Sam Allardyce calls on Sunderland to play without fear
Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce urged his team to play without fear if they are to haul themselves out of a season-long relegation dogfight.
The Black Cats head into Monday night's match at Crystal Palace with only one Barclays Premier League win and having lost both matches before the international break.
Allardyce, appointed at the start of October following the departure of Dick Advocaat, believes his team have not helped themselves to get the most out of some promising displays.
The home defeat by Southampton last time out was a case in point, when midfielder Yann M'Vila needlessly felled full-back Ryan Bertrand to concede a second-half penalty, from which the visitors secured a 1-0 win.
Allardyce believes with the right approach, the end product will follow.
"Mistakes generally come through pressure and we have to be able to handle that," he said.
"We are under enormous pressure because of the position we are in, with people talking about us being relegation fodder, but we have to accept that and handle it in the right way.
"We have to produce the performances we know we are capable of and not play with fear because fear is a terrible thing for a footballer.
"If they are fearful before they set foot on the football field then they are never going to be able to perform to their best."
Allardyce, who oversaw a 3-0 win at Newcastle, added: "There is a lot of Premier League experience in the squad and a lot of players who have been in this position before so they know what it is about.
"I don't want them to play with fear, just to go out there and express themselves as they have over several years, that is what will get us out of trouble.
"But there is only one thing which will build the confidence again, and that is getting results. So until that starts happening, confidence is bound to be a bit low."
Allardyce has been able to work with some of the squad during the international break, including captain Lee Cattermole who has resumed trained following treatment for a nerve problem in his back.
The Sunderland manager, though, wants players to take more responsibility on the pitch when things are not going to plan.
"Motivating each other is a good stimulant. As a squad if things aren't going right you have to motivate yourselves especially on the field because you can't do that from the sidelines," he said.
"It is about talking, and saying 'well done' when you have done well, but also saying 'come on, you are not playing so well today, so buck your ideas up and pull your socks up'."