Sunderland’s “bizarre” spring break is a completely unwelcome one for Sam Allardyce.
The Black Cats’ bid to remain in the Premier League goes on ice after today’s clash at Southampton, with Allardyce’s men facing just one further game in the next four weeks.
Due to Everton’s participation in the FA Cup quarter-finals, the Toffees’ scheduled trip to the Stadium of Light next weekend has been postponed, with Sunderland not in action again until the Tyne-Wear derby in a fortnight.
After Sunderland’s bid to register a seventh successive win over Newcastle United concludes, there is a further two-week pause from Premier League action due to the international break.
That leaves Sunderland’s players stewing in the relegation battle pressure cooker for at least the next month, and facing a fixture pile-up during the final six weeks of the campaign.
“Our problem is, after Southampton, we don’t play for 15 days until we play our biggest local rivals and then after that we don’t play for another 13 games because of an international break,” said Sunderland boss Allardyce.
“I find that quite bizarre, to be honest with you, considering we have to play six games in 24 days over Christmas and New Year.
“We’ve got plenty of time and we want to play, but we can’t.
“We have to cope with that the best way that we can and hopefully then the lads are ready whenever the games come around.
“I think everything is hard on the players now, mentally, because of the position they are in.
“When you are living in the bottom three like we are, the pressure is constant.
“The only way you can relieve that pressure is by getting out on the field and putting it right yourself.”
Meanwhile, Ricky Alvarez is still in the dark over who actually owns his signature - two months after joining Italian side Sampdoria.
Former Sunderland loanee Alvarez agreed a short-term deal until the end of the season with Sampdoria in the January transfer window, to get his career up and running again.
However, the Argentine international remains in limbo over his long-term future, with FIFA yet to reach a resolution in the row between Sunderland and Inter Milan.
Sunderland pulled out of a £8.5million deal to sign Alvarez permanently last summer after claiming that Inter had breach the 27-year-old’s loan contract by failing to give the go-ahead for the attacking midfielder to undergo knee surgery.
“I still don’t know who holds my card,” Alvarez told the Italian press.
“This is a situation that I do not wish on any player.”