Chris Coleman wants his Sunderland players to adopt a siege mentality between now and the end of the season.
The defeat to Bolton Wanderers on Tuesday night left the Black Cats rock bottom of the Championship, with most pundits and supporters writing off Sunderland’s chances of beating the drop.
Coleman wants his side to embrace that and to ‘shut people up’ by climbing out of trouble.
He said: “We’ve got to have that mentality. Everybody hates us, everyone wants us to fail and fall flat on our face. “People will look at it as Sunderland – ‘what a story that is, back-to-back relegations’, so we’ve got to have that underdog mentality, keep it tight, us against the world.
“People still see us a scalp, they want us to fail, so let’s get that amazing feeling when you shut people up because you’ve got the results when everyone has written you off.
“If we get that mentailty, I think we’ll pick up wins, but we need to keep going like we did on Tuesday.
“You’re devastated if you lose and don’t play well, and, when a lot of fans have travelled the length of the country, you feel that you have let them down.
“Then, if you look at the other results and they go for you, you feel you’ve got away with it.
“The problem is that you feel like you are sneaking through the back door. Really, we need to affect our own situation.
“We have to have the mentality that everyone hates us, we’re not Sunderland with its big history and 40,000 people behind us when everything is going well. We are where we are.
“Nobody likes us, nobody wants us to succeed, so let’s go against everybody.
“That will give us a fighting chance.”
Coleman says that he understands the negativity, given the club’s recent form, having lost four of the last five games.
But the Welshman retains belief that things will turn, however, and wants his players to show bravery on home turf against Middlesbrough tomorrow.
He said: “People think like that [relegation a certainty] because we have sunk down the table.
“If we had been bottom and had gone from six points from safety to three points, it would be a different feeling.
“The feeling over the last five games is that we’re on a bad run, we’ve been in the bottom three for a long time, we are bottom of the league.
“We need to show a bit of gumption, a bit of togetherness, a little bit of spite, and not be an easy team to play against.
“That’s the problem – we have gifted the opposition goals and wins.
“That will have to stop.
“The problem for us now, psychologically, is that we are playing at home.
“The feeling is that it is only a matter of time before someone makes a mistake, the booing starts, the opposition score first – that may be, but we have to step forward and say ‘enough of that, no more’.
“We must say ‘Whatever happens in this performance, that’s not happening and we are not going under the radar in this game.’ ‘We’re not getting booed off because we have played badly.’
“Sunderland means so much to so many people, a lot of them I will never get to meet’ but I know they are there.
“It’s one of the reasons why I came here – it’s a big club with a big fanbase.
“We have to get it going, and we haven’t done it yet.
“If we can get it right, it can be huge.
“But, in my three months here, every time we have shown a bit of promise we have suffered another whack, more negativity, and stayed in the bottom three.
“If we can just climb out of that bottom three, it will give everybody such a huge boost.
“If we can do that, we have to have the attitude that we can’t slip back now.
“We are in a league of five teams, and we have to try to finish at the top of that – forget everyone else.
“Can we be top of that league? We’re not a million miles away from it.
“Our performances in the last five games have not been good enough – there have been one and a half performances, the second half at Bristol, and the game at Bolton.
“It’s not good enough overall, though.
“There are enough games to put it right, though.
“I genuinely believe we can change it round.”