MARTIN O’Neill says confidence has started to flow back into his side ahead of tomorrow’s game against high-flying West Brom.
And he says that lack of self-belief has been the biggest missing ingredient of Sunderland’s season so far.
He told the Gazette: “It’s great to see the players playing with more self-belief because that’s the main thing that has been missing in many ways.
“We’ve got a good squad of players, a squad who can do well for us this season. I’m convinced about that.
“But for one reason or another the side has had a bit of problem individually and collectively with confidence, and it has made a difference in games.
“Now there can be many reasons for that, but the main thing is that it seems to be an issue we are putting behind us.
“We’ve played very well in our last two games, the away trips to Everton and Fulham, and after the Fulham game my skipper said the atmosphere in our dressing room was fantastic and everyone couldn’t wait to get into training this week.
“That’s what you want, and I think we’ve seen evidence in training this week of that bit of an extra spring in people’s step.
“That’s what you want because when confidence is low there’s always the danger that you can get a bit of a fear factor, but we seem to have avoided that.
“Sunday at Fulham was a major boost to confidence, and now we want to take that into the West Bromwich game.”
The Black Cats have a couple of knocks to contend with ahead of tomorrow’s game – although O’Neill was keeping the identity of those players close to his chest.
And the manager is confident that whatever side he puts out will be able to take the game to the visitors.
“We’ve got a couple of minor knocks but we also have players returning to the side too – Lee Cattermole and Phil Bardsley were back from injury last week while Craig Gardner is now free of suspension,” he pointed out.
“So even if we do have one or two players struggling, we have plenty of options, and I know the players are looking forward to the match.
“I think there’s an eagerness to be playing games at the Stadium of Light, and I’m sure our fans feel the same way.”