Head Coach Preview: Johnson on Portsmouth, psychology and process

Lee Johnson has given his thoughts ahead of Saturday’s Sky Bet League One trip to Portsmouth, as Sunderland look to remain top of the table as we enter October.

The Head Coach firstly outlined the importance of the long-term process throughout the season, noting that we must keep a fairly level wave through any positivity or negativity.

“We’re very process-driven here – which is something I’ve always tried to bring in,” Johnson said.

“We have to make sure we don’t believe in our own hype too much in terms of our mindset when things are going well, but also never to be too defeatist if and when a blip comes.

“At the moment, while we’re riding the wave, we have to keep the concentration on the process paramount.”

The gaffer touched on the challenge he expects from Danny Cowley’s Portsmouth at Fratton Park – anticipating a buoyant home crowd and the importance of the players contending with the raucous atmosphere.

“Portsmouth is a difficult place to play – they have a really good fanbase like ourselves, and they have an excellent manager and a very good squad.

“We know where we are, and I believe results come off the back of executing our philosophy as best we can. As far as fans are concerned, they should have the freedom to feel exactly how they want – if they want to be happy and delighted with the team then great; if they want to keep us sharp and honest, that’s okay as well.

“We’re educating the players to deal with all different atmospheres – Saturday will be one of those. The home crowd will be well behind them – I also know whilst it’s a long journey, our fans travel well.”

Johnson then pointed out the psychological effect of games and how mindset can alter the fine margins which bring results.

“It’s all about psychology. A level of anxiety will naturally be brought about when you’re defending a lead rather than chasing a game.

“It’s why games like Bolton last weekend are difficult, especially when you go a goal up. When an opponent’s 1-0 down with a fair amount of the game left, they’ll play with absolute freedom.

“Having said that, we’d much rather be defending a result rather than chasing it. At the end of the day, the pitch is the same, the ball runs the same for both teams – it’s the opponent and their quality which differs.”

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