Wes Brown admits that playing away is a release from the “pressure” of performing at the Stadium of Light.
The Black Cats’ survival bid is back on tour this weekend as they head to fellow strugglers Norwich City, who are under pressure of their own with Chris Hughton’s job under threat and the team just four points ahead of Gustavo Poyet’s men.
It will be a case of roles reserved for Sunderland, who struggled to give their supporters much to cheer about in a tense and ultimately frustrating weekend meeting with relegation rivals Crystal Palace.
Sunderland’s home form has been a problem all season and that is a concern given that three of their most critical fixtures in the run-in – against Cardiff, Swansea and West Bromwich Albion – come in front of their supporters. Perhaps Poyet’s system of quick counter-attacking and possession-based football is better suited to playing away or maybe, suggests Brown, there has been a subtle pressure attached to them playing in front of their own supporters because they are expected to win games or pick up points.
Either way, he is delighted that the supporters have stayed with them during their difficult home engagements.
He said: “I’m not absolutely sure why we seem to play better away from home. We have managed to score goals away and it has been totally different at home. I’m not sure why.
“Maybe some of the pressure is off, I don’t know.
“Maybe the home fans are getting in to their team and we are just playing. Hopefully we can take that into next week. The fans are great away from home and they do help us.
“I remember the Fulham game, when all of the fans travelled down, they were brilliant. Believe me it helps. If we were playing really terrible, I could understand it. We just need to start getting points on the board. We are going to keep on trying, just as hard as the fans are.”
Saturday’s game was not one for the purists and with both teams in such dire straits there is little prospect of the trip to Carrow Road being an entertaining fixture either.
That doesn’t matter, argues Brown – who says that points rather than performances are what matters at this stage in the season.
He said: “We are trying to play the best football we can. The fans have been great for us this season so we have to start winning for them. We tried our best and I hope they saw that. We just need to get points on the board.”
As Sunderland head into their most important run of fixtures of the season Poyet has got a ringing endorsement from Lee Cattermole, who contends that he is playing better football than at any stage in his career under Poyet.
The midfielder was dropped on Saturday for the visit of Crystal Palace but is likely to be back in the fray for the trip to East Anglia, which has taken on added importance after Sunderland failed to pick up all three points against Palace.
Cattermole makes a good case not only for his own inclusion for the critical clash at Norwich but also to trust in Poyet to get it right in the long-term.
“I feel as though I’m not far off producing some of my best ever football,” the Sunderland midfielder said.
“And I just hope that people don’t feel all the good work I did against Southampton and in the cup final and in the first-half against Hull has been thrown away because of an error or two in the second-half against Hull when we were chasing it.
“I’m working as hard as I can on the training pitch. I feel as though I’ve learned more in the last four or five months on a new approach to the game, than I’ve learned in the majority of my professional career.”