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Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce changing club’s culture

Sam Allardyce
Sam Allardyce

Sunderland’s players have faced a culture change during Sam Allardyce’s opening month at the helm, says Jermain Defoe.

Allardyce has been renowned for his use of sports science, Prozone statistics and video analysis throughout his managerial career, and they have all been implemented during the first month of the 61-year-old’s Sunderland reign, particularly after the appointment of performance director Mark Taylor.

The last two games are probably the fittest I’ve felt in a long time.

Experienced striker Defoe has seen the impact that has made both on his fitness from Allardyce’s training ground regime, and the attention to detail which the Black Cats boss into his preparation for matches.

But crucially, Defoe says, Allardyce avoids over-loading his players with information – delivering a simple brief which they need to fulfil.

Defoe told the Gazette: “Even before games, he gets things across really simply – ‘this is what it will take to win the game’.

“The last two games are probably the fittest I’ve felt in a long time and I think that’s due to the training which we’re doing.

“I’m sure he’s done that at other clubs, with the intensity and the things we do in the gym.

“We do a lot of 11 v 11’s, so everything is match related. Leading up to the game, you know exactly what you’ve got to do.

“Under some managers, you just do small games, 5-a-sides, and you can’t really do what you’re going to do on a Saturday. Like me, I can’t make runs in behind.

“Before Everton, he said to me, the full-backs are going to push on so what are you going to do? Where’s the space?

“I said obviously down the sides, so that’s what me and Fletch (Steven Fletcher) did when we got the ball back.

“I’m sure against Southampton there’ll be a different approach.

“He keeps it simple and gives us an idea how to win the game. I’ve enjoyed it.”

Defoe was handed his first start under Allardyce in last weekend’s 6-2 defeat at Everton and responded by netting his sixth goal in all competitions, while strike partner Fletcher also got on the scoresheet with his third in four.

For all Sunderland were woeful as a defensive unit, they created a succession of chances at Goodison Park, with Defoe and Fletcher thriving as a double-act.

Allardyce must ponder whether he can deploy a sufficiently-solid formation to keep the pair up front together, but Defoe believes it will be a welcome problem for the ex-West Ham boss.

“I don’t think it’s a headache for him,” added Defoe.

“I can imagine he’s happy because at the end of the day, he wants the forwards to be scoring goals.

“I sat down with him and he said he just wants to get me in the team, scoring goals. It’s as simple as that.

“In the last two games, me and Fletch up front has felt good.

“Fletch is on fire at the minute – strong, holds the ball up well, and we play off each other.

“The weekend was good when we both scored. It’s just frustrating the way we gave the game to Everton in the second half, when we could have come away with a point.”