McCarthy refuses to turn to psychology

Mick McCarthy's Sunderland, who sit pointless in the First Division relegation zone, face Preston in this afternoon's televised match knowing defeat will give them the joint-worst losing sequence in English league history.

Sunderland have lost 17 on the bounce and are one away from Darwen's 105-year-old record. Yet for all the pressure on his team, McCarthy said yesterday that he would not be turning to sports psychologists for assistance. "We had them here last year and it didn't really pull us out of any holes," he said. "I'd be a fool to sit here and say I don't believe in it when so many top sportsmen use it, but I don't go to see them.

"I was asked to see one in France and I came out of it with my arm around him, consoling him. I was a 30-year-old pro with 50-odd caps, a mortgage and three kids, and had broken my arse playing around the world, and I was asked to go to see him. I didn't think it was really necessary or essential for me. It's a goal we need and I don't think it's going to come from anywhere except from the footballers on the pitch."

With Kevin Phillips gone to Southampton, Claudio Reyna in talks with Fulham and Tore Andre Flo a transfer target for Siena of Serie A, McCarthy is not replete with secure striking options. This weekend, though, his main concern is avoiding Darwen's record.

"Once it's come and gone, whichever way it is - I don't want it, that's for sure, I never thought it would be possible - we'll get on with it. My thoughts are for Preston and if I start letting anything else get into my brain-box other than the game, and the players, it has an adverse effect."

Life in the First Division has been less tough for another relegated Premiership side, West Ham United. With four points from two games, they visit Rotherham United, albeit with an inexperienced midfield, weakened by the sales of Joe Cole and Trevor Sinclair, and the absence of Steve Lomas after ankle surgery.

Stoke City's 100 per cent record will be tested at Paul Merson's Walsall. Second-placed Millwall host Crewe Alexandra while the other side with six points, Crystal Palace, face an "away" game at Selhurst Park against Wimbledon.

Among the slow starters, Ipswich Town and Coventry City, who have a point apiece, meet at Portman Road. "We're creating chances and that's the main thing," Joe Royle, Ipswich's manager, said. "I've every faith in my squad and, hopefully, we can get that first win under our belts."

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