Sam Allardyce has warned Sunderland not to do a Tottenham and ‘lose the plot’ when they continue their Premier League survival battle against Chelsea.
Sunderland’s fate remains in their own hands with three games remaining but may not do so for very long if they allow the pressure of the situation to get to them.
Allardyce pointed to the way Spurs folded against Chelsea on Monday evening when they surrendered a 2-0 lead and ultimately their remote chance of denying Leicester the title.
Mousa Dembele is facing a Football Association charge of violent conduct and both clubs have been accused of failing to control their players after a stormy affair at Stamford Bridge in which nine Spurs players were booked.
Allardyce knows Sunderland cannot afford to allow their discipline slip in similar fashion.
He said: “You saw it in Tottenham, I think, on Monday night when they lost the plot. We can’t afford to do that. We have to stay focused from start to finish.
“Tottenham lost a goal then lost the plot mentally, so then all of a sudden, all the talent they have in that side just went by the way and they ended up not only losing the game, but doing the strangest thing I’ve ever seen a Tottenham side do, and that’s get nine players booked and make some quite ferocious tackles at the same time.
“That shows you. What happened to Tottenham mentally, we cannot afford for that to happen to our team.
“Perhaps it’s because they are, as Mauricio says, such a young team that they in the end, couldn’t quite cope with that pressure and lost the plot.
“That’s the last reaction we want from our team in any of the last three games. We want to be aggressive, yes, we want controlled aggression, passion, desire, commitment, yes. But we don’t want to go over the top and lose control of ourselves.”
Sunderland’s battle is a very different one to the one just lost by Spurs, with Newcastle’s win over Crystal Palace having sent them back into the relegation zone.
However, Jermain Defoe’s last-gasp penalty at Stoke – his 17th goal of the season and 11th away from home – means they trail their neighbours by a single point rather than two, and Allardyce is acutely aware of the predicament they would have been in without him.
He said with a smile: “If he wears a different pair of boots away from home, he’s going to have to wear his away boots on Saturday.
“It’s been fantastic for Jermain. He’s played on a regular basis – he tells me in the last couple of years, he hasn’t played as much, and he’s happy to be playing every week and playing every week makes him a little bit sharper in front of goal.
“There’s no doubt without him, we would have been struggling an awful lot more than we are now points-wise.”