Sam Allardyce will spend the run-up to the Wear-Tyne derby repairing the threadbare confidence of the Sunderland squad.
Allardyce takes charge of his first Stadium of Light game as Sunderland boss in Sunday’s clash against former club Newcastle, aiming to break the duck of the only side in the top four divisions yet to record a league win.
While Allardyce was left ruing referee Martin Atkinson’s decision to sanction West Brom’s winner in his opening game in charge last weekend, the outcome was still a sixth defeat out of nine for Sunderland, to send them back to the foot of the table.
And after just over a week at the helm, the new Sunderland manager can see that such an awful start to the campaign has inevitably had an effect on the self-belief of the Black Cats squad.
“There was no result at the end at West Brom and of course, that’s a confidence drainer for our players,” said Allardyce.
“It doesn’t matter how we’ve lost or why we’ve lost.
“We haven’t got any more points on the board, so I have to spend a good amount of time rebuilding their confidence.”
Allardyce has already stressed the importance of defensive resilience as the key part of his manifesto for reversing Sunderland’s fortunes after the Black Cats shipped 18 goals in the opening eight games.
The ex-West Ham boss, who turned 61 yesterday, believes that if Sunderland can get it right at the back, it will begin to spread confidence throughout the side.
And despite his opening game culminating in defeat, Allardyce was heartened by the signs of greater resilience from Sunderland after just two days working with his full squad.
“That was one thing which was really pleasing; how compact and solid we were away from home,” he said.
“I know West Brom found it exceedingly difficult to break us down.
“A team who had conceding 18 goals in eight games, never looked like conceding a goal at West Brom.
“That is the foundation we have to build to get out of the position we are in.
“Those foundations have to come from being solid defensively.
“If we can continue in that mould, then we’ll get better in building confidence and then hopefully, pick up a few wins.
“It would have been a very precious point for us, and I have no blame towards the defeat.
“But obviously there’s a lot of room for improvement.”