West Ham boss Slaven Bilic has absolved Sunderland boss Dick Advocaat of any blame for their struggles so far this season.
Advocaat led the Black Cats to safety last season and, despite intending to retire from club management, the 68-year-old was persuaded to stay another year at the Stadium of Light.
Pressure has mounted this term, however, as Sunderland sit bottom of the Barclays Premier League table and without a win ahead of Saturday’s match at home to the Hammers.
It points to another season of disappointment for the club, which boasts the fourth largest stadium in the league and a passionate following in the north east.
Advocaat is Sunderland’s seventh manager in as many years and Bilic insists another change is not the answer.
“He is a big manager. If you look at his CV it’s like a CV of five or six managers put together,” Bilic said.
“To coach five or six national teams in six or seven different countries – he’s a big name, a big manager.
“He has been in many situations in life and he knows how to act in this situation.
“I have known Sunderland’s situation in the last few years but I didn’t go that deep into it – they are a big club but every year they are struggling.
“And you can’t blame just the managers. Maybe once – but three, four, five – it’s definitely not the reason.
“I don’t know what the reason is but it’s definitely not the manager’s fault.”
West Ham are looking for their fourth consecutive away victory in the league after already beating Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City on the road this season.
The Hammers surprised all three with incisive counter-attacking football but Bilic is expecting a different challenge against the struggling Black Cats.
“The situation is created by the media that they need the win, it’s not like if they don’t win they are down,” Bilic said.
“Sometimes when you’re under that kind of pressure it gives you something extra to make you better than you normally are.
“If you’re under pressure and you have a good start you become something you are not and the other way round.
“I don’t expect them to be a stable team. They will either be great, or stiff.”