MICHAEL BEALE has admitted that Friday’s home game with Hull City could play a crucial role in determining the course of Sunderland’s season.

On the pitch, the Black Cats have had a difficult fortnight, with the FA Cup third-round defeat at the hands of arch-rivals Newcastle United being followed by last weekend’s loss at Ipswich Town.

Off it, tensions have risen markedly in the wake of both Beale’s appointment, which was far from popular amongst a significant section of the Sunderland support, and the chaotic build-up to the derby, in which Kyril Louis-Dreyfus was heavily criticised for the aborted rebrand of the Black Cats Bar at the Stadium of Light.

Friday’s game feels like a crucial test of both Sunderland’s promotion credentials and the extent to which the relationship between the Black Cats hierarchy and the fans has been damaged beyond the point of repair, with Beale not shying away from the significance of the occasion.

“It’s a big game,” admitted the Sunderland boss, whose side have dropped out of the play-off positions. “It’s a team we’ve played recently and beat, and it’s important we get back to winning ways at home.

“We’ve got two home games now (against Hull and Stoke). Our away form is an area we want to improve, but it’s important we dust ourselves down (at home) and bounce back strongly.”


Much of the post-match focus following Saturday’s defeat at Portman Road was centred around the lack of a natural centre-forward in Sunderland’s starting side.

Beale was disappointed with his side’s lack of success in front of goal, but was arguably even more annoyed by the slack defending that led to Ipswich’s winner.

Adil Aouchiche conceded a needless free-kick, and despite being one of the smallest players on the field, Conor Chaplin rose unopposed to head his side into the lead.

“We’re not ruthless enough in the final third, but if you can’t win it, don’t lose the game, and don’t lose it like that,” said Beale, who has lost three of his six matches since succeeding Tony Mowbray on a permanent basis. “It’s so frustrating for us because it was a good performance.

“We had enough of the game to get something out of it, so it wasn’t all wrong. It was just very naive in a big moment in the game, and it’s fine margins.

“You could see how much it meant to Ipswich at the end and how much the three points meant to them. That one moment in a set-play has got to mean more to us.”