Sam Allardyce demands more from Sunderland
Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce has demanded more from his players as they put their Barclays Premier League futures on the line again in another pivotal fixture at relegation rivals Swansea on Wednesday.
The Black Cats, poised to confirm the arrival of Senegal striker Dame N'Doye on loan with a view to a permanent move, gave their survival hopes a recent boost by halting a run of five straight defeats with a 3-1 home win against bottom club Aston Villa in their last league clash.
Allardyce described that encounter as a "nine-pointer" and made it clear where his priorities lay when making wholesale changes for Saturday's FA Cup exit at Arsenal.
"There were seven changes but the team was worth £14million that started on Saturday, so it wasn't weakening the side by any stretch of the imagination," he said.
"They were players bought for a lot of money, who haven't played as much as they want and my demand is, and also for those playing on a regular basis, that they all have to get better."
N'Doye, who scored five goals in 15 Premier League appearances for Hull last season before being sold in the summer following their relegation, was at the Stadium of Light Academy on Monday to finalise his move from Turkish club Trabzonspor.
Allardyce is pinning his faith on the 30-year-old picking up where he left off in England and hopes defender Jan Kirchhoff, his only January transfer window signing to date, can also make an instant impact.
Kirchhoff, a reported £750,000 signing from Bayern Munich, could make his debut at Swansea and his ability to prove his match sharpness in time will become more pressing if skipper John O'Shea fails to shake off the calf strain that forced him off at Arsenal.
Allardyce vented his fury last week at the league's decision to put the game back 24 hours at Swansea's request as the Welsh club's FA Cup defeat at Oxford was played on Sunday.
But the former Bolton, Newcastle, Blackburn and West Ham manager's sole focus is now on getting the best out of his players.
"We've shown in patches, but only small patches, in terms of getting better and being more consistent because we would have won enough games in my time," he added.
"Four (wins) at the moment and if we'd have drawn four or three, it would have put us in a much healthier position.
"Our frailty is not having the ability of going into a game and making sure we don't lose it.
"(On Wednesday) it's like the Villa game but slightly different in that we're the Aston Villa in this game. Swansea are slightly ahead of us and when we played Villa we were slightly ahead of them.
"We've got to make sure on Wednesday night, at the very least, that Swansea have not gained any points on us."