Sunderland boss happy with key win but has warning for young stars
Sunderland were hanging on in stoppage time against Hull on Saturday, but a fine save from Robbin Ruiter, some last-ditch defending and a vocal home crowd got them over the line.
After a cagey opening, the young Black Cats side played with real verve and endeavour.
The home support responded and in some style.
The Stadium of Light atmosphere was superb, particularly as the game wound towards a conclusion, Sunderland digging in at one end and regularly breaking in search of a priceless second goal at the other.
Striker Josh Maja was given a rousing reception as he left the field with three minutes to go, Lynden Gooch roared on in his place.
The Black Cats support like what they see from this young cohort and for manager Chris Coleman it was a vindication of their ‘front foot’ approach to the game.
The former Wales boss said: “From minute one, we played on the front foot.
“I knew, second half, we would have 15-20 minutes (of pressure from Hull).
“Three points for us is so valuable, so precious.
“We slacked off a bit in the second half and you stop remembering what we’ve been working on and you are playing off pure emotion and then you make mistakes.
“We lost a bit of confidence and calmness, then we got it back again.
“Overall, we were gutsy and we could have scored more goals with just a bit more confidence in that last third.
“Right from the get-go, there was an edge aobut us. it was a good performance because we felt the supporters were right with us.
“If you play well and play with an edge, supporters will be behind you.
“They won’t get behind you if you are nervous and edgy.
“I think they get behind us if they see us having a go. In our situation, not shrinking, just having a go and rolling our sleeves up.
“I can talk tactically and all this, but all those dirty words – hard work, tackling, stopping crosses – all those nasty things and they see us doing that and see two of our boys fighting for the same ball, but it was in a positive way.
“And then they react to that and get behind you and then it’s good for us.
“But I’ve been here before. It’s about going to put another performance in, doing it again, showing that hunger, and they’ve got to do that at St Andrews (away to Birmingham on January 30), that’s the test for us.”
Coleman will hope by then to have made at least two additions to his squad and should also be able to call on some of his senior players currently out with injury.
He has shown, however, that he will not be afraid to go with youth providing they ‘listen to the right people’.
He was effusive in his praise, but blunt with a warning. “Potential is a dangerous word. We have heard it so many times – this player is full of potential, that player,” he said.
“He [matchwinner Joel Asoro] has got tools in his locker, but he needs to make sure he doesn’t listen to the wrong people.
“The same for Maja, the same for Ethan Robson – don’t listen to the wrong people. Don’t think you’ve made it as a professional footballer because you’ve got some game time and you’ve scored a goal.
“If you have the attitude that I’ve got it all to do, I’m going to keep working hard, keep my feet on the floor, they’ll be fine, they’ll be OK.
“But there is no need for them to get carried away.
“It’s been good, it’s been all right, but there’s a lot of hard work for them to do.”