Chris Hughton urges Norwich City to thrive on the pressure ahead of Sunderland televised test
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Chris Hughton's time spent at Sunderland's bitter north-east rivals gives him a unique insight into the footballing psyche on Wearside.
Cooling the fervour of an expectant home crowd will be a key aim in Sunday's latest Premier League test.
'They are a massive club up there. They have a big vocal support and that support would see this as one of the games they should win, albeit Sunderland's form is not good at the moment,' he said. 'There will be more pressure on the result for them. No doubt, irrespective of league positions just because they are at home. It is a tough place to go, because they are a very good side playing at home who will have a passionate crowd behind them.
'Any team that goes to the Stadium of Light knows what to expect. I didn't do too well on my last trip with Newcastle. I know that. I don't know what reception I will get but I know our team will get a good one because from what I am led to believe we are taking a big support.'
Hughton is challenging his Norwich players to thrive on the pressure with both clubs in need of league points to avoid any late season anxiety.
Norwich have a slender advantage over Martin O'Neill's side in the current Premier League standings, and Hughton is demanding the Canaries rise to the challenge.
'You don't want anybody accepting where we are at the moment,' he said. 'You want them to strive for better in the table. We do have a nine point gap (to the bottom three) and the attitude has to be can we extend that? In some ways you don't want too much of the pressure off them because you want that balance. Perhaps it might be that individual players respond differently, but generally you want some pressure. We have nine games to go and I would like to think we will fight as hard in the last game as we will on Sunday.
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'Everybody is desperate to get points. It is the part of the season where you can get unexpected results. Teams are driving to get out of that bottom three and those not in the bottom three are striving to push further away so everyone has objectives at this stage of the season. As soon as your game finishes you are looking for other results and particularly when teams play against each other in the same position in the league.'
Former Sunderland defender Michael Turner typifies the resolve Hughton wants to see after enduring a torrid start to his Norwich career.
'He has done great for us and I am really pleased for him. He did have a difficult start and some of that was not down to himself,' said the City boss. 'When he came he hadn't had a great pre-season at Sunderland. He just missed a fair chunk of that preparation period. He is a big lad and it took Michael a while to get going. Once he got through that phase it is fair to say he has been really good for us. At Sunderland he played something like the last 17, 18 games of last season so we knew his conditioning was quite good towards that second half of the season. Pre-season was just a little bit up and down for him in terms of games.'
Turner and Sebastien Bassong have solidified a defence which continues to form the bedrock of Norwich's concerted bid for survival.
'I think defensively we have been excellent,' said Hughton. 'Yes, I would like to be scoring more goals and we have tried to address that of late. We have had a lot of clean sheets, along with a few games where we have let in goals, so at times we haven't married up so well together.
'What we also have to do is try and give ourselves an opportunity to win these nine games because there is a big difference between drawing and winning games.'