Sunderland’s players have been warned that they cannot afford to let the red mist de-rail the Black Cats’ survival bid.
Winger Jeremain Lens will miss Sam Allardyce’s opening game in charge at West Brom today, as the Dutch international serves a one-match ban after he was sent-off against West Ham a fortnight ago.
Lens became the second Sunderland player to see red in just eight games after defender Younes Kaboul was similarly dismissed for two yellow cards in the defeat at Bournemouth last month.
And after watching how Sunderland were unable to hold onto their precarious one-goal advantage against West Ham following the sending-off of Lens, new manager Allardyce has made it clear that the Black Cats must keep their discipline if they are to beat the drop.
“We cannot afford for players to get themselves sent off at any stage of the season, and certainly not at this early stage in my reign,” he said.
“They have to be responsible for making sure they stay on the field.
“Perhaps the anxiety and the nervousness of what’s happened at the start of the season has caused them to make those rash decisions.
“But we have to be responsible for ourselves and keep 11 on the field, otherwise you’ve got little or no chance of achieving what you want to achieve.”
Lens went from hero to zero against the Hammers after he had netted his second Sunderland goal with a stunning chip from the edge of the area, which left ex-boss Dick Advocaat in tears during his final game at the helm.
But the Dutchman then collected two yellow cards – the second of which was a needless tackle from behind which left referee Neil Swarbrick with an easy decision.
“The quality of Lens’ goal is certainly very encouraging,” added Allardyce.
“But I’d also have to say that he got over-excited and rash by the fact he got himself ultimately sent off.
“That made life extremely difficult for Sunderland to hang on and win the football match.
“While I love the goal, please keep yourself on the field.
“That goes across the board for the players.”