CHRIS COLEMAN has told Sunderland’s players ‘not to be afraid’ as he targets the victory that will end the club’s 20-match wait for a home win when he steps out at the Stadium of Light for the first time as manager this afternoon.

After the euphoric scenes of seven days ago when the Black Cats climbed off the foot of the Championship table by winning at Burton, Coleman will lead his players into his first Wearside fixture since taking over against Reading.

If he can achieve that Sunderland could climb out of the relegation zone, but it will mean successfully ending a record-busting drought to deliver three points in front of their own fans dating back almost a year.

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It was December 17 when Sunderland last won at the Stadium of Light, and that 20-game run has set a new English league record so he knows the importance of finding an end to that today.

Coleman said: “We have this unwanted record at home. Nothing we can do about the past. The quicker we end that the quicker we get that unwanted burden that, pressure, off our shoulders and any negativity that goes with it.

“The players understand the situation and I see a combined effort that they want to do something about it. We will know in two of three months whether it has gone the way I want it to go.

“We have won one game. We deserved that and celebrated it. Weekend after weekend it is six pointers. There is nothing to shy away from, nothing to be scared off. Get excited about these challenges.

“The fans will get everything out of me. It is a huge challenge. There are no excuses for the record. We can’t walk on the pitch and it’s all doom and gloom, and that we haven’t won for ages. It will be all over before you’ve kicked a ball.

“You’ve got to go on to the pitch, larger than life, and if someone is going to make a mistake then be man enough to stay strong. That is the mentality that gets you away from where we are. Concentrate and be as positive as we can.

“If you are a player I don’t care if they are screaming in your face, have team spirit, help each other out, a whisper in the ear, a pat on the back. Whatever anyone is saying outside our little circle, and everyone has an opinion, be man enough to take it. Bad times don’t last forever. You get through it. Good strong people last.”

Despite believing Sunderland can leave the pitch having won for the first time in approaching a year at home, Coleman is also wary of making wild predictions. He knows the level of problems he has inherited, so is looking to take small steps in his bed bid to turn things around.

He said: “When you are playing at home, we haven’t won for so long, you get anxious. You start like a house on fire for 15-20 minutes, you end up running everywhere, tackling, running into everything.

“And then 25 minutes you haven’t got anything left, physically you are tired, you haven’t scored. And then the away team get on top and score and everyone is on a big downer. It has to be more measured than that. You have to play smart. We want the players to be streetwise.

“I don’t want everyone to think that overnight this team has all the answers, we have won one game and everything is rosy in the garden, because it is not. We still have mountains to climb yet. But it’s how you look at it – you either try to enjoy it or you are put off by it. I’m certainly not put off by it.

“I am looking forward to the game. I had a walk around the stadium a day or so ago, it is a fabulous place. You can only imagine what it is like when things are going well. That’s something I hope to look forward to in the future.”

There has been an increase in ticket sales since Coleman’s appointment was followed by a victory at Burton, however there is still likely to be huge numbers of empty seats given the frustrations the supporters have endured over the last couple of years.

Coleman, knowing Simon Grayson was unable to enjoy a home win, is focused on making sure the players he has inherited will cherish playing at a 48,000-capacity stadium and looks forward to the day when it will be filled again.

He said: “To get the fans back with us, we have got to earn it on the pitch in performances, that’s my job. It was natural for me to go to see the supporters last week. It was a freezing cold day, there was loads of them there, the very least I could do was say thank you. I belong to them now. We are all in it together.

“We are all fighting and scrapping for the same cause. But we need more performances and better performances, and that’s what will get them excited. The team shows that by what they do on the football pitch, not by what they say.

“This is my first home game and I will give them a big thank you win, lose or draw, just for coming to support us. But ultimately we will get them back and get them back regularly if we start performing to a level, regularly, and to a consistency.”