to realise relegation will have a devastating effect.
Both rely heavily on the TV income that will be slashed, Newcastle's average attendance of 49,710 and Sunderland's 42,464 will drop, most likely beyond 10,000 per club.
There is a new hotel being built next to the Stadium of Light in Sunderland. The people of Newcastle whose city was once voted the eighth best place for a night out in the world will feel less like partying outside of the Premier League; the Scandinavians who ferry in on match day to St James' Park may find better things to do.
For Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce, the mask in recent weeks has only slipped once, in the company of a small group of journalists, when he admitted he was absolutely devastated at the 93rd-minute winning goal that Martin Olsson struck for Norwich against Newcastle.
It has been one of the most significant losses that he has endured since he became manager of Sunderland. The gap to safety is now four points for his club as a consequence, and games are running out quickly.
When Sunderland beat Manchester United in February. it moved them to within a point of Norwich, who were, as now, fourth bottom and Bournemouth were within sight, five points above his side.
The gap to Bournemouth, which has grown to 14 points, tells its own story. The goal for Olsson means Sunderland dare not even consider defeat at Carrow Road this afternoon. Defeat today would extend the gap to seven points, and with just three games left for Allardyce after that, it is a result he simply cannot contemplate.
"There's a bottle half empty and a bottle half full," he said. "We've got to put it right, and we've got to start at Norwich.
"Statistics will tell you that it's very difficult for a team to come straight back up," he added. "If you look at the three teams that get relegated each year, then over the last 15 years, very few of them have come up first time. I did that analysis when I went to West Ham in 2011, and I thought, 'S*** - I wish I'd looked at this before I took the job on'." (© Independent News Service)
Norwich v Sunderland, live, BT Sport, 12.45